8 of the best peptide serums for your skin
Natural peptides for skin are one of life’s great pleasures. Smoothing them across your skin can feels like a luxury, even if you’re not entirely sure what ingredients are included, and what exactly they do.
Peptides for skin are often present in more expensive skincare creams and serums – but why is this? And perhaps more importantly, do you need to splash out half your monthly income for the best peptide serum?
Evidence that peptides can help reduce signs of aging such as wrinkles and fine lines is commonplace, and there is no question that there are benefits to be had.
But given the wide range of peptide serums available and their dramatic range in pricing, how do you know which products contain the best peptides or create the best results?
We’ve done the research so you don’t have to, and will list our choices for the best peptides for skin further down – but first, what exactly are they?
What are Peptides?
A peptide is a molecule that consists of a short amino acid chain. Amino acids are often considered the “building blocks” of protein, which is why it is often used in sports recovery drinks and protein shakes.
However, in this case the protein we’re talking about is collagen. Collagen is a crucial protein when it comes to discussing skincare because it is responsible for maintaining the structure of our skin cells.
As aging progresses, the collagen in our skin breaks down, reducing the elasticity of the skin and causing most commonly known symptoms of aging – from wrinkles and file lines to dark circles and crow’s feet.
Most of the best peptides related products help to slow down this process or attempt to reverse it by supplementing the collagen content of the skin cells or encouraging them to produce more. Evidence shows that this can not only reduce said ageing symptoms, but also cause skin to be plumper and more elastic – leading to a genuine appearance of reduced aging.
How Effective Are They Really?
While peptides can certainly work, this doesn’t mean every peptide serum does. Cosmetics companies spout a wide range of claims and often use peptides in different ways.
Luckily, we do have a pretty thorough understanding of how they work and how best to utilize them.
It’s also important to look at different types of peptides and how they vary. For example, the majority of peptide-based skincare products use a type of peptide known as signalling peptides.
These have been found to maximise the amount of collagen in the skin and so are widely considered the best peptides for skincare uses.
However, carrier peptides are often used too. Copper peptides are a form of carrier peptide that have been found to promote wound healing, and are often used in skincare products as a result.
There is no evidence, however, that copper’s healing abilities also translate into skincare benefits, meaning copper peptides are much less reliable, until further research proves otherwise.
It’s worth noting that the vast majority of dermatologists are highly positive about peptides and suggest that a combination of sunscreen, AHAs, retinoids and peptides are the route to the best possible skincare regimen.
With that said, what are the best peptide serums available?
Let’s take a look:
Luminositie wins our choice for the top pick due to its combination of a great price, appealing texture and blending peptides with a range of beneficial natural ingredients including witch hazel, jojoba, and aloe, all of which can help nourish and moisturize your skin while supporting the effectiveness of the peptides.
On first use, Luminositie’s peptide serum is surprisingly lightweight and is so easy to rub in that it feels like it disappears as soon as you touch it.
However, in our tests we found it to provide quick results both in terms of anti-aging results and general improvement of skin hydration, glow and plumpness. This is likely due to the combination of boosting collagen production alongside those naturally hydrating and soothing ingredients.
At under $20 it is surprisingly affordable for a peptides serum, but the ingredients and formulation are comparable to some of the more expensive options available, making this an excellent first product to try if you’re new to peptide complex serums.
2: EltaMD PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer
EltaMD’s offering is a wonderfully smooth and gentle moisturizer that would have had a strong chance of being our #1 if it wasn’t double the price of Luminositie’s product.
It is rich in rice protein peptides and swaps out the above product’s natural ingredients for Niacinamide, which Luminositie sells separately (admittedly, you can get both their serums for around the price of this). We found it definitely improved skin elasticity within just a few days and is best used as a nighttime moisturizer.
The texture is also slightly thicker but it blends in relatively quickly and isn’t uncomfortable. In our testing it took around 4 days for a noticeable improvement to skin hydration and just under a week for wrinkles to be less apparent – not too shabby at all!
3: QRxLabs Peptide Complex Serum/Collagen Booster
QRxLabs’ serum is positioned as a great post peel serum to reduce inflammation and help promote collagen production after a chemical peel, and we have to agree.
The serum is clear and almost watery, which is slightly inconvenient when applying it – but it absorbs into the skin pretty quickly and will leave you feeling soft and hydrated.
It includes chamomile extract, which, as an antibacterial and antiseptic, helps to keep your pores clear of dirt and grime, helping to prevent acne.
We recommend this serum if you’re looking for a travel serum, as the small bottle and clear liquid make it ideal for quick application while out and about.
4: Olay Regenerist
Olay’s peptide serum is one of the most popular on the market, not in the least due to the brand name, TV advertising and the fancy bottle. While we would put any of the above serums before it, it genuinely is a high quality serum that earns its place on our list.
It is fast absorbing and non greasy making it very comfortable to use, and in our testing it took about 12-14 days to show results.
It is also completely fragrance free making it a good gentle option for those with sensitive skin, and includes hyaluronic acid for a nice moisturizing boost.
5: Clinique Pep-Start Eye Cream
Clinique’s Pep-Start only contains 0.5oz of serum, making it the most pricey product on our list.
However, this isn’t for no reason – the eye cream is luxuriously smooth and is equally useful for brightening and smoothing your skin before applying makeup in the morning, and as a nighttime eye cream.
It is quite thick and feels greasy at first but absorbs in nicely and can be applied at bedtime without needing to wait around.
Marketed as an eye cream specifically, it is perhaps the least versatile product on our list, but is highly effective for those looking to reduce eye wrinkles and fine lines in the long term.
6: The Ordinary “Buffet” + Copper Peptides 1%
The Ordinary is famous for its basic serums that contain exactly what they say on the tin and little else. Unfortunately the main thing on the tin this time is copper peptides, which as covered above, are not as backed by science as other peptides.
You’re in luck though, as it does contain a full complex of other peptides, along with hyaluronic acid and 11 separate amino acids.
The “buffet” is so titled because it contains a range of different complexes targeted at different skin results and is aiming to be an “all-in-one” serum. While it doesn’t quite achieve that – it is rich in peptides, very smooth and quick-absorbing, and provides noticeable results in under a week, making it more than worthy of a spot on our list.
7: Then I Met You Calming Tide Gel Cream
This cream is extremely lightweight and comes with hibiscus extract which acts as a natural antioxidant and helps to remove free radicals.
It has a light floral scent and is very slightly oily but absorbs quickly. The manufacturer suggests it is best used just before your regular moisturizer in order to promote collagen production and then seal it in to protect the skin for longer.
We have to agree, and we found beneficial results in just over a week by using this daily.
The smell is a pleasant benefit and helps to encourage a feeling of nourished skin too.
8: Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream
Drunk Elephant’s peptide serum is a water based gel that absorbs right in. It provides noticeable moisturizing benefits almost immediately, although you’ll be waiting 2-3 weeks for any noticeable reduction in wrinkles or aging.
It is high in both signalling peptides and amino acids, and even contains stem cell extracts from pygmy water lilies.
While the scientific evidence behind those is still in early stages, Drunk Elephant claims their products contain no filler, and it’s easy to see why.
From a unique peptide complex to herbal additions and stem cells, this polypeptide cream is full of potential benefits.