Home Accessories The 16 Best Peptide Serums for Firmer, Plumper Skin

The 16 Best Peptide Serums for Firmer, Plumper Skin

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When you think about skincare ingredients that help slow down the aging process a bit, what comes to mind? Retinol? Hyaluronic Acid? Vitamin C, perhaps? While those deserve to be at the top of the list, don’t forget about peptides — especially in the form of a peptide serum. 

Even though peptides are already present within the body, a peptide serum for the face is vital because we lose 1% of collagen per year after the age of 30. 

When you introduce peptides onto the skin, they signal (or trick) your body that it needs to heal, so it produces more collagen (and even hyaluronic acid) where it’s needed — from injured to aging skin. So, when it comes to peptides for skin tightening, only the best peptide serum for sagging skin will do. 

While peptides are one of the most results-driven ingredients in the skincare market today (we’ll get into peptide serum benefits later), perhaps you’re not exactly sure of what they are and how they can work wonders for your complexion. 

No worries. Here at Deep Science, we’ve reviewed hundreds of products with a scientific lens to ensure you’re creating a skincare regimen that’s safe and effective.

Ahead,16 of the best peptide serums for firmer, plumper skin.

Best Peptide Serum: The List

Formulyst Ultimate Youth Concentrate, $129

Carrot & Stick The Repair Serum, $80

Hydropeptide Power Serum, $144

GlyMed Plus Intense Peptide Skin Recovery Complex, $93

Obagi Professional C Peptide Complex, $114

The Ordinary Buffet, $14.80

Dermalogica Multivitamin Power Serum, $70

Doctor BABOR Pro Pep Peptide Concentrate, $149

Olay Regenerist Collagen Peptide 24 Serum, $28.99

Perricone MD Neuropeptide Smoothing Facial Conformer, $325

Mario Badescu Super Peptide Serum, $45

Kiehl’s Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide, $60

Neutrogena Radiant Primer + Serum, $16.99

iS Clinical YOUTH SERUM, $154

Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum, $51

Clinique Smart Custom-Repair Serum, $62 

The Science Behind Peptide Serums

Peptides are strings of amino acids, the building blocks that make up proteins in our body, including collagen in the skin. Without these proteins, wrinkles, dryness, and loss of tone become more evident. Peptides serve as the building blocks for new collagen and elastin fibers, responsible for giving our skin firmness and elasticity. 

One strategy to improve fine lines, wrinkles, and loss of tone is to replace the lost collagen. When collagen breaks down, it forms specific peptides. These peptides act as a signal to tell your skin it was damaged and to make new collagen.

Applying peptides directly to your skin with a peptide serum is a way to trick your skin into thinking it has recently lost collagen and needs to produce more. Newer studies have shown that larger peptide molecules can traverse the skin barrier, especially in dry and aged skin. Typically, the smaller the molecule, the deeper the level of penetration.

Peptide Serum Benefits 

Clinical studies revealed that peptides are an effective treatment against facial wrinkles in five areas — crow’s feet, nasolabial fold, glabellar frown lines, horizontal forehead lines, and horizontal necklines. Additional benefits include:

  • Improved skin texture and tone — peptides for skin tightening
  • Reduction of fine lines and wrinkles — even mature skin
  • Protection against environmental stressors
  • Expedited wound healing
  • Repaired protective skin barrier proteins
  • Improved firmness, elasticity, and clarity
  • Reduction of age spots due to photodamage
  • Skin cells are protected against UV radiation
  • Reduced inflammation and free radical damage

What to Look for in a Peptide Serum

Two considerations to make when choosing a peptide serum: ingredient stability and the ability to penetrate the skin barrier. Ideally, the peptides should be listed at the top of the list. 

 

How to Spot Peptides on an Ingredient List

When shopping for a peptide serum, you should know that the word “peptide” is often listed under a different name. Some familiar names of peptides in skincare include: 

  • Palmitoyl pentapeptide (think MatrixylTM, Matrixyl 3000, Synthe 6, etc.)
  • Acetyl tetrapeptide-9
  • Acetyl hexapeptide 3, 8, and 20 (a.k.a. Argireline)
  • Palmitoyl oligopeptide
  • Tripeptide 1
  • GHK-Cu (copper peptides)

 

Mixing Peptides With Other Ingredients

Look for a peptide serum that’s formulated with a combination of other evidence-based ingredients such as vitamin C, niacinamide (but never use niacinamide and vitamin C together), antioxidants, and hyaluronic acids.

However, using a peptide with an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) or direct acids such as LAA (L-Ascorbic Acid) and ELAA (Ethylated Ascorbic Acid) because the peptides will work less efficiently. 

Also, avoid using products containing copper peptides in the same routine as potent antioxidants and direct acids/LAA/ELAA.

