What is a peptide and is it useful?

In the world of skin care, peptides are increasingly being touted. From various studies, a peptide has some positive properties. Think of stimulating collagen in your skin, pigment reduction and suitable for people with sensitive skin. But is it really that magical?

What is a peptide?

Peptide are concatenated amino acids. Think of it as small building blocks with certain properties and shape. On the skin, these peptides act as messengers and deliver specific signals to activate or slow down cells in the skin. Some peptides stimulate skin collagen and other peptides give a signal to inhibit pigment formation.

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.

Peptide Lineair Of Circulair Iconic Elements
Linear Peptide Difference With Ciclopeptide

For example, if a peptide key does not fall into the cellular lock, nothing happens. It won’t work even if you have a golden key and lock.


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


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