Why do you say peptides don't work in skincare?

When I research it studies pop up that say they do...where are you seeing that they actually don't? Thank you! I am open to unlearning all the things I've learned as an esthetician for 15 years regarding skincare. Actually, it's been kind of a bummer learning that nothing really works according to a lot of these posts. 

Comments

  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    What studies have you read that convinced you they work?

    I understand that it is frustrating and disappointing that things don't work. But reality is what reality is. On this site we try to focus on what can be proven. Not what we want to be true.  If there is good evidence, I would be happy to change my mind. But I've been in the industry too long and have seen too many people being duped by marketing that I just don't want to propagate nonsense.  

    There are scientists that believe peptides do something notable in skin care. I'm not one of those scientists. I'm not convinced by the evidence. I know how bad consumers are at noticing differences. And I know how much marketers will take tiny differences and blow them up into extraordinary results.

    In my opinion, based on the evidence, peptides don't do anything that any consumer would notice. The only thing that works in skin care is moisturizing, sunscreens, exfoliation, some skin lightening, anti-acne (if it's a drug active), and...well that's about it.

    It may be a bummer but it is reality.
  • I think the question is fundamentally wrong. It should be ‘why do you think xyz ingredient works’ not why you say it doesn’t work. Claims should be proven not the other way around. Having said that, I use a couple of ingredients with not enough evidence behind them myself (small sample sizes, or not double blinded). If peptides were cheap and easy to use I would say, who cares add them, but those are outrageously expensive and not compatible with polymeric emulsifiers. For me that alone is a good reason not to use them.
  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    If something 'works' in skincare beyond effects approved for cosmetics (those @Perry mentioned), then it's no longer a cosmetic ingredient but a pharmaceutical drug. It's also not as easy to formulate a pharmaceutically effective topical product as it seems. Most 'technologies' used by cosmetics industries are adapted copy-paste formulations found in proof of concept scientific publications which, at best, show preliminary in vitro data.
    Yes, many ingredients such as plant extracts work and are therefore used in pharmaceuticals but the amount, type, and quality of the used ingredient/extracts is often different between the two businesses. As an example: Green tea extract used in 'drugs' (Veregen) is added as refined speciality extract at 10% and 15 g cream cost over 70$ (it's that cheap because Veregen is covered by basic health insurance in Switzerland, else, it would cost way more). Other extracts colour the whole cream/gel dark brown if added in sufficient amounts; quite useless for cosmetics. Topical proteins usually don't work and have to be administered using syringes (example: botox). Peptides are allowed as cosmetic ingredients because they show no effect once applied to intact skin and they usually show no useful effect whatsoever (in vitro data my be statistically significant*). Many peptides and other fancy expensive ingredients are also quite unstable.
    * If something is statistically significant, it's only different for a computer. Curcumin as an example of a trendy lifestyle nutrient supplement/nutraceutical: In vitro, it's the silver bullet against maybe EVERY single disease and health issue mankind ever had without showing any signs of side effects. Alas, it's assimilation is piss poor and doesn't exceed very low ng/ml serum levels. Combining it with piperine (hot stuff from black pepper) is an old trick used in ayurvedic medicine and statistically, the combo does work by increasing serum levels by a factor of 8. This still gives low ng/ml levels whereas pharmaceutical effects are observed in the ug/ml range (factor 1'000 higher). Synthetic derivatives which showed better pharmacokinetics turned out to be toxic. On the contrary, many plant extracts and 'cosmeceuticals' show in vitro effects in the mg/ml range, which is 1'000 times more than physiologically achievable but doable in vitro.

    Am I a reliable source? I did my PhD at ETH Zurich and a PostDoc at EPGL Geneva both on medicinal plants. I used to work not just with plants and extracts thereof but many pure compounds, synthetic drugs and proteins in vitro, ex vivo and even a bit in vivo. My PhD lab was mostly an organic chemistry lab where synthetic derivatives of natural products were synthesised. My professor was a former leading scientist at Novartis and hence, expectation for plant extracts were the same as for pharmaceuticals. Hence, we were amongst those pharmacognosy and phytochemistry groups who believed that for a plant preparation the same rules and stringent criteria have to apply as for any other drug. This is not evident and many 'herbal' researchers still believe that a plant is potentially active if constituents show in vitro effects at high ug/ml or even low mg/ml concentrations and that's about as good and helpful as homoeopathy. On the other hand, I have not just an academic first hand experience of how poorly available and fragile proteins and peptides are but also because I'm a pharmacist and we sell that stuff.

