Peptides have been garnering a lot of attention of late – searches have risen (and by 5,000%, according to Google), TikTok videos multiplied and a new raft of formulas cropping up with this skin buzzword front and centre… but why? Hailed as the latest ingredient to add to your skincare lexicon, these small chains of amino acids are touted to have myriad benefits for your skin, from boosting collagen to improving the skin barrier. Here, we speak to a host of dermatologists and experts to understand just what they can do for your dermis and unpick the latest formulas worthy of your beauty wishlist. 

So what exactly are peptides? 

“Peptides are molecules built from amino acids,” says Dr Tina Meder, dermatologist and founder of Meder Beauty. “They are messenger molecules used as signalling substances by our body cells.” 

Where your complexion is concerned, they act as building blocks for certain proteins needed by the skin, such as collagen, elastin and keratin. “When applied topically, they act as little messengers, encouraging skin cells to perform specific functions better to build collagen and elastin so that skin feels and looks more youthful,” adds Fresh’s Brand Expert, Caglar Odabai. 

Which peptides are best for your skin?

Dr Meder explains that each peptide is different as it can be built from different amino acids in different combinations, with each one used as a “specific signal”. There are, she says, 4 types used in skincare or topical formulas, which include: carrier peptides, signal peptides, neurotransmitter-inhibitor peptides and enzyme-inhibitor peptides.

Copper peptides are the most commonly used when it comes to skincare. “Their use has grown in recent years due to their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and moisture-retentive effects,” adds Dr Meder. 

Meanwhile, signal peptides can be used in skincare that targets fine lines and sun damage. “these can stimulate dermis and epidermis cells for increased biological activity such as synthesis of collagen, elastin, hyaluronic acid or other essential substances of skin structure,” she says. Skin translation: a plumper, more hydrated complexion. Given that we lose 1% of collagen (the protein responsible for plump, glowing skin) from the age of 20, these play a crucial role in boosting its production and keeping skin looking glowy from the inside out.

What are the benefits of using peptides in your skincare routine? 

It turns out, a lot. Among them are hydrating benefits, collagen-boosting effects, rejuvenation and even soothing and calming down inflammation. In fact, some peptides can even alleviate symptoms or rosacea and eczema. “The antioxidant properties of some can help to neutralise free radicals and protect the skin from UV damage, or even out skin tone in some cases of UV-induced hyperpigmentation,” adds Molecular Biochemist and founder of ABG Lab, Dr Elina Tester. 

They can also enhance the skin barrier – the outermost layer of skin that helps retain moisture. “It protects the skin from damage and dryness as well as being responsible for rejuvenating the skin at a cellular level to reduce wrinkles, fine lines, sagging, and loss of elasticity,” says Tester. 

Even better, explains Dr Meder, peptides are hypoallergenic and are able to penetrate into the skin without damaging the skin barrier. “They are incredibly selective and targeted, well understood and backed by science,” she adds. “Peptides’ interaction with cells is clever and much better tuned compared with previous generations of ingredients such as hydroxy acids or retinol.”

Discover skincare’s latest cutting-edge formulas to bookmark, below.

Medik8 Liquid Peptides, £49

A potent and effective serum made up of 10 different peptides, this hardworking formula from Medik8 helps stimulate the production of collagen and elastin for healthier-looking and smoother skin.

Soho Skin Renewal Serum, £76

This IG-friendly bottle is as aesthetically pleasing as they come. Better yet, it works hard to reduce the appearance of pores, calm down inflammation and protect against free radical damage.

Paula’s Choice Peptide Booster, £51

Has your complexion lost its luminosity? Turn to the new Paula’s Choice Peptide Booster to restore radiance and add hydration, all thanks to a powerful complex of peptides and amino acids.

Fresh Black Tea Firming Peptide Serum, £92

Featuring a clever peptide that helps lift, contour and firm the complexion, this daily serum helps boost skin’s elasticity and firmness. Consider this a facial massage in a bottle.

Strivectin Peptide Plump Line Filling Bounce Serum, £69

If you’re wondering what sets Strivectin’s latest serum apart, it’s AI technology. Specifically, it uses tech to precisely deliver peptides that target three key proteins in the skin.

words by Amelia Bell