Youth and good skin are wasted on the young. Oblivious to the abundance of collagen that keeps our skin plump and taut, our tender years pass by with a definite lack of appreciation for the beauty of mere youth.
Until one day, we wake up with our first wrinkle. At which point, you either decide to break out the skincare weapons or let nature take its course. If you’re in the second category, good on ya. But if you’ve decided to fight aging skin with everything you’ve got, it’s time to add peptides to your beauty routine.
Peptide is probably a skincare buzzword you’ve heard bandied about along with other key ingredients like hyaluronic acid, vitamin C and collagen. But do you really know what peptides are and what they can do for you?
Today we’re going to fill you in on this skincare powerhouse as well as our favorite peptide moisturizers. But first, let’s start by explaining what peptides are.
All About Peptides
Peptides are amino acids that make up certain proteins needed by our skin – like collagen and elastin. If you’re a skincare junkie, you already know that collagen and elastin are responsible for keeping our skin plump and firm. And while our body makes them naturally, over time, our production drops which eventually leads to wrinkles and sagging skin.
The good news is that peptides act like a messenger to our body and can stimulate it to produce more collagen. So why not just buy a moisturizer with collagen? While collagen is actually great for moisturizing the outer layer of our skin, it’s too large a molecule to actually penetrate it.
Peptides, on the other hand, can be absorbed by the skin, where they can be utilized by the body.
The Different Types of Peptides
Not all peptides and peptide-containing products are the same, so you’ll want to take a careful look at the ingredients list for each cosmetic or skincare product you’re considering before you decide which is your best fit.
Additionally, when you’re taking a gander at that ingredients list, you might not see “peptides” listed at all, even though the moisturizer or serum says “peptide” right on the label. Instead, some purportedly peptide-containing cosmetics may only include peptide-like proteins, not specific, listed peptides. Other times, though, the peptide in the product could be going by a different name.
Here are a few types of peptides (and their other names) to look out for.
Signaling peptides signal your skin to do something. That might be telling your skin to increase collagen production or telling your skin to stop breaking down existing collagen.
Signaling peptides might be called carnosine, N-acetyl carnosine, hexapeptides, tetrapeptides, palmitoyl tripeptides or palmitoyl hexapeptides.
Carrier peptides carry another beneficial ingredient to your skin, such as copper or manganese. If a product contains a carrier peptide, it’ll usually just list the carried ingredient next to “peptide” (or some deviation of the word) in the ingredients list.
Inhibitor peptides — you guessed it — inhibit something from happening. Sometimes, these peptides — which often go by the name pentapeptides or acetyl hexapeptide-3 — are used in products that are intended to prevent fine lines. Other times, they’re used to prevent collagen breakdown.
Lastly, structural peptides, sometimes hiding under the name “wool lipid,” “lipid,” or just “keratin,” remedy dryness through the naturally occurring power of keratin.
5 Benefits of Peptides
So what exactly can peptides do for you? Read on!
1. Peptides Can Help Reduce Wrinkles
As already mentioned, peptides sink deeply into our skin, where they can stimulate the production of collagen and elastin, which keep our skin plump and firm (and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles).
2. Peptides Can Improve the Skin Barrier
The skin barrier is the outermost layer of our skin and protects us from things like bacteria, pollution, ultraviolet rays, cigarette smoke and even a bad night’s sleep. By adding peptides to your beauty regime, you can strengthen the skin barrier and protect yourself from toxins and other damaging factors.
3. Peptides Can Reduce Inflammation
Peptides can also help repair damaged skin, reduce inflammation and even out skin tone.
4. Peptides Are Good for Acne
Some peptides are especially good at killing bacteria which helps to fight acne breakouts.
5. Peptides Are Gentle on the Skin
If you have sensitive skin, it’s also good to know that peptides are non-irritating. (If you do have a reaction to a peptide moisturizer, it could be due to another ingredient.)
What to Know About Peptides and Your Skincare Routine
Before you start using peptides, there are a few things you should know about adding them to your beauty regime.
First of all, be sure to pick a peptide product that has prolonged contact with your skin, like a serum or moisturizer. While skin cleansers with peptides may sound great, they’re not very effective because the peptides are washed off of your skin immediately.
It’s also important to be aware of how you combine peptides with other skincare ingredients. Peptides work well in combination with things like hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, niacinamide and antioxidants. But alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and free acids like glycolic acid can reduce their effectiveness by breaking the peptides down. You can still use these types of acids, but not at the same time as peptides for the best results.