    There are literally thousands upon thousands of scientific publications out there which tell you how great something is but once you try to get the effect in a human being, your only result is disappointment. In drug discovery, out of >100'000 tested new compounds, only one (with luck) will turn out to be a suitable pharmaceutical candidate, development takes over a decade and costs tens of millions of $. In cosmetics, some researchers publish something with a weak but 'marketable' effect on a trendy subject (preferably derived from some cheap and established resource**) and ZAPP, less than a year later a 'new, better, and more efficient' product hits the market. Doesn't that sound fishy?
    ** Such publications are common for example for Thailand because projects on indigenous plants with main focus on established crops are financially supported by the government. As nice as the idea behind this is, the majority of the projects just waste money and do 'search until found', useful or not is secondary.
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    Indeed....
    "In cosmetics, some researchers publish something with a weak but 'marketable' effect on a trendy subject"
    I'm reminded of all the articles about Bakuchiol being better than Retinol. All based primarily on a study of 6 people.

  • edited May 17
    Thank you @Perry, @ngarayeva001 and @Pharma for taking the time to answer in great detail. I appreciate it so much. I understand now how they take a snippet of research and run with it and when you try to add it topically it’s doesn’t do the same thing. Again, I am having to unlearn years of misinformation regarding what works in skincare. :( 

    and one more for good measure Lilac Stem Cells? I am guessing don’t control sebum like they are marketed to. 
  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    Stem cells sound cool and are perfect for marketing. There might be stuff in there which does work but that's just coincidence because:
    A: Plant stem cell extracts are just expensive plant extracts (apple stem cells are also frequently found in cosmetics; an apple purée mask is likely more effective, more ecological, and costs a fraction of a stem cell extract).
    B: Plant hormones are completely different from animal hormones. Just think about salicylic acid.
    C: Genetic and epigenetic information stops working once the cell gets extracted and it's not transposable (fortunately, or everyone who's eating ketchup would turn into a tomato)
    D: I did read the publication on apple stem cells (maybe it was the one who triggered that whole boom?) because it's a 'local' one... I think I'm quite smart but I didn't get that one, especially not the how and why immortality and improved growth of plant cells in petri dishes should improve skin rejuvenation. It's just not logic, like so many Hollywood Sci-Fi movies are cool as long as your TV is on but your brain is not.

    Might give your link a try...
  • Haha thank you @Pharma. Sigh. Now I have to decide what side of skincare to be on. The boring side or the Hollywood side ;) 
  • ngarayeva001ngarayeva001 Member
    edited May 18
    Thank you @Pharma. I read one paper on apple stem cells (a shorter version I suppose) and I also couldn't get the logic behind it. At least now I know it's not my lack of intelligence or education. 
    To add to this conversation, I was browsing the formulatorsampleshop website this weekend and came across a couple of ridiculous ingredients:
    https://www.formulatorsampleshop.com/Meteorite-Powder-p/fss22023-.htm
    https://www.formulatorsampleshop.com/FSS-Ruby-Extract-PF-p/fss20521pf.htm
    https://www.formulatorsampleshop.com/FSS-Champagne-Extract-PF-p/fss10130pf.htm
    and the classics: https://www.formulatorsampleshop.com/FSS-Diamond-Extract-PF-p/fss20520pf.htm

    It's a good supplier and they are very honest that all that nonsense is for claims (in the section skin benefits they list "perceived luxury"). I don't really know what is first here a chicken or an egg. Is it the demand for diamond powder in skincare or it is the supply? Who knows but this is the way it was 500 years ago, and now. People are willing to pay a premium for snake oil. There are fantastic functional ingredients out of there, such as petrolatum that has a lot of scientific back up (nothing reduces TEWL better than petrolatum), urea, lanolin, good old glycerin, but who want to put "pee" and "petrochemicals" on their face? Apple stem cells sound "sciency" and champagne extract "luxurious".
    As the founder of Revlon said, we don't sell lipsticks we sell dreams.
  • Yes @ngarayeva001
     I am seeing the light now. My clients are bored. They want "new" fancy stuff so I am torn. I think I read somewhere that nothing really new has rocked the skincare world in decades. 
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    I'd guess the last significant innovation in skin care was Alpha Hydroxy Acids.