 

Peptide Serum Limitations

Even the best peptide serum can have some drawbacks. While many new peptides have been developed over the past two decades (some don’t affect the skin), research is still evolving to determine their efficacy, unlike gold standard ingredients like retinol and AHAs

When purchasing a peptide serum for the face, you must read the ingredient list. Sometimes, “peptide” is merely used as a tricky marketing tactic. 

The Best Peptide Serums

Formulyst Ultimate Youth Concentrate, $129

As we age, our ability to produce Epidermal Growth Factors (EGF) falls, resulting in the key signs contributing to aging skin. Yet at the forefront of skincare formulation is Formulyst’s Ultimate Youth Concentrate. 

Bioengineered from plant stem cells and loaded with a potent combination of five unique peptides, this deeply hydrating formula visibly increases your skin’s youthful suppleness, softening the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Carrot & Stick The Repair Serum, $80

This high-performance serum is designed to visibly lift, tighten, and firm as it helps defend against damaging free radicals. Hyaluronic acid and vitamin E deliver an instant boost of hydration.

 A blend of synthesized growth factors encourages elasticity, cell turnover, and nutrient absorption to support revitalization. Seven plant-based neuropeptides enhance the skin’s structural integrity from the inside out, promoting smoother, more resilient-looking skin. 

Hydropeptide Power Serum, $144

Hydropeptide is a cosmeceutical brand that focuses on using peptides, epigenetic principles, and sensory experience. Thanks to a team of geneticists, their entire range of products have been formulated to work with your unique genes and the science of epigenetics to improve skin at a cellular level, making it one of the best peptide brands on the market today. 

This best-selling serum is formulated with a potent combination of six peptide complexes and hyaluronic acid to visibly diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while improving tone, texture, firmness, and suppleness. 

GlyMed Plus Intense Peptide Skin Recovery Complex, $93

This intense serum features five potent amino acid complexes that are clinically proven to target fine lines and wrinkles — even those that have formed deep within the skin’s infrastructure. 

These “micro-protein fragments” promote collagen regeneration to improve the skin’s elasticity and tone. The formula is perfect for those who want to prevent and reduce visible signs of age. 

Obagi Professional C Peptide Complex, $114

Peptides — aka the building blocks of essential skin proteins like collagen and elastin — are the critical ingredients in Obagi Professional C Peptide Complex. For instance, this formula includes acetyl octapeptide-3, a peptide that influences muscle contraction and relaxes facial muscles, reducing fine lines and wrinkles. 

Obagi Professional C Peptide Complex also comprises antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, to help brighten the skin while defending against free radicals.

The Ordinary Buffet, $14.80

The key ingredients — or “technologies” as the brand calls them — in The Ordinary Buffet include peptide complexes, such as Matrixyl 3000, Matrixyl synthe’6, SYN-AKE, and Argirelox, that target multiple signs of aging at once. 

These technologies are formulated in a base of 11 skin-friendly amino acids and multiple hyaluronic acid complexes to diminish the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and discoloration while improving texture and tone. 

Dermalogica Multivitamin Power Serum, $70

Microencapsulated vitamins A, C, and E melt into the skin to help decrease the appearance of fine lines and hyperpigmentation. Protein peptides support skin resilience while minimizing the appearance of sun-induced aging. 

Doctor BABOR Pro Pep Peptide Concentrate, $149

You’ll only find BABOR’s Pro line in spas. Still, it’s worth hunting it down because the formulas are more potent and targeted than their original line of products that also continue to impress. 

This powerful concentrate contains a signal peptide and zanthoxylum extract that reduces the appearance of micro tensions in the skin while promoting a natural lifting effect. This unique formula has a short- and long-term anti-wrinkle effect, so the skin looks firm and more relaxed. 

Olay Regenerist Collagen Peptide 24 Serum, $28.99

As the name suggests, this fast absorbent serum provides an impressive 24 hours of hydration while providing immediate and long-term results. It’s specifically formulated with collagen peptide and vitamin B3+ to lift and tone.

Clinical studies suggest that the skin looks firmer after just one day and after two weeks of daily use (morning and night), facial contours are visibly tightened, and the skin appears more supple. 

Perricone MD Neuropeptide Smoothing Facial Conformer, $325

Twenty years of research are behind Perricone MD’s Neuropeptide collection, making it the brand’s most advanced firming and smoothing line. This neuropeptide-rich serum minimizes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles while enhancing skin’s radiance and elasticity. 

This potent peptide brightening treatment tackles dull skin, advanced photo-damage, skin discoloration, elasticity, and suppleness. 

Mario Badescu Super Peptide Serum, $45

This potent serum is specially formulated to diminish and defend against the visible signs of aging. It’s formulated with peptides and a sodium hyaluronate complex, which combines two molecular weights for seamless absorption and dual-action hydration. 

Conditioning botanicals reduce the look of dry lines and wrinkles, restoring elasticity and softness to the skin. Just two to four drops day and night helps promote a smoother, more youthful-looking complexion. 

