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Peptides and Growth Factors

Written by: Becki Murray

Last Updated: 13 February 2024

Peptides and growth factors are often found cropping up as ingredients in anti-ageing skincare products. That’s due to the idea that they can help boost key skin processes such as collagen production, helping us keep wrinkles, plus uneven tone and texture at bay. Specifically, peptides and growth factors are marketed for their ability to stimulate cell signalling, regeneration, and repair, making them useful for keeping your skin in good condition and minimising the signs of ageing. Some of the most popular you may have heard of include: Matrixyl 3000, otherwise known as palmitoyl pentapeptide, copper peptide and Argireline (acetyl hexapeptide-8).


What are peptides?

Peptides are short chains of amino acids, the acids which are the building blocks of proteins. Peptides act as chemical messengers in the skin. Send the right peptides into action, the theory goes, and they will act like tiny keys to turn on particular biochemical processes in the skin. Find the right peptide to boost a process which is slowing down with age, and you could get a great result. 

For example, say the fibroblast cells in your skin are now producing collagen more slowly than they used to. Applying a product containing peptides such as copper peptides and palmitoyl pentapeptide to your skin can stimulate the fibroblasts to produce more collagen, giving your skin a boost.

What are growth factors?

Growth factors are substances which occur naturally in your skin and stimulate processes such as cellular growth and healing. Growth factors can prompt skin repair, reduce inflammation, fade scars, and generally make older skin cells behave like lively younger versions of themselves.

Growth factors are made by your fibroblasts, the skin cells that build collagen. For example, when you wound your skin, your body produces growth factors to encourage the production of collagen and elastin in order to heal the wound. As with other aspects of the skin’s ability to repair itself, our skin gradually produces fewer growth factors as we get older. The idea behind including them in skincare is therefore to ‘top up’ your natural supply.

What role do peptides play in skincare?

Peptides play several important roles in skincare by influencing essential skin functions and structures. Various peptides perform the following roles:

  • Stimulating collagen production (see the next section)
  • Strengthening your skin’s barrier function against the outside world
  • Helping keep your skin hydrated
  • Reducing inflammation and irritation in your skin
  • Improving your skin’s firmness, texture, and skin tone
  • Combatting specific problems, such as dark circles under the eyes or puffiness around the eyes

How do peptides stimulate collagen production?

Peptides stimulate the production of collagen in three main ways:

  • Acting like growth factors. Some peptides act like natural growth factors that regulate collagen synthesis. These peptides bind to receptors on the surface of fibroblasts, indirectly causing the fibroblasts to increase their production of collagen.
  • Stimulating collagen synthesis pathways. Peptides can stimulate your body’s pathways for collagen synthesis, encouraging your fibroblasts to produce more collagen.
  • Inhibiting the breakdown of collagen. Some peptides can reduce the activity of enzymes that break down collagen, thus making your existing collagen last longer.

In addition, peptides can strengthen your skin barrier and help your body to repair your skin.

What are the benefits of Matrixyl 3000 in skincare?

Matrixyl 3000 is a trademarked peptide that consists of two proteins, palmitoyl tripeptide-1 and palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7. Matrixyl 3000 is designed to appear to your body to be broken-down collagen, as if your skin has suffered damage.

Your skin reacts to Matrixyl 3000 by producing more collagen and elastin to repair the apparent damage. This extra collagen reduces fine lines and wrinkles in your skin, improves your skin tone and texture, and helps the skin stay hydrated. The extra elastin boosts the elasticity of your skin, making it more supple and more resilient.

Even better, Matrixyl 3000 can increase the effectiveness of other skincare ingredients when used together with them.

Can copper peptides improve skin health?

Yes. Copper peptides — small protein fragments that have a high affinity for copper ions — can improve the health of your skin in several ways. These ways include:

  • Stimulating the production of collagen and elastin to reduce fine lines and wrinkles
  • Accelerating wound healing and skin repair
  • Neutralising free radicals and reducing oxidative damage
  • Reducing skin inflammation such as acne or rosacea
  • Strengthening your skin’s barrier function and keeping it hydrated
  • Removing damaged collagen and elastin, helping your body form scar tissue

How does Argireline aid in anti-ageing?

Argireline (sometimes listed as acetyl hexapeptide-8) is a neuropeptide, a peptide that affects nerve transmission in the skin). Argireline can inhibit muscle contractions in the skin, so it’s meant to act like a kind of topical wrinkle-relaxer, reducing the depth of wrinkles and improving skin texture.

What are the benefits of amino acids in skincare?

In skincare, amino acids deliver a wide range of benefits, such as the following five:

  • Keeping your skin hydrated. Some amino acids work as natural moisturising factors (abbreviated to NMFs), drawing moisture from the air into your skin to keep it hydrated.
  • Providing the building blocks for making collagen and elastin. Your body needs amino acids for constructing collagen molecules and elastin molecules.
  • Repairing and regenerating your skin. Your body uses amino acids to repair damaged skin and form new skin.
  • Improving your skin texture and elasticity. Creating collagen and elastin from amino acids makes your skin smoother and more elastic.
  • Reducing inflammation and irritation. Some amino acids can soothe inflamed skin.

How can peptides help in skin firming?

Peptides can help skin firming by stimulating the production of collagen and elastin, making your skin produce more hyaluronic acid and so retain moisture and stay hydrated, strengthening the skin barrier, and reducing inflammation.

Are peptide serums effective for wrinkle reduction?

Yes, they can be. Peptides can work particularly well in serums alongside other skin-smoothing ingredients, including retinoids, and hydrators that have a plumping effect on your skin.

How can I choose the right peptide product for my skin?

When choosing the right peptide serum for you, start from the concern you want the product to help, and identify the peptides that will target that concern.

For example, if your primary goal is to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, you might look for products containing Matrixyl (palmitoyl pentapeptide), Argireline, or copper peptides. By contrast, if your main goal is to make your skin firmer and more elastic, you might look for products that deliver palmitoyl tripeptide-5 or palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7.

Once you’re looking at specific products, check their ingredients to make sure that peptides are near the top of the list. While on the list, look for ingredients such as hyaluronic acid or antioxidants that will boost the effect of the peptides too.

Next, make sure the products you’re considering will suit your skin type. For example, if your skin is sensitive, you’ll likely want a product that’s hypoallergenic and fragrance free.

At this point, you should have a short list of apparently suitable products. You can also discuss the inclusion of a peptide serum in your routine with TTG’s skincare specialist Shenaz, by booking in for a personalised consultation.

What are the latest advancements in peptide skincare?

Here are five examples of recent developments in peptide skincare:

  • New collagen-boosting peptides. Because collagen is vital to the health of your skin, there’s considerable focus on ways to boost collagen via peptides.
  • Liposomal peptide products. These products wrap the peptides in lipid molecules — essentially, fat — to deliver them to their destination more effectively.
  • Neuropeptides to relax facial muscles. Neuropeptides (such as Argireline, mentioned earlier on this page) can relax your facial muscles and so could reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles. It’s gaining traction as a needle-free alternative-ish to toxin, aka ‘Notox’ skincare.
  • Time-release peptides. Scientists are working on peptide formulations that release their peptides gradually rather than all at once. Gradual delivery lets the peptides work for longer and increases their effects.
  • Custom peptide products. Some companies offer customised peptide products formulated to address specific skincare problems.


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