    Some might disagree with me but I haven't seen evidence to convince me otherwise.
  • edited May 18
    @Perry right I think AHAs came on to the scene in the 70’s. 
  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    edited May 19
    Skimmed through that link of yours: Stem cells are used to produce verbascoside which has nothing to do with stem cells but is found in many plants. The advantages of using plant stem cells for production of phytochemicals are A: consistent yield due to controlled growth conditions, B: no pests, C: limited amount of secondary plant metabolites and no fibre and stuff allowing for easy isolation, D : sometimes also higher yields, and E: plant stem cells can be immortal without tendency to differentiate (a common issue with animal cell lines). A drawback may be that only a limited number of secondary metabolites is actually produced in sufficient quantities by undifferentiated cells.
    BTW verbascoside is prone to oxidation and autoxidation (one of the most unstable cosmetic ingredients) but a great chelate for iron (one of the best in cosmetic ingredients).
  • Jumping in on this thread because recently I was brainstorming for a face serum and thought of papain.

    Some people claim that Papaya seed oil is rich in enzymes (papain). It smelled fishy to me as I would expect that to be in the fruit itself given the known benefits for digestion. A quick search confirmed that papain is water soluble, so chances are the oil has no papain in it. But it could be purchased in a powder.

    This enzyme is widely used in meat tenderizer and my understanding is that it is in fact effective for that. I see some claims that it has clarifying and exfoliating effects (in vitro cleaves tight junctions). It also seems that it is the happiest in pH 5-7, which makes it suitable for skin care.

    Anything that claims miraculous results I immediately call b.s. on that (eg: adding telomerase or DNAse to a cream and claiming anti-aging effects and reversing mutations caused by UV damage...probably not)

    I agree wholeheartedly that most enzymes would have no real effects, but really stable, functional enzymes like papain could actually be beneficial when applied topically? If it works on steak, if may as well work on your cheek, right?

    Any thoughts on this?
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
  • @Perry I saw this coming haha I was gonna mention the risk of allergic reactions (a risk that is present at varying degrees with a lot of natural products), but focusing on function only, is it an ingredient that is visibly effective?

    I think for small boutique brands, this may be ok as it’s not a product for the mass market. Labeling, and patch testing would be enough, perhaps. For large brands, I understand the need to cover as much market as possible with the least amount of risk.

    We use tree nut oils in skin care, knowing that some people have deadly reactions to these. The difference is, perhaps, that people have already identified these allergies and intentionally avoid those ingredients, thus reducing risk? Perhaps also the amount of proteins/allergens that could be in the oil is too small to have a more visible effect on the masses and not just people with severe allergies?
  • AbbotAbbot Member
    Pharma said:
    Stem cells sound cool and are perfect for marketing. There might be stuff in there which does work but that's just coincidence because:
    A: Plant stem cell extracts are just expensive plant extracts (apple stem cells are also frequently found in cosmetics; an apple purée mask is likely more effective, more ecological, and costs a fraction of a stem cell extract).
    B: Plant hormones are completely different from animal hormones. Just think about salicylic acid.
    C: Genetic and epigenetic information stops working once the cell gets extracted and it's not transposable (fortunately, or everyone who's eating ketchup would turn into a tomato)
    D: I did read the publication on apple stem cells (maybe it was the one who triggered that whole boom?) because it's a 'local' one... I think I'm quite smart but I didn't get that one, especially not the how and why immortality and improved growth of plant cells in petri dishes should improve skin rejuvenation. It's just not logic, like so many Hollywood Sci-Fi movies are cool as long as your TV is on but your brain is not.

    Might give your link a try...

