The Next Generation of Peptides


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

Botulinum toxin A is a purified form of botulism, a disease that can paralyze muscles. It works by attacking SNAP-25, a protein that is essential for the release of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter responsible for triggering muscle contractions. Thus, the SNARE complex cannot assemble, the nerve signal cannot be transmitted, and the muscle cannot contract. Botulinum toxin A has the potential to result in inappropriate facial expression for weeks after the treatment, such as drooping eyelids or an uneven smile. Although these are temporary effects, there can be more serious risks involved. The FDA recently issued an order that Botox* and Dysport**, another neurotoxin inhibitor, must carry a warning label explaining that the agent may spread to sites other than the points of injection, which can result in difficulty breathing or swallowing.1

Where botulinum toxin A is limited to certain areas of the face, acetyl hexapeptide-3 can be applied anywhere without the invasion of injection and risk of migration, with a similar efficiency. A clinical study has concluded that an emulsion containing 10% acetyl hexapeptide-3 showed a average 30% reduction in the depth of wrinkles after 30 days of use.2

This indicates that there are ingredients that are noninvasive, safe and effective topical solutions for fine lines and wrinkles that may provide the smoothing effect you and your clients desire.

Smarter skin care

The future of skin care is leaning toward a more sophisticated and scientific approach. Products are emerging that can gently and effectively target, treat and even help prevent specific skin conditions. Why? Because skin care is smarter than it’s ever been. The skin care industry is examining the molecular processes of the skin and utilizing evolving technologies accordingly

Ingredients are being found that mimic the skin’s natural processes. Who would have ever thought that seaweed could smooth crow’s-feet or tea could soothe a sunburn? With biotechnology and peptide technology, skin care has only just begun to move forward. The possibilities are endless.


1. N Singer, FDA Orders Warning Label for Botox. New York Times, Apr 30, 2009

2. C Blanes-Mira, et al., A synthetic hexapeptide (Argireline) with antiwrinkle activity, Int J of Cos Sci 24(5) 303–310 (Oct 2002)


N Singer, So Botox Isn’t Just Skin Deep. New York Times, Apr 11, 2009

RL Mongomery, Basic Anatomy for the Allied Health Professions. Urban & Schwarzenberg, Baltimore, 1981

*Botox is a trade name of Allergan, Inc., Irvine, CA.

**Dysport is a trade name of Medicis Aesthetics Inc., Scottsdale, AZ.

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