There’s always something new in the skincare market, which sometimes makes it difficult to decipher the efficacy of novel ingredients. Peptides are one of the latest crazes, despite having actually been around for a while. They’ve been linked to collagen and elastin production as well as hydrating, strengthening and smoothing the skin . And while you’ve probably heard of collagen, there’s still some mystery about the role of collagen peptides. Go beyond skin deep to discover the difference between collagen peptides and collagen, and how you can start using them in your skin care routine.
What are collagen peptides?
Collagen is a naturally-occurring protein, which provides structure to the skin and other connective tissues. Some of its many benefits include strengthening the skin, improving its elasticity, providing hydration and stimulating renewal. As we age, our natural stores of collagen decline, so boosting levels through skincare products can help sustain optimal skin health. However, products listing collagen peptides rather than collagen may be more effective.
One of the key differences between collagen and collagen peptides is the size and bioavailability. Collagen is built from long amino acid chains, which makes it difficult for the skin to absorb. The shape of collagen molecules is responsible for keeping the body and skin strong, but is equally challenging to break down through topical or oral supplementation.
On the other hand, peptides are shorter strings of amino acids, which easily sink into the skin. Instead of resting on the surface as larger molecules like collagen do, they’re able to penetrate the skin’s barrier and deliver more effective treatment. Peptides are also naturally-occurring, and work as neurotransmitters to send signals to cells. Collagen peptides are fully hydrolysed, short chains of amino acids – essentially a broken-down form of collagen protein, which stimulate our body’s own production of collagen. They’re often preferred in skincare thanks to their absorbability, which allows you to maximise the benefits of collagen.
Are collagen peptides vegan?
There are various types of collagen, most of which are derived from animals such as gelatine or marine collagen. However, some brands such as Vice Reversa use vegan collagen peptides, which provide a great plant-based alternative. These collagen peptides work by stimulating our own collagen production, instead of using bovine or fish collagen to replace our stores. By focusing on the body’s production, it’s also much more likely you’ll see long-term benefits .
How do collagen peptides work?
Peptides play an important part in collagen synthesis, sending signals between cells to influence the up and down regulation of different cell functions . When used topically, collagen peptides echo little messengers that prompt the skin to start collagen production and begin the rejuvenation process. Some studies have identified the effectiveness of collagen peptides for treating fine lines and wrinkles, among other benefits, due to their role in stimulating our natural collagen generation [1, 2].
What are the benefits of collagen peptides for skin?
Several studies have reported the benefits of collagen peptides for the body, particularly highlighting their unique properties in promoting healthy skin [1, 2].
The main benefits of collagen peptides for skin include:
- Boosting the body’s natural collagen production. We begin to lose collagen around our mid-twenties so working alongside our body to direct cell function can be more effective than topping up or replacing lost stores. In stimulating collagen production, peptides possess powerful anti-aging qualities through strengthening the skin’s barrier and elasticity. It’s also a great moisturiser, which enhances youthful-looking skin.
- Offering a vegan-friendly solution. Collagen peptides are great way of channelling the benefits of collagen for vegans, as they avoid the need to extract collagen from animals by working with our body’s organic rejuvenation process.
- Firming and smoothing the eye area. Targeted topical treatments containing collagen peptides can soften fine lines and wrinkles by thickening and reinforcing the skin around the eyes.
- Supporting wound healing. Collagen peptides have been found to hold healing capabilities, which improves the skin’s texture and helps reduce the appearance of scars.
- Boasting a great safety profile. Research shows that hydrolysed collagen is a popular ingredient in skincare, and has been widely utilised due to its biocompatibility and biodegradability. As a primary skincare ingredient, it’s deemed safe, protective, non-toxic and above all, effective, due to its ability to permeate the skin . Furthermore, as they’re vegan, collagen peptides pose less risk of transmitting diseases or allergies linked to animal-derived ingredients.
How long to see results from collagen peptides?
Everyone’s skin is different and so time to results is also likely to vary. However, one study indicated that after just one month of topical application, there was significant improvement to skin’s moisture content and elasticity . Moreover, another study found that topical collagen use changes the pH of skin immediately, which reduces dryness that leads to signs of aging . Quick results are possible, however it’s more likely that targeted approaches, such as eye patches containing collagen peptides, are likely to show visible effects faster.
How can I incorporate collagen peptides into my routine?
There are various ways of working collagen peptides into your lifestyle, however one study highlights the increased benefit/risk relationship of topical products as opposed to oral options – not to mention they’re less invasive and easy to self-apply .
When using collagen peptides as part of your skincare routine, it’s important to apply them after you’ve cleansed your skin but before you moisturise. Moisturisers may contain ingredients that irritate skin or block pathways for peptides to reach the lower dermis.
If you’re looking to target specific areas of concern, such as fine lines and wrinkles around the eyes, it’s a good idea to find a suitable product that doesn’t contain other harmful or non-delicate ingredients. Rejuvenating microneedle eye patches with collagen peptides may be more effective than serums, as the dissolvable needles are loaded with all the right nutrients to treat those concerns – and none of the harmful ones. The microneedles also deliver ingredients beneath the outer layer of skin, so active ingredients like collagen peptides can get to work where they’re needed.
The key takeaway is that collagen peptides are distinctively different from larger collagen molecules, yet possess the same (or enhanced) benefits for improving skin elasticity, firmness and texture. As smaller molecules, they’re likely to be more effective in topical applications such as patches and serums, as they’re able to penetrate the skin’s surface. Moreover, peptides are a great natural and vegan alternative, stimulating our own body’s natural collagen production, which is linked to longer post-application effects.
 Mejía-Calbo, I, López-Juárez, L. E., Vázquez-Leyva, S, López-Morales, C, Montoya-Escutia, D., Rivera, P. G. M, Herbert-Pucheta, J. E., Zepeda-Vellejo, L. G., Velasco-Velaa3zquez, M., Pavón, L, Pérez-Tapia, S. M and Medina-Rivero, E. (2021) Quality attributes of partially hydrolysed collagen in a liquid formulation used in skin care, Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 20(1) 150-158
 Trookman, N. S., Rizer, R. L, Ford, R., Ho, E and Gotz, V. (2009) Immediate and long-term clinical benefits of a topical treatment for facial lines and wrinkles, Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 2(3) 38-43
 Aguirre-Cruz, G., León-López, A., Cruz-Gómez, V., Jiménez-Alvarado, R and Aguirre-Álvarez, G. (2020) Collage hydrolysates for skin protection: Oral administration and topical formulation, Antioxidants, 9 (181)
 Chai, H. J., Li, J. H., Huang, H. N., Li, T. L., Chan, Y. L., Shiau, C. Y. and Wu, C. J. (2010) Effects of sizes and conformations of fish-scale collagen peptides on facial skin qualities and transdermal penetration efficiency. Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology. 2010, 757301
 Ciszek, A. (2017) Variability of skin pH after the use of different collagen gels, Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 16(4) 531-536