Year after year, neurotoxins, like Botox and Dysport, are at the very top of the list of the most-performed cosmetic procedures in the United States. Their ability to treat fine lines and wrinkles is well-proven. But in recent years, the market for an at-home alternative has become increasingly competitive.
The most promising ingredient among a deep pool of candidates vying for that honor are neuropeptides. An umbrella term, they’re found in many skincare products. But what they are, exactly, and how they work isn’t widely known. I’ll provide some insight below.
What they do
Without getting too technical, neuropeptides appear to be capable of stimulating collagen production in the skin. Other studies have found that they can exert a Botox-like effect by inhibiting the release of neurotransmitters that enable facial muscles to form wrinkles.
There are lots of different kinds of neuropeptides, but in all the research, a few have proven to be more beneficial than others. Matrixyl (palmitoyl pentapeptide-4) seems to boost collagen production, though more studies are needed to pinpoint the nature and extent of its efficacy. And Argireline (acetyl hexapeptide-3 or acetyl hexapeptide-8) appears to be able to diminish the creasing that causes fine lines by acting in a similar way to Botox.
There’s also palmitoyl oligopeptide, which promotes the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid in the skin and helps protect from the sun’s damaging UV rays. And palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7, which is believed to reduce inflammation and spur skin regeneration.
How they work
Neuropeptides are often marketed as being capable of mimicking the effects of Botox, but they don’t actually freeze the face or immobilize muscles, like neuromodulators do. Instead, they attach to receptors that can modulate the production of inflammatory cytokines, wound healing, cellular proliferation, and other essential processes within our skin.
Both neurotoxins and neuropeptides are proteins released as chemical messengers from our nerve cells in order to regulate, modulate, or inhibit certain functions. But that’s where the similarities end. Their most critical difference is how they’re administered. Our skin is a formidable barrier, so you shouldn’t expect neuropeptides, which are applied topically, to have a similar effect to that of an injectable neuromodulator, like Botox.
That said, neuropeptides can still be a valuable component of a skincare routine. They’ll help improve skin texture, surface lines or wrinkles, and inflammation, while also boosting collagen production. They can be an alternative to neuromodulator injections or an effective supplement to those injections, enabling the results to last longer.