Spotlight On: Amino Acid Peptides


In times of injury, amino acid peptides provoke your skin to regenerate collagen. According to Audrey Kunin, M.D., dermatologist and founder of, amino acid peptides send a chemical message to fibroblasts, enticing them to return to the area, make collagen, and repair the wound in a process known as chemotaxis. Amino acid peptides used in skin creams are composed of the same end fragment that sends out the distress signal to fibroblasts.

What is argireline (acetyl hexapeptide-3)? Is it really “an alternative to BotoxTM“?

A peptide created by Lipotec in Barcelona, argireline (acetyl hexapeptide-3), was found in a 2002 study by Blanes-Mira et. al to reduce the depth of wrinkles by up to 30% with thirty days post-injectable treatment, in a manner similar to botulism toxin. The exciting part of this find was that injected argireline had the effectiveness without the high toxicity of botulism toxin. For this reason, Argireline is often known in cosmetics as the “freeze” ingredient. According to Mary Duenwald from the New York Times, argireline works on the same muscle-to-nerve connections as BotoxTM. Specifically, argireline was found by Gutierrez et. al in 1997 to inhibit the formation of the soluble N-ethylmalemide-sensitive fusion attachment complex (SNAP), which acts to inhibit vesicle docking of catecholamines, including epinephrine and noradrenaline. In plain English, argireline prevents neurons from stimulating muscles to contract, which relaxes the muscles, giving the skin a smoother appearance, and preventing the formation of wrinkles that are caused by excessive use of the muscles. However, while BotoxTM breaks the nerve-to-muscle connections, argireline merely inhibits them.

Can the effects of argireline be experienced by using a topical cream?

One should also not get too excited about using argireline in a topical cream: while injections of argireline produced similar results to BotoxTM, argireline cannot diffuse through the top layers of skin to reach the crucial muscle-nerve connections. Instead, argireline, like other peptide treatments, is helpful solely because it triggers the formation of collagen via fibroblasts, as explained earlier.

In topical treatments, argireline is often combined with GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which may temporarily inhibit nerves and reduce the appearance of wrinkles when applied topically, but not nearly as well or for anywhere near as long as Botox. Argireline and the highest concentration of GABA available in the U.S. market are found in Freeze 24/7 Anti-Wrinkle Cream ($115.00, Freeze 24/7 Anti-Wrinkle Cream is said to improve the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines in as few as ten minutes after application, but its effects will not last a full day. Although some women report excellent results from the product, user reviews on the popular e-shopping site are mixed, so proceed cautiously. It seems that the inhibitory effects of topically applied GABA vary from consumer to consumer.

What about Matrixyl (palmitoyl pentapeptide)?

Another amino acid peptide of interest is Matrixyl (palmitoyl pentapeptide). According to Dr. Jeannette Graf, a board-certified dermatologist hailing from Great Neck, NY, matrixyl is a five-peptide sequence (KTTKS). Like argireline, matrixyl is combined with a fatty acid component (an acetyl-component in argireline, a palmitoyl-component in matrixyl), in order to increase its penetration into the skin. At the 2002 World Congress of Dermatology in Paris, France, matrixyl was found to decrease wrinkle depth by 68% and wrinkle density by 47% over six months. Matrixyl, like argireline, promotes fibroblasts to produce collagen, but has the additional benefit of promoting hyaluronic acid production in the skin. According to Dr. Graf, Matrixyl must be applied in minimum concentrations of 2%, but ideally between 4 and 8%, in order to be effective. Surprisingly, a product called AdvanSkinTM ($59.95, claims to have 6% of a complex called Matrixyl3000® and 15% Argireline®.

Overall, are peptides effective anti-aging ingredients?

So should amino acid peptides become a part of your anti-aging routine? It certainly could not hurt to use argireline or other amino acids to build-up collagen production over time, especially when used in a moisturizer with other proven anti-aging ingredients, such as retinoids or antioxidants. A great source of argireline and other anti-aging ingredients is DERMAdoctor Wrinkle Revenge Facial Cream ($72.00,, which contains a argireline peptide complex, antioxidants, and hydrating components.

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