What are peptides?
The term "Peptide" is actually common in the world of biochemistry and is the generic name given to a small string of amino acids. Amino acids, remember, are the so called building blocks of life.
They are very small molecules that have both an amine group (which means it contains a nitrogen) and a carboxylic acid group (which means it contains a carbon double bonded to an oxygen.)Amino acids can be linked together because the amine group of one amino acid can connect to the acid group of another. Two connected amino acids are called a dipeptide, a chain of three is called a tripeptide, and so on.
When a bunch of them are strung together the result is called a polypeptide. As a rule of thumb, if there are 50 or fewer amino acids hooked together, the chain is called peptide. If there are more than 50 it's called a protein. Proteins can be VERY large and are organized in such a way that they have biological properties (for example proteins are components of hair and skin.)
Some peptides occur naturally in your body and others are made synthetically to mimic the function of natural peptides.
What do naturally occurring peptides do in skin?
Peptides are naturally occurring in skin. (They're not exactly the same as the peptides used as cosmetic ingredients.) These naturally occurring peptides come from some of the structural proteins in the epidermis and dermis which are broken down by enzymes. These protein fragments perform multiple functions in the skin. They can regulate hormonal activity, activate or deactivate immune responses, communicate between cells, and activate wound healing. Maybe the simplest way is to think of peptides as "messengers" between skin cells.
According to at least one theory, your body has a feedback loop that tells it when to produce fresh collagen. It goes something like this:
Collagen has a natural life cycle and it eventually breaks down. When it breaks down it release little protein fragments (which are peptides). Some skin cells have receptors for these peptides which work like a little lock and key. When then peptides "turn the lock" it triggers the cells to produce fresh collagen. Then when that collagen is worn out it breaks down and those little broken pieces trigger more new collagen production and so on.
The problem is that as you age your body becomes less effective at this process of triggering new collagen. So by adding synthetic peptides, you can send a signal that "wakes up" these cells so they start producing more collagen again.
The 4 Different types of Peptide used in Anti-Aging.
Neurotransmitter inhibitors peptides are "wrinkle relaxers."
These peptides inhibit acetylcholine release by a variety of chemical interactions.
The most extreme neurotransmitter include the poison curare and the botulism toxin (Botox). Less invasive versions have been developed for use on skin and the hypothesis is that they relax the muscles of facial expression so they don't contract as much which causes wrinkles to relax. These neurotransmitter inhibitor peptides have been shown to reduce certain types of wrinkles by approximately 30% (in in vivo studies.)
i.e Acetyl Hexapeptide 8 - Found in Dream Cream, Special Care Masks
Signal peptides are "collagen boosters."
These peptides stimulate skin fibroblasts to produce more collagen, elastin, and other proteins in the matrix of the dermis.
Boosting these "scaffolding" proteins makes skin look firmer and fuller. GHK is an example of a signal peptide and it was one of the first peptides discovered – it was originally isolated from human plasma in the early 1970s and its wound healing properties were first observed in the mid 80s- which goes to show that this technology is relatively new.
i.e Human Oligopeptide-1 -- Found in Dream Cream and Special Care Masks too!
Carrier peptides act as "delivery agents."
These peptides deliver trace elements, like copper and magnesium, which help with wound repair and enzymatic processes.
These trace elements have been shown to improve pro-collagen synthesis, elasticity of skin, and overall skin appearance. This type of peptide is sometimes called a "penetrating peptide" or a "membrane transduction peptide."
Enzyme inhibitor peptides are 'breakdown reducers."
These peptides, as the name implies, interfere with enzyme reactions. This is important because some enzymes (such as MMP or Matrix Metalloprotease) degrade structural proteins like collagen. Therefore, by inhibiting enzymes these peptides can preserve your natural collagen and keep skin looking younger.
On the issue of the length of use of peptide products. Unlike something like an AHA or a retinol that starts to work right away, peptide products take a little longer. This is why our Dream Cream and Masks contain other effective anti-aging and penetrating agents to compliment the effects of peptides. Allowing you to feel and look younger almost instantly!