Kiehl’s Micro-Dose Anti-Aging Retinol Serum with Ceramides and Peptide, $60

This serum contains the best of both worlds: pure retinol in a precise, daily-strength microdose and a powerful peptide to promote healthier, more youthful-looking skin minus any irritation. The addition of ceramides helps provide ample hydration and improved skin texture. 

After just one bottle (approximately 12 weeks), 100% of consumers noticed a reduction in wrinkles, 90% showed enhanced firmness, 94% agreed the texture is more refined, and 88% agreed pores look minimized. 

Neutrogena Radiant Primer + Serum, $16.99

Part makeup base, part serum, this formula was designed to be worn during the daytime to promote a healthy, flawless complexion. It’s infused with peptides and pearl pigments and is formulated to improve the skin’s texture and tone. 

iS Clinical YOUTH SERUM, $154

This concentrated serum provides immediate and long-term visible results, thanks to advanced technologies such as a safe, bio-identical growth factor that works to reduce fine lines and wrinkles dramatically. 

The brand’s patented Extremozyme technology works in tandem with a powerful blend of antioxidants and a copper tripeptide growth factor to protect against environmental aggressors while promoting a more youthful, resilient complexion. 

Elizabeth Arden Retinol Ceramide Capsules Line Erasing Night Serum, $51

Perfect for travel or convenient home use, these small yet potent capsules deliver the ideal amount of serum every time. 

Each dose is packed with retinol and peptides to stimulate collagen synthesis, ceramides to strengthen the skin’s barrier, and a blend of oils to deeply hydrate. You’ll wake up to a more refreshed, hydrated, and glowing complexion as soon as the next day, but it also works progressively to fade the signs of aging.

Clinique Smart Custom-Repair Serum, $62

If you feel as though your skin is changing from one day to the next, you’ll love this high-tech serum that adjusts to suit the needs of anyone who wears it. It targets, treats, and prevents specific skin issues, including loss of elasticity, fine lines, wrinkles, dryness, dullness, breakouts, and hyperpigmentation. The secret sauce is a blend of brightening botanicals, vitamin C, skin-plumping peptides, and salicylic acid. 

Best Peptide Serum: The Final Word

Even though peptides are already present within the body, a peptide serum for the face is vital because we lose 1% of collagen per year after the age of 30. When you introduce a peptide serum onto the skin, it signals (or tricks) your body that it needs to heal, so it produces more collagen (and even hyaluronic acid) where it’s needed — from injured to aging skin.

Clinical studies revealed that peptides are an effective treatment against facial wrinkles in five areas — crow’s feet, nasolabial fold, glabellar frown lines, horizontal forehead lines, and horizontal necklines. 

When shopping for a peptide serum, check out the ingredient list. Ideally, the peptides should be listed towards the top of the list — but they are typically disguised under different names such as MatrixylTM, Matrixyl 3000, Acetyl tetrapeptide-9, and Argireline, among others previously mentioned. When purchasing a peptide serum for the face, you must read the ingredient list. Sometimes, “peptide” is merely used as a tricky marketing tactic. 

What’s the best peptide serum, in your opinion? Let us know in the comments below!

FAQs

The frequency of usage depends upon the specific serum for your skin type. Generally, however, it’s safe to use a peptide serum for the face twice a day, daily. Double-check the instructions on the packaging and if you’re still not sure, ask a skincare professional. Always stop using a product if you experience extreme stinging, redness, or other forms of irritation.

The best time to apply a peptide serum (just 3-4 drops for your neck and décolletage) is after an exfoliating toner and before any face oils or your moisturizer and SPF. Such timing will allow the lightweight serum to effectively penetrate the skin without having to battle against any physical barriers caused by thicker formulations.

Peptides for skin tightening? We’re glad you asked. Due to their ability to stimulate new collagen growth, peptide serums for the face work to tighten skin. GHK peptide functions as a complex with copper to tighten loose skin, improve elasticity, skin density, and firmness.

Yes, you can use hyaluronic acid and peptides together. The pair make a potent dynamic duo and can remain highly effective while ensuring the skin’s protective barrier remains healthy and balanced.

Retinol is a more potent ingredient, and while both work towards cellular turnover, they do so in different ways. With that said, if you’re also looking for hydration, a peptide serum is likely the better choice.

In general, peptide serums are tolerated by the skin as they are not known to irritate like retinol, which can sometimes cause redness, irritation, and peeling – but it’s always a good idea to do a test patch first.

Sources
Anti-Wrinkle Benefits of Peptides Complex Stimulating Skin Basement Membrane Proteins Expression,” U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, January 2020.
Cosmeceutical Peptides in the Framework of Sustainable Wellness Economy,” Frontiers in Chemistry, October 2020. 
Topical Peptide Treatments with Effective Anti-Aging Results,” MDPI.



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