Related: Hyaluronic Acid: Is It Really A Secret Beauty Serum?
Our Favorite Peptide Moisturizers
Now that we’ve covered peptides 101, let’s go over our list of favorite moisturizers and serums that feature this key ingredient.
1. The Ordinary Buffet + Copper Peptides
Fans of the reasonably priced skincare line The Ordinary will be thrilled to know that they also make a fast-absorbing serum with five different peptides and hyaluronic acid to keep your skin moist while also boosting collagen. This Buffet + Cooper Peptide serum is formulated without sulfates, parabens, silicone, fragrance, and animal oils.
2. Bliss Bright Idea Vitamin C + Tri-Peptide Collagen Protecting and Brightening Moisturizer
This cruelty-free moisturizer features a patented blend of three different peptides to boost the skin’s elasticity. But that’s not the only reason we like it. It also contains ultra-stable, medical-grade vitamin C to brighten the skin, as well as green tea extract to fight free radicals.
And to top it all off, it has a yummy citrus smell we can’t resist!
3. Face Reality Cran Peptide Cream
If you struggle with acne or sensitive skin, this antibacterial and antifungal peptide formula with lilac leaf stem cell extract helps to regulate sebum and reduce inflammation while soothing dry, dehydrated skin.
The key peptide ingredient is the reparative and collagen boosting Matrixyl Synthe’6. This cream also contains cranberry fruit extract, a powerful antioxidant with antibacterial and nourishing properties.
And while it’s a good choice for acne-prone skin, this moisturizer also works especially well for anyone with dry skin.
4. Peach & Lily Glass Skin Refining Serum
This cult favorite serum is adored by all skin types for its firming, calming and brightening properties that help give your face that special glow. So what’s in the secret sauce? A proprietary blend of peptides to boost collagen and help diminish wrinkles.
But this hard working formula doesn’t stop there. It also contains powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory niacinamide to brighten the skin and hyaluronic acid to moisturize and plump it. And to pump up your glow even further, it’s also infused with peach and Asian yam extracts, which are chock full of vitamins, fatty acids and antioxidants.
It’s like a meal for your skin!
5. Boscia Peptide Youth Restore Firming Body Serum
Although most of us tend to focus on our face and neck, peptides can also be beneficial for the skin on all parts of our body. To help restore elasticity and hydrate the skin below your chin, we like this serum from Boscia.
Tetrapeptide-3 helps to stimulate collagen production while niacinamide brightens and promotes protein synthesis to improve texture for a more youthful look and feel. We also like that this serum is vegan, cruelty free and free of artificial colors, preservatives and fragrances.
6. Then I Met You Calming Tide Gel Cream
This lightweight moisturizer is great for layering under makeup and sunscreen as it never leaves your skin feeling greasy. But beyond its great texture, you’ll love this cream because its Tri-Tide Peptide Complex helps to stimulate collagen and firm your skin.
The addition of antioxidant rich hibiscus also helps protect you from free radicals, while the special ingredient madecassoside soothes inflammation and repairs damage to your skin. The formula is rounded out with niacinamide to even out your skin tone.
There’s a reason this cream is a best seller!
7. Paula’s Choice Boost Peptide Booster Serum
This effective boosting serum uses 8 powerful peptides to fight wrinkles and discoloration while increasing the firmness of your skin. It also features hydrating amino acids to restore and fortify the skin, as well as repairing ingredients like licorice to soothe redness and irritation.
For added flexibility, you can use this serum alone or add a few drops to your favorite moisturizer or body lotion. Paula’s Choice is also fragrance free and contains no parabens.
Related: Does Vegan Collagen Really Work? 7 Supplements For Healthy, Radiant Skin
8. Sobel SkinRx Oligo Peptide Eye Cream
Peptides can be used over the entire face, but a moisturizer made especially for the eye area can help firm this delicate part of our skin as well as diminish the appearance of crow’s feet. This mid-range priced cream contains triple oligo peptides along with hyaluronic acid and cucumber to restore elasticity, diminish dark circles and wrinkles and depuff the eye area.
We also like that this lightweight cream absorbs well and can be worn under makeup. Another nice plus is that it’s cruelty-free and has the clean seal of approval from Sephora.
9. Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Moisturizer
This popular moisturizer is packed with nine different peptides to plump and firm your skin. But it doesn’t stop there when it comes to restoring your youthful glow. Other key ingredients include water lily stem cell extract to replenish the skin with antioxidants and nutrients, as well as soybean folic acid (vitamin B) to improve elasticity.
