What are Peptides in Skincare?

Megan Dominion

Navigating skincare can be a tricky topic for newbies, especially when so many different face creams claim to be magic potions for youth and a glowing complexion. Here’s what you need to know about peptides, collagen and retinol to ensure that you’re purchasing the right skincare products for your desired beauty results! 

What are peptides in skincare?

As we age, our bodies slow down on collagen production.1Am J Pathol, Decreased Collagen Production in Chronologically Aged Skin, National Library of Medicine Collagen is a protein that’s responsible for building or creating new skin, hair, muscles and bones. When collagen production slows down, your skin will start to sag and lose its tone, vitality and glow. Basically, we want to boost collagen production for as long as possible!

Peptides help produce collagen, or rather stimulate collagen production.2Grace Gallagher, Peptides and Your Skin Care Routine, Healthline You might be thinking “So why can’t I just put collagen on my face?” The issue is that collagen itself can not penetrate your skin’s barrier. In short, its cells are too large. The best we can do (apart from consuming collagen in the form of supplements, broths, powders etc) is to add peptides to our skincare routine to entice the collagen production to keep going, or to speed up.

Are peptides and retinol the same thing for skincare?

The short answer is no. They have similar benefits, but there is decades worth of research on the benefits of retinol for anti-ageing and peptides are relatively new on the scene. Another downside of retinol is that it’s pretty harsh on your skin and your face might take a long time to build a tolerance to it.3Br J Dermatol, A randomized, controlled comparative study of the wrinkle reduction benefits of a cosmetic niacinamide/peptide/retinyl propionate product regimen vs. a prescription 0·02% tretinoin product regimen, National Library of Medicine Also, you should only use retinol at night whereas peptides are safe to use in both your morning and evening skincare routine. The good news is that you can use BOTH retinol and peptides as they actually benefit and compliment each other. Again, this will depend on the skincare products you use for your specific skin type.

Peptides in Skincare

These are the key differences between retinol and peptides:


Boosts collagen production
Increases skin cell turnover
Safest to only use at night
It’s a Vitamin A antioxidant
Treats and reduces pigmentation
Treats acne and prevents scarring
Reduces fine lines and wrinkles


Boosts collagen production
Can use day and night
Boosts skin hydration
Increases antioxidant activity
Reduces fine lines and wrinkles
Slightly reduces muscle movement (similar to botox)
Prevents the growth of bacteria

Which peptides are the best for skincare

There are five different kinds of peptides, but the most research has been put into Copper Peptides4Loren Pickart & Anna Margolina, Regenerative and Protective Actions of the GHK-Cu Peptide in the Light of the New Gene Data, National Library of Medicine, which you’ll find in most popular (peptide based) skincare products. Known as ‘nature’s botox’, it’s a great product to include in your skincare routine. Copper peptides are best used as a serum in your first layer of your skincare routine. Many dermatologists don’t recommend using it with a Vitamin C serum, so you might want to alternate the use if you’d like to use both. Copper peptides can also assist with acne because it’s known to reduce or stop the growth of bacteria.



Peptides vs Ceramides

While peptides are closer to retinol in its anti-aging benefits, ceramides are used to nourish your skin barrier. Both ingredients will boost skin hydration but its main uses slightly differ. Ceramides are a great ingredient to use for skin that is sensitive, or if you are using harsher ingredients in your skincare routine such as retinol. What it does is helps your skin barrier to strengthen. It’s a good idea to incorporate ceramides into an anti-aging routine as a compromised skin barrier can lead to dehydration and counteract your anti-aging efforts. I always have Laroche Posay’s Cicaplast Balm B5 on hand for when my skin looks dry and irritated.

How to use Peptides in a Skincare Routine

You might want to experiment with a Vitamin C, peptides and retinol rotation and remember to always use sunblock every day and to stop or reduce the use of new skincare products if you experience any irritation or allergies.

In general, peptides are a newer anti-aging skincare ingredient that is generally safer to use than retinol with fewer side effects but both retinol and peptides are proven to boost collagen production and assist in with the signs of aging.

Megan Dominion

Megan Dominion is SILKUP's Managing Editor. She's been down both the curly hair and skincare rabbit holes many times and loves that there's always something new to learn; a new science, method, product or personal experience.