    What about using MSC Exosomes in lipid base for improving, say, crepe skin?
    No one knows how to use stem cells yet it seems.
  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    Mesenchyme is not present in plants and hence, you can not isolate MSC exosomes from plant stem cell cultures ;) .
    Using human stem cells isn't cosmetics either. Whether certain types of human stem cell derivatives/products would be allowed depends on ethical regulations in the country of sales and, given that it is a human product containing human proteins, it's also not evident that these would pass as off the shelf cosmetics.
  • PattsiPattsi Member
    letsalcido said:
    @Perry I saw this coming haha I was gonna mention the risk of allergic reactions (a risk that is present at varying degrees with a lot of natural products), but focusing on function only, is it an ingredient that is visibly effective?

    I think for small boutique brands, this may be ok as it’s not a product for the mass market. Labeling, and patch testing would be enough, perhaps. For large brands, I understand the need to cover as much market as possible with the least amount of risk.

    We use tree nut oils in skin care, knowing that some people have deadly reactions to these. The difference is, perhaps, that people have already identified these allergies and intentionally avoid those ingredients, thus reducing risk? Perhaps also the amount of proteins/allergens that could be in the oil is too small to have a more visible effect on the masses and not just people with severe allergies?

    letsalcido is it an ingredient that is visibly effective?  Yes, at1% serum it peeled my forearm skin off in 2-3 days. there also in Cross-linked form (BASF's i think) i got a sample from retailer.  
    i saw lancôme use it with pineapple but on low i guess.

    Ingredients:

    • Aqua / Water
    • Butylene Glycol
    • Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate
    • Polyethylene
    • Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Glycerides
    • Triethanolamine
    • Carbomer
    • Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate
    • Ci 42090 / Blue 1 Lake
    • Ci 42090 / Blue 1
    • Ci 17200 / Red 33
    • Ananas Sativus Fruit Extract / Pineapple Fruit Extract
    • Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate
    • Sodium Lauroyl Oat Amino Acids
    • Hydrogenated Palm Glycerides
    • Sodium Benzoate
    • Phenoxyethanol
    • Peg-32
    • Peg-32 Stearate
    • Peg-6 Stearate
    • Salicylic Acid
    • Limonene
    • Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate
    • Xanthan Gum
    • Linalool
    • Benzyl Salicylate
    • Benzyl Alcohol
    • Propanediol
    • Chondrus Crispus (Carrageenan)
    • Papain
    • Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer
    • Methylparaben
    • Tetrasodium Edta
    • Potassium Sorbate
    • Hexyl Cinnamal
    • Parfum / Fragrance
    sorry for my English and  this is my 1st post  :) i am learning how to do @name
    And can i write the name of the brand?  or i have to do it like Lancxxe this.
  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    Pattsi said:
    ...there also in Cross-linked form (BASF's i think) i got a sample from retailer.  
    i saw lancôme use it with pineapple but on low i guess...
    • Ananas Sativus Fruit Extract / Pineapple Fruit Extract
    ...And can i write the name of the brand?  or i have to do it like Lancxxe this.
    Cross-linked? Got a name by any chance? (Me being curious :smile: )
    The Lancôme ingredient could be anything (and with that, I just answered your next question); water, sugar, wax, secondary metabolites, active or inactive enzymes (bromelaine), just to name a few.
    Me, I like transglutaminase. It has an INCI name and so could (maybe?) be an allowed cosmetic ingredient. Although, I don't know if it has any real usefulness as such unless... *thinking of John Travolta and Nicolas Cage* ...no, that's just gross! :smiley:
  • @Pattsi great to know! Thanks for your reply. Now I’m curious whether for somebody with no allergic reactions this would be a “gentler“ exfoliant than AHAs or other acids.

    @Pharma so I had to look up what transglutaminase was used for.. meat glue. Ha! I remember seeing a documentary about commercialized fake fillet mignons, where they marinated meat with tenderizer and then applied the meat glue to roll up the steak into a fillet mignon shape. Now I can’t help to imagine a youtube trend of DIY where people smear meat tenderizer and meat glue on their faces haha. What’s effect on skin anyways? It seems like it would potentially prevent exfoliation, this seems problematic.
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    If it did work better than AHAs, you would find more products with it on the market. It isn’t new technology & it’s a pretty obvious idea. There isn’t much new in cosmetics. So you have to ask yourself, why isn’t it used more? The most likely answer is because it doesn’t provide enough of a tangible benefit over other technologies. 
  • PattsiPattsi Member
    Aqua (and) Papain (and) Sodium Carbomer (and) Sodium Chloride (and) Carbomer. Linked-Papain™ C-MPB by BASF 

    my guess is they just provide a longer shelf life like from very very short to short.