Over time, you should see an improvement in the firmness, texture and tone of your skin.
10. HydroPeptide Face Lift Advanced Ultra Light Moisturizer
Fans of this peptide moisturizer rave about its lightweight but hydrating feel. Infused with multi-performance peptides, it firms the skin, reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and diminishes dark spots.
This formula is also fortified with hyaluronic acid to moisturize your skin and improve elasticity. Topping off this well rounded moisturizer are antioxidants like vitamin C and bearberry to smooth inflammation and protect your skin from free radicals.
Add it all up, and you have firmer, more radiant skin.
11. Eminence Organic Skincare Arctic Berry Peptide Radiance Cream
Fans of natural beauty will appreciate this organic moisturizer whose star ingredient is a peptide illuminating complex with hibiscus seed botanical peptides and gardenia stem cells to promote elasticity. It also contains yellow plum extract to reduce inflammation.
Other key ingredients include arctic plants and berries, which are well known for their ability to reduce and prevent the signs of aging. Prepare to get your natural glow on!
12. Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Wrinkles Resist Moisturizer
This firming formula contains a whopping 21 peptides and neuropeptides to fight fine lines and wrinkles. And to further improve your skin’s elasticity, texture and tone, it also utilizes gamma proteins that harness the effects of Asian natton gum.
Hyaluronic acid, squalane and phyto fleur cactus also help to make it a highly effective moisturizer, while trehalose prevents future moisture loss.
13. Eighth Day Reparative Moisturizer
Developed by surgeon Dr. Antony Nakhla, this cutting edge serum boasts a truly impressive list of ingredients to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, boost firmness, increase brightness and fight dark spots. First of all, it features a proprietary ingredient called Peptide-Rich Plasma which contains powerful peptides, amino acids and growth factors.
Other skin savers include the antioxidants ferulic acid and resveratrol plus a super antioxidant blend of vitamins A, C, E and COQ10 to fight free radicals.
This moisturizer is also vegan, cruelty-free, GMO-free and contains no parabens, phthalates, fragrances or sulfates and makes a sustainable addition to your skincare routine.
14. Tata Harper Creme Riche Anti-Aging Peptide Night Cream
On the high end of green beauty is this rich, peptide-powered formula that’s especially soothing for dry skin. Other hydrating ingredients include dual weight hyaluronic acid and a sugar carbohydrate complex that promotes the production of the skin’s natural moisturizers.
Finally, the addition of red maple bark helps to reduce premature aging while also adding moisture.
It’s also soothing to know that this product is formulated with only clean ingredients and is vegan and cruelty-free. Good for your skin and good for the planet!
15. SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum
Yes, you will pay a premium price for this anti-aging serum, but skincare fanatics rave about its ability to fight sagging skin, reduce the look of wrinkles and give them an overall more youthful appearance.
This blend of peptides, antioxidants and other powerful anti-aging ingredients is designed for all skin types and will also help to improve the tone and texture of the skin.
16. Kopari Tri-Peptide Lip Cloud
Why limit your peptide use to just your cheeks and forehead? This peptide moisturizer is intended to specifically moisturize your lips.
The lightweight, sheer lip gloss will not just soften your lips, though. It’ll also smooth away roughness and plump them up, all while giving you a shiny sheen that’s not heavy, gunky and/or sticky, like what you might get with a traditional lip gloss.
17. EltaMD PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer Lotion
A nighttime moisturizer, this option is conveniently available on Amazon and contains not just peptides but other beneficial ingredients as well, such as vitamins and antioxidants. In addition to moisturizing and fighting the appearance of fine lines, the moisturizer also helps to improve skin tone and elasticity.
The moisturizer is safe for use on sensitive skin.
18. Olay Collagen Peptides Wrinkle Correction Serum
This peptide bundle comes with both a wrinkle correction serum and a whipped moisturizer. Available from drugstore favorite brand Olay, the formula includes vitamins and collagen peptides but no mineral oil, dyes or parabens. The brand claims that you’ll see results from using the combo in just under a month and that a single drop of the serum is capable of renewing up to a million skin cells, ten layers of skin deep.
Reviewers say the serum and moisturizer are lightweight, non-scented and a good value compared to other more expensive options. Some reviewers say they use the combo on their arms and hands as well.
