What are the Differences Between Peptides?

Personal/Inspirational, Skin Care


Dear Nicki,

What are the differences between peptides?  There are so many nowadays!


Dear Maggie,

Peptides are nothing more than chains of amino acids.  There is no firm distinction between a peptide and a protein, except peptides are generally smaller.

Ever since research on peptides was demonstrated to firm skin and stimulate collagen production at the American Academy of Dermatology research conference in 2002, the market has been ablaze with peptides.  Yet not at all peptides are created equal, and, what’s more, not all peptide creams are, either.  Here are five you need to know:

Palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 (previously known as palmitoyl pentapeptide-4)

Palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 is available in an array of skin care creams, including Complexion MD Advanced Anti-Wrinkle Cream, the DERMADoctor Wrinkle Revenge Duo, and Estée Lauder Perfectionist Anti-Wrinkle Serum.  Savvy recessionistas will be happy to know that palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 is also included in the Olay ProX line.

Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7

Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 is found in Peter Thomas Roth Unwrinkle Night.

Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 is the new name for palmitoyl tetrapeptide-3, not to be confused with palmitoyl pentapeptide-3, described above.  Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 reduces inflammatory cytokines, known as interleukins (Clinics in Dermatology, 1999).  By reducing inflammation, palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 may potentially reduce the cumulative amount of damage that occurs following exposure to UV light, pollution, internal stress, and other pro-inflammatory factors.  Cells exposed to UV radiation and then treated with Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 saw an 86% reduction of interleukin production.

There are very few studies that report the topical effects of palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 on its own.  Despite this, it is included in a number of skin care creams, including Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Night and Avon Anew Rejuvenating Night Cream.

Acetyl hexapeptide-3 (also known as argireline)

iQ Natural contains acetyl hexapeptide.

You may remember a few years back when there were lots of radio commercials advertising Hydroxatone as an “an alternative to Botox”.  Well, the main active ingredient was none other than acetyl hexapeptide-3.   Also known as argireline (Acetyl Hexapeptide-3), argireline raised eyebrows literally and figurately after a 2002 study found wrinkles were reduced in depth by 30% when it was injected into the skin, similar to BotoxTM.  Argireline works on the same muscle-to-nerve connections as BotoxTM, which makes sense, given that it is actually a shortened peptide sequence of BotoxTM.

Unfortunately, while injections of argireline produced similar results to BotoxTM, argireline in skin care creams have never been proven to diffuse through the top layers of skin to reach the crucial muscle-nerve connections like injectable BotoxTM.  Despite this, I have seen some people have wrinkle-reducing results after using creams that contain argireline.  On the other hand, unfortunately, some people do not have any results at all.  It is likely argireline may diffuse through thinner skin and have a greater effect than in those with thicker skin, as I have noticed greater results in older individuals.  Still, the only way to know is to try.  Of those creams with argireline, your best bet is IQ Natural Argireline, with 20% argireline.  I can’t guarantee that it will work for everyone, unfortunately, but it has the highest concentration of argireline of any cream I have seen on the market thus far.

Palmitoyl oligopeptide

Of all the peptides in all the world, palmitoyl oligopeptide walks into every favorite list of mine.  What is great about palmitoyl oligopeptide is that it significantly stimulates collagen production in human fibroblasts, as shown in a 2007 study in Dermatologic Therapy.  When used twice daily for a significant period of time – about six months – this means firmer skin, provided that other factors remain the same (i.e., weight, sun exposure, etc.).

On the other hand, palmitoyl oligopeptide is interesting because it brings up one of my favorite debates:  Do we want to upregulate or downregulate elastin expression?  Palmitoyl oligopeptide has been found to down-regulate elastin expression.  From one point of view, this is not a bad thing –  elastin expression naturally increases with age, after all.  However, elastin cross-fibers in older individuals grow in a less organized pattern than in individuals at a younger age, so down-regulating unorganized elastin expression may keep your elastin fibers from growing in a disorganized pattern characteristic of old age.  Yet, products that have been shown to stimulate elastin production (like one of my favorites, Relastin Eye Silk) also increase the firmness of the skin.  So which is right?  Nobody knows for sure yet.

If you wish to try palmitoyl oligopeptide, I recommend Complexion MD Advanced Anti-Wrinkle Cream and the DERMADoctor Wrinkle Revenge Duo.


Some YBF products contain Matrixyl 3000.

Matrixyl 3000 has been touted as “the most potent fibroblast stimulator,” though this hasn’t been directly proven in any blinded, controlled, randomized, direct-comparison studies.  Still, Matrixyl 3000 does have notable collagen-stimulating properties (Bioorganic and Medical Chemistry Studies, 2010) but don’t go looking for it in a list of ingredients.  Instead, Matrixyl-3000 is actually a combination of palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 (listed above as “#2″) and palmitoyl oligopeptide (listed above as “#4″).  My favorite line with Matrixyl 3000 is the Your Best Face line, which also contains powerful antioxidants known as spin traps.

Bottom Line

There are a vast array of peptides available that can firm your skin over time.  The key to using peptides is three-fold:

1.)  Use the right peptides.  Palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 and Matrixyl (which is actually palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 + palmitoyl oligopeptide) have the most substantiated research backing their claims thus far.

2.)  Apply consistently.  Twice-daily use is great, but make sure to use it especially at night, to stimulate collagen production most effectively.

3.)  Be patient.  Most of these creams take at least six weeks to see a noticeable difference.

Hope this helps!

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