What is a peptide and is it useful?

Peptides are a popular and much-discussed ingredient in the skincare world today. And with good reason. Several studies have shown that peptides have some positive properties when it comes to improving the condition of the skin. For example, they can stimulate collagen production in the skin, which can lead to a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles. In addition, peptides can help reduce pigmentation, which is especially beneficial for people with skin prone to discoloration.


But the question remains, are peptides really as magical as they’re hailed in the skincare world? There are still many unanswered questions about the effectiveness of peptides, and much research is still needed to understand their true benefits and harms. In addition, it is important to note that not all peptides are created equal and some may provide more benefits than others.

It is therefore important to have a good knowledge of the different types of peptides and their effects on the skin, so that you can make an informed choice when choosing skin care products.

What is a peptide?

Peptides are basically short chains of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. They each have their own specific properties and unique structure. It is this structure that determines how the peptide will interact with other molecules in the skin and how it will exert its effect.

When peptides are applied to the skin, they act as messengers that send specific signals to activate or inhibit certain cells in the skin. For example, some peptides stimulate the production of collagen in the skin, while other peptides send a signal to inhibit the formation of pigment.

Because of these different functions, peptides can be used in many ways in skin care. They can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improve skin texture, hydrate the skin and even out skin tone.

Another important aspect of peptides is that they are suitable for people with sensitive skin. Unlike some other active ingredients, peptides are generally mild and have few side effects.

One peptide does not have the same properties as an other!

Peptides can be divided into 4 main groups.

Signal peptides – signal and stimulate collagen production in the dermis. The activated fibroblasts in the skin are stimulated to form collagen.

Enzyme inhibiting peptides – one blocks proteolytic enzymes called matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) and stimulates your skin to produce collagen. Another enzyme inhibitory peptide inhibits pigment-forming tyrosinase activities.

Neurotransmitter inhibiting peptides – blocks neurotransmitters, resulting in, for example, less muscle movements. Think of a kind of topical botox for the skin.

Carrier peptides – transport trace elements such as copper and magnesium, for example for better wound healing.

Properties of a good peptide

For it to work properly, a peptide must meet a number of important requirements.

A very important one, a showpiece of my trainer Professor Bos (AMC – Amsterdam), is that a substance must be smaller than 500 daltons in order to penetrate the skin. Dalton is a molecular weight of a substance. If it is larger than 500 daltons, the substance is too large to penetrate the epidermis. As a result, it does not reach the dermis and there is no effect.

Other peptide requirement is, stability. It should not be so fragile that it falls apart on contact with air, ultraviolet rays of the sun or in a cosmetic product containing a peptide.

Also not insignificant is binding affinity to a cell. Most peptides are linear, also elongated and have some points of contact with a cell receptor. Otherwise, it is a cyclic round peptide that fits better into a receptor and has multiple points of contact (see photo below). Multiple touch points ensure better cell activation and production of, for example, collagen.

So, for example, if a peptide does not bind in the correct cell membrane, the signal will be lost and it will have no effect. Even if you have the best quality peptides and the most suitable cell, the desired effects will not be achieved if the interaction between the peptide and the cell membrane does not go well.

Peptide Lineair Of Circulair Iconic Elements
Linear Peptide Difference With Ciclopeptide

So, while the idea of ​​”magic” skincare may be an exaggeration, peptides are certainly a promising addition to your skincare routine. With their unique properties and versatility, they can help achieve healthy, glowing skin.

Peptides are short chains of amino acids that provide specific signals to the skin cells to perform certain functions, such as stimulating collagen production or inhibiting pigment formation. Retinol, a form of vitamin A, works by speeding cell turnover and increasing collagen production, but can cause irritation in some skin types. Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant, targets pigmentation and protects the skin against oxidative stress. Peptides are considered gentler and have the unique ability to provide highly targeted signals to skin cells, making them complementary to traditional ingredients.

Cyclic peptides have a ring-shaped structure that gives them better binding affinity with cell receptors compared to linear peptides, which have an elongated structure. This ring shape ensures that cyclic peptides fit better into the cell receptor and have multiple contact points, leading to more effective cell activation and, for example, the production of collagen. This makes cyclic peptides potentially more effective in achieving desired skin care effects such as improved skin elasticity and reduced fine lines.