19. Youth to the People Triple Peptide and Cactus Oasis Serum
This hydrating serum contains a mix of hyaluronic acid, peptides, cactus and rambutan for long-lasting hydration, instant skin plumping and “a youthful bounce.” The serum is a gel formula and nearly 100% of users say their skin felt less dry after a single use, and the same said their skin looked more hydrated after a week of use.
20. Revision Skincare DEJ Eye Cream
If you’re just looking for an eye treatment and you don’t mind splurging a bit (this option is over $100 for a half-ounce tube), you might just love this highly-rated option from Revision Skincare. Reviewers report that it’s moisturizing and eliminates dark circles and that the half-ounce tube lasts longer than you might assume.
21. Eva Naturals Collagen Peptide Serum
On the complete other end of the price spectrum, you’ve got this option that comes in at under $20 for nearly four times as much product. Packed with peptides, amino acids and hyaluronic acid, this serum fights wrinkles, hydrates, smooths and removes dark spots. Multiple reviewers report that the cruelty-free formula is suitable for use on sensitive skin.
22. The Inkey List Collagen Booster Firming Peptide Serum
Another budget-friendly option, this best seller serum from The INKEY List is available only at Sephora and has received rave reviews. Suitable for all skin types and reducing fine lines and wrinkles, the serum is touted for its high value at a low price. Multiple users have said that the serum begins showing results in just a few days.
23. CeraVe Skin Renewing Night Cream
This nighttime cream from favorite brand CeraVe touts a range of helpful ingredients, including ceramides and niacinamide. The product claims it will boost tired-looking skin overnight while helping form a more protective skin barrier. It all adds up to younger-looking skin for all skin types.
24. First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Firming Collagen Cream
Made with peptides and niacinamide, this option from First Aid Beauty has been shown to visibly moisturize and firm skin, with most users seeing results within a month. However, not all users say they prefer to apply this particular cream at just any time of day. Since it’s a little on the heavier side, some say they prefer to only apply it at night or to only use it as an eye cream versus as an all-over facial moisturizer.
25. Mele Smooth Pore Minimizing Facial Serum for Melanin Rich Skin
Designed specifically for melanin-rich skin, this product blends peptides and rose hip extract to not only reduce the appearance of oversized pores and smooth your skin texture but also to help absorb excess oil without over-drying your face. The combination makes this serum a great choice for use in the morning or even as a primer under your favorite foundation.
26. PCA SKIN ExLinea Pro Peptide Face Serum
Another high-priced — but worth it — option, this serum is ideal for oily or sensitive skin, using peptides and hyaluronic acid to treat spots, aging, fine lines and wrinkles for a tightened, firmer face. Some reviewers report that they can even start to wear a little less makeup after using this product, as it’s extremely effective.
27. Skinfix Barrier+ Triple Lipid-Peptide Face Cream
This face cream comes in four different sizes, so you can pick the option that’s best for you, whether you want to stock up for a long time or you just want to give it a quick try without dropping a lot of cash, or if you need a smaller size to throw in your carry-on bag as you pack for your next vacay.
Whatever the case may be, whatever size you buy, you’ll find that this peptide-rich cream offers lots of rich hydration that plumps and firms without making your skin too greasy or causing acne (which some users may find to be the case with other moisturizing creams).
28. Neostrata Cellular Restoration Night Cream
Say goodbye to dull, blotchy skin. This night cream has you covered with its mixture of peptides, glycolic acid and fruit stem cell extracts. In addition to helping address any existing skin issues you’ve got going on, this night cream will also prevent future ones by shielding your skin against harmful environmental elements.
29. ELEMIS Peptide4 Antioxidant Hydra-Serum
A serum that’s best suited for dry skin, this option packs in antioxidants and hydrating properties. It both rejuvenates skin and defends your skin’s delicate barrier from pollution. You can use it both on your face and your neck for an all-over, more youthful glow.
30. DRMTLGY Peptide Night Cream Face Moisturizer
This oil-free and fragrance-free night cream contains five different peptides, three ceramides and vitamins to combat dehydration, fine lines and wrinkles. Users say the night cream’s moisturizing properties really do last all through the night and into the next morning, but that it manages to never feel greasy all at the same time.
31. Exuviance Age Reverse Night Lift Anti-Aging Face Moisturizer
This moisturizer, with its vitamins, antioxidants and peptides, helps your skin create new collagen for a better overall appearance. In a clinical study, the brand found that those who used the moisturizer for four weeks, along with other Exuviance products, saw smoother skin, firmer skin and less noticeable age spots.
