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The Next Generation of Peptides

By: Lydia Sarfati
Posted: November 24, 2009, from the December 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
finger rubbing cream onto cheek

Anti-aging skin care is consistently progressing, and skin care professionals who once relied on simple emulsions now enjoy less irritating, and more sophisticated and effective creams. These new formulas are built upon the latest advances in technology and are alwayss evolving. Peptide technology in skin care is becoming increasingly popular. Peptides work to enhance natural processes, such as stimulating collagen production and blocking the enzymes that destroy elastin to help skin remain firmer and more resilient.

Some may argue that this has been done before, but the truth is that the surface of peptide technology is just being scratched. A peptide is formed when several amino acids are linked. Essentially, there are 20 amino acids in the human body to consider. If you think about all the potential combinations of these building blocks, you will realize that the possibilities are almost endless. For example, biopeptides from seaweed deliver nutrients to the skin and have anti-inflammatory properties. Tripeptides specifically target skin cell renewal through collagen regeneration, and pentapeptides are known for their wound-healing properties, as well as their ability to strengthen and rebuild the skin barrier.

Why peptides?

Let’s face it, no one copes well with the big “W” of aging: wrinkles. People work to avoid them and will try anything to get rid of them. Botulinum toxin A is an extraordinarily popular treatment for those looking to erase the telltale signs of normal facial expression. In fact, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgery, with approximately five million procedures taking place during 2008, it is currently the most popular minimally invasive cosmetic procedure for aging. But the side effects are real, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is cracking down on botulinum toxin A procedures.

As always, trends change, and the wonders of peptide technology are revolutionizing anti-aging skin care and constructing new alternatives to the old injections. Acetyl hexapeptide-3 is an ingredient derived from natural proteins that stimulates an effect comparable to that of botulinum toxin A.

To understand how this ingredient works, it is important to understand facial structure and movement. Those pesky laugh lines earned their name because of the repetitive muscle contraction of smiling and other facial expressions, and habitual movements that instigate wrinkle formation throughout time. Muscles are prompted by nerve signals, or neurotransmitters, that activate a receptor in the muscle membrane and stimulate a flow of ions between the inside and outside of a muscle cell. The changes in the muscle membrane voltage open another pathway for ions, sending the nerve signal throughout the entire membrane. The chain reaction ultimately leads to muscle contraction. Neurotransmitter release is based on a soluble NSF attachment protein receptors (SNARE) complex, which is a three-part protein. Acetyl hexapeptide-3 mimics the N-terminal of synaptosome-associated protein of 25,000 daltons (SNAP-25) and competes for a position in the SNARE complex, destabilizing it. The complex is therefore not able to release glutamate neurotransmitters efficiently and muscle contraction is decreased, preventing the formation of lines and wrinkles.

Botulinum toxin A vs. acetyl hexapeptide-3