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Peptides: Ready for Primetime?

By: Ahmed Abdullah, MD, FACS
Posted: June 28, 2011, from the July 2011 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
skin care client using peptide-based formula

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Fortunately, peptides are easily modified to improve their characteristics relative to use in skin care formulations. Chemists have found creative ways to overcome their limitations, such as attaching a fatty acid component to improve absorption into the skin, specific activity and economic feasibility.

Popular peptides

In skin care today, only approximately 25 peptides are routinely utilized due to various limitations, including high cost and absorption capabilities.5 Some of the more popular types are palmitoyl pentapeptide-4, acetyl hexapeptide-8 and GHK-C.

Palmitoyl pentapeptide-4. A signal peptide, palmitoyl pentapeptide-4 (previously referred to as palmitoyl pentapeptide-3) is sold commercially as Matrixyl. The compound developed by Sederma adds palmitic acid to the peptide chain to improve penetration. Hailed as a very promising cosmeceutical ingredient during the 20th World Congress of Dermatology in Paris, 2002, company research showed palmitoyl pentapeptide-4 produced substantial improvements in wrinkle appearance more quickly than retinol and without causing irritation.6

Acetyl hexapeptide-8. A neurotransmitter peptide, acetyl hexapeptide-8 (previously referred to as acetyl hexapeptide-3) is sold commercially as Argireline. This compound, manufactured by Lipotec, has often been compared to botulinum toxin, due to its ability to inhibit the reactions that cause muscles to contract. Although it is certainly less potent than botulinum toxin, a study showed that acetyl hexapeptide-8 displayed remarkable anti-wrinkle activity when applied topically.7

GHK-Cu. Enthusiasm surrounding the use of peptides in skin care began with copper peptide GHK-Cu, which was discovered by Loren Pickart, MD, in 1973.8 A carrier peptide, GHK-Cu has been shown to be effective in wound-healing and reducing fine lines and the depths of wrinkles, among other attributes.9, 10