Peptides vs. Retinol: The Pros, Cons, and Differences of Each

Peptides are natural amino acids that are the building blocks used to make proteins in our skin, says Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip, MD, FAAD, Founder and CEO of Vibrant Dermatology and Skin Bar MD. “Collagen, for example, is made up of three polypeptide chains,” she says. “Adding peptides to skincare products has many benefits, including stimulation of collagen production, improved skin barrier function, improved skin elasticity, and decreased inflammation of the skin.”

And not all peptides are the same, there are different types used in skin care. Tiffany Libby, MD, FAAD, resident dermatologist at Reserveage, says that when applied topically, the peptides act as little messengers and instruct skin cells to perform functions such as building collagen and… elastin, reducing inflammation and maintaining hydration.

“The main groups are signaling peptides, enzyme inhibiting peptides, carrier peptides, and neurotransmitter inhibiting peptides,” says Libby. “Signaling peptides work to stimulate the production of new collagen and elastin. Enzyme-inhibiting peptides block enzymes that break down or degrade collagen. Carrier peptides supply the skin with minerals essential for specific enzymatic processes such as as collagen cross-linking and wound healing. Neurotransmitter inhibitory peptides work similarly to neurotoxins like Botox, but with less effectiveness in reducing wrinkle formation.”


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