    Papain is mostly used in soap bar (South East Asia) pH 8-9ish so the enzyme itself wont have much effect(my guess) but said soap bar is very strong using it every day will make your skin dry and peel. but the customers are willing to use and then use moisturizer after.
  • @Perry absolutely, I will not dispute the fact that AHAs are absolutely better, safer, more stable ingredient to achieve the same result. I’m not formulating professionally yet, so I’m mostly trying to gain as much knowledge as possible (about bad, good, and best ingredients). And to the point of the post, I supposed we can’t generalize that proteins are useless (as a biochemist I refuse to think proteins are useless 😆). Although I guess the main post is about peptides specifically... which yeah I can’t see them actually working unless it was some sort of signaling peptide that can be used to tag liposomes for transport or something of that sort.


  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    edited May 26
    Pattsi said:
    Aqua (and) Papain (and) Sodium Carbomer (and) Sodium Chloride (and) Carbomer. Linked-Papain™ C-MPB by BASF 

    my guess is they just provide a longer shelf life like from very very short to short...
    A copy-paste from their patent:
    One preferred enzyme is papain, an enzyme obtained from unripe papaya. One particularly preferred form of papain is Linked-Papain™ (papain carbomer, as described in CTFA, the International Cosmetic Ingredients Dictionary) in which papain is covalently immobilized to 1% polyacrylic acid (900,000 daltons), commercially available from Collaborative Laboratories, 3 Technology Drive, East Setauket, N.Y. 11733). In a preferred embodiment, the enzyme is present in the formulation in an amount between about 1% and 6%, more preferably between about 2% and 5%, most preferably about 4% by weight. The ability of papain to act as an exfoliant allows enhancement of penetration of any desired medicinal agent beneficial to the skin, such as, for example, biological additives (e.g, botanicals and herbals) and moisturizers. The activity of papain is greatest at a pH of 6, although the enzyme retains about 75% of its activity between pH 5 and 7. The cosmetic compositions preferably have a pH that is basic relative to the pH of skin (the pH of which typically ranging from approximately 4.5 to approximately 5.0), and preferably have a pH of about 7.0.

    I would assume that they didn't perform activity tests. Many such covalent modifications lead to partial or full inactivation, let alone sterical hindrance (too much polymer between enzyme and target).
    PEGylation is a common technique to render proteins more stable though more in a biological/pharmacokinetic way than a physico-chemical one. Such modifications are usually carried out using special linkers to 'glue' the side chains to specific positions of the proteins where they don't interfere with their biological activity. Just as a guess I'd say BASF simply polymerises acrylic acid in the presence of papain. This would be an efficient and cost-saving strategy but also a death sentence for the enzyme.

    Cosmetics, where dreams make people rich...
  • PattsiPattsi Member
    thank you @Pharma i learn a lot from you and other members.
    i work as a marketer my knowledge in chemistry is very basic.
    i hope i could give something i know back to the community even tho it wont be much because every ones might have their own marketer already.   

    sorry for my previous post.
    they use Carica Papaya Fruit Extract in soap bar so the enzyme itself must be very low.

    Pharma said:
    Cosmetics, where dreams make people rich...
       :# :# :# : cant agree/disagree on this because im on the sell side :# :# :#
  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    Pattsi said:
    :# :# :# : cant agree/disagree on this because im on the sell side :# :# :#
    Well then, let's rephrase that one: Cosmetics, a statistically significant correlation between $$ spent and perception of how beautiful people think they'll become...
    Honestly, sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I were on the sell rather then the know side. My TV is probably half the size of yours... :smiley:
  • Polyhydroxy acids (PHA) are trendy now. They said to be more gentle than AHAs (read less effective too). Gluconolactone is actually used in Lotion P50, I however think that it's the lactic acid that does the main job there.
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    @Pharma - One of the main reasons there aren't more cosmetic scientists with their own product lines is because to create a successful line, you have to believe the BS you are selling. That's hard to do when you know too much.
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