The effectiveness of peptides largely depends on their ability to penetrate the epidermis and reach the dermis where they can perform their function. Peptides with a molecular weight less than 500 daltons have a greater chance of penetrating the skin. Molecules larger than 500 daltons have difficulty crossing the skin barrier, significantly reducing their potential effect. Therefore, it is crucial that peptides are small enough to effectively absorb into the skin.

Peptides must be stable in the formulation of skin care products to be effective. Unstable peptides can break down when exposed to air, light, or within the formula itself, reducing their effectiveness. Stable peptides maintain their structure and function from the moment of application until they reach the skin cells, which is essential for delivering their promised skin care benefits such as improving skin texture or reducing signs of aging.

Although peptides are powerful ingredients that can provide significant benefits to the skin, they cannot completely replace professional treatments. Professional skin treatments such as laser therapy, microneedling, or chemical peels provide deeper, more intensive results that cannot always be achieved with topical products alone. However, peptides can be an excellent addition to professional treatments, supporting the skin at home and prolonging the results of such procedures.

Iconic Elements Firming Booster serum

The Firming Booster serum has been formulated with care, using powerful ingredients that can significantly improve the skin. This serum contains both high and low molecular hyaluronic acid, which optimizes its absorption and distribution in the upper skin layers.

The active ingredients include:

  • Bakuchiol: This phytochemical is known for its ability to reduce skin aging and pigmentation. It is considered a mild, non-irritating substitute for vitamin A (retinol).
  • White Tea Extract: Derived from the young buds and leaves of the Camellia Sinensis shrub, this extract is rich in antioxidants.
  • Cyclopeptide-5: This hypoallergenic cyclic protein, also called a peptide, stimulates biological skin processes, promotes hydration and supports the tissue in the dermis. Together, these ingredients contribute to an effective improvement of the skin.
Cyclopeptide-5 Peptide Bakuchiol White Tea
Webshop: Firming Booster serum


Gorouhi F, Maibach HI. Role of topical peptides in preventing or treating aged skin. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2009 Oct;31(5):327-45.

Bos JD, Meinardi MM. The 500 Dalton rule for the skin penetration of chemical compounds and drugs. Exp Dermatol. 2000 Jun;9(3):165-9.

While you are here

Day in and day out, we routinely use the same skin care products to take care of our skin. However, no day is the same. That also applies to your skin, suddenly you have dry, irritated skin, then it’s back to normal and another moment Pimples. Even though your diet has remained the same and you have no other explanations for it.

The effects of estrogen and progesterone on your skin

Estrogen is key for normal skin function. It is associated with the production of collagen, hyaluronic acid, increased skin thickness, improved skin barrier function, maintenance of skin hydration and sebaceous gland activity. There are 3 estrogens: estrone (E1), estradiol (E2) (also found in men) and estriol (E3). In menopause, estrone (E1) takes the upper hand, this imbalance can cause complaints. Excess estradiol (E2) can cause acne. So estrogen does a lot and is quite complex.

The other hormone is progesterone. The effect of progesterone on the skin is less clear. It is believed that progesterone plays a role in skin elasticity, sebum production and, like estrogen, also in skin pigmentation. In addition, progesterone has an effect on skin blood flow.

Read more about: Timing skin care based on your menstrual cycle

Picture of Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu, een vooraanstaande dermatoloog, is de drijvende kracht achter Iconic Elements. Hij heeft sinds 2004 zijn expertise ingezet om een veilige en effectieve huidverzorgingslijn te creëren, geschikt voor zowel gezonde huid als huidproblemen. Iconic Elements, opgericht in 2016, is de eerste brede skincare lijn in Nederland ontwikkeld door een dermatoloog. Als medisch specialist streeft Dr. Wu naar het bevorderen van het welzijn van mensen door hoogwaardige en effectieve huidverzorgingsproducten te bieden. De proefdiervrije en vegan producten vermijden schadelijke chemicaliën en bevatten natuurlijke ingrediënten.
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