32. Neutrogena Rapid Firming Peptide Contour Lift Face Cream
This option from the drugstore favorite brand Neutrogena is both affordable and gentle enough to be used even on sensitive skin. The brand reports that the face cream’s formula will help to reduce fine lines within two weeks and smooth the appearance of wrinkles in six weeks. Furthermore, after 16 weeks, the brand says most users will see plumper skin, a more contoured jawline and better cheekbone definition.
33. Kiehls Since 1851 Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum
Not sure if you want to ditch your current retinol anti-aging formula for a peptide-based formula? With this option from Kiehl’s, you don’t have to. The serum combines both for better skin texture, firmer skin and an overall renewed appearance.
Don’t use a ton of this serum all at once, though, until you know how your skin will respond. Some say it’s more potent than a peptide formula but not as intense as a straight retinol formula.
Have more questions about peptides? We (probably) have an answer.
Are peptides proven to work?
There are many studies that look at how peptides work, and many of these studies are positive, supporting the use of peptides in a range of medical settings. However, peptide-containing cosmetics are not FDA regulated, even if peptides are generally considered safe to use and beneficial for most users. If you have any concerns, your dermatologist should be able to help.
Are peptide products worth the money?
Peptide-containing moisturizers and other skincare products can be pricey. However, if you’re looking to invest in an anti-aging skincare routine, you may find that these products are worth your money.
How do peptide moisturizers compare to other anti-aging products?
If you’re wanting super-fast, long-lasting results, you might not find that peptide moisturizers work fast enough for your expectations. You might be happier with an in-office dermatological treatment like Botox. However, if you’re already using a retinoid product and want something similar but less irritating, you might find that peptide moisturizers are a good substitute.
Peptides Plus Patience Equals Better Skin
Well, that wraps up our favorite peptide moisturizers and serums. We hope that you feel more in the know about this A-list ingredient and how it can help firm your skin, reduce the appearance of wrinkles and give you an overall more youthful appearance.
Of course, no skincare ingredient can give you overnight results, no matter how powerful. Adding peptides to your beauty routine is a great step, but you may have to wait several months before you start seeing a transformation.
But give it time and stay consistent, and you may find that peptides put the pep back into your skin.
You might also be interested in: What Does Micellar Water Do For Your Skin? [With 6 Of Our Favorite Picks]
Our 33 Favorite Peptide Moisturizers:
- The Ordinary Buffet
- Bliss Bright Idea Vitamin C + Tri-Peptide Collagen Protecting and Brightening Moisturizer
- Face Reality Cran Peptide Cream
- Peach & Lily Glass Skin Refining Serum
- Boscia Peptide Youth Restore Firming Body Serum
- Then I Met You Calming Tide Gel Cream
- Paula’s Choice Boost Peptide Booster Serum
- Sobel SkinRx Oligo Peptide Eye Cream
- Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Moisturizer
- HydroPeptide Face Lift Advanced Ultra Light Moisturizer
- Eminence Organic Skincare Arctic Berry Peptide Radiance Cream
- Peter Thomas Roth Peptide 21 Wrinkles Resist Moisturizer
- Eighth Day Reparative Moisturizer
- Tata Harper Creme Riche Anti-Aging Peptide Night Cream
- SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum
- Kopari Tri-Peptide Lip Cloud
- EltaMD PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer Lotion
- Olay Collagen Peptides Wrinkle Correction Serum
- Youth to the People Triple Peptide and Cactus Oasis Serum
- Revision Skincare DEJ Eye Cream
- Eva Naturals Collagen Peptide Serum
- The Inkey List Collagen Booster Firming Peptide Serum
- CeraVe Skin Renewing Night Cream
- First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Firming Collagen Cream
- Mele Smooth Pore Minimizing Facial Serum for Melanin Rich Skin
- PCA SKIN ExLinea Pro Peptide Face Serum
- Skinfix Barrier+ Triple Lipid-Peptide Face Cream
- Neostrata Cellular Restoration Night Cream
- ELEMIS Peptide4 Antioxidant Hydra-Serum
- DRMTLGY Peptide Night Cream Face Moisturizer
- Exuviance Age Reverse Night Lift Anti-Aging Face Moisturizer
- Neutrogena Rapid Firming Peptide Contour Lift Face Cream
- Kiehls Since 1851 Retinol Skin-Renewing Daily Micro-Dose Serum