The skincare world is obsessed with peptides. At first glance, it is easy to see why. They are said to smooth skin, increase collagen production, reduce wrinkles, puffy eyes, and stretch marks.
Yet, when you dig deeper you realise that there are only a handful of scientific studies supporting their claims, and most of them were conducted by the companies that make them. Not exactly the most trustworthy of sources…
One of these supposedly miraculous but scarcely researched peptides is Heptapeptide-7. Still rarely used, it can, according to Helix BioMedix Inc., the company that developed and patented it, improve menopausal skin and reduce stretch marks. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that were true? But is it? Let’s investigate:
Hexapeptide-7 is a synthetic peptide made up of seven aminoacids, including asparagine, glycine, arginine, and isoleucine, commonly found in the skin. It is designed like that to mimic the “natural sequences found as part of the body’s own defense and repair system.”
What does Heptapeptide-7 do?
Heptapeptide-7 is said to be very beneficial for mature skin. A 2010 study conducted by Helix BioMedix Inc on 32 50-something women found that heptapeptide-7 stimulated keratinocyte proliferation and migration and induced collagen synthesis, thus improving forehead wrinkles and skin texture. How?
Keratinocytes are the predominant cell type in the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin. Their main function is to form a protective barrier against heat, bacteria, water loss, UV rays, and anything else that can damage skin.
But they also play a role in wound healing. They do so by migrating to the wound area, filling in the gaps. In the same way, they can fill in fine lines and wrinkles, reducing their appearance. Stimulating collagen production also helps to keep skin elastic and wrinkles at bay.
This boost in collagen production also supposedly reduces the appearance of both old and new stretch marks. But I couldn’t find any studies backing up this claim. Instead, its beneficial effects are only touted by Apothederm, a company owned by Helix BioMedix Inc that makes a stretch mark cream with this peptide.
Of course this doesn’t mean that this peptide is useless. Reviews of Apothederm Stretch Mark Cream are mostly positive (although it’s pricey and, apparently, you need to use it consistently for months before you see a tiny improvement) and preliminary studies are promising. But I’d rather wait for confirmation of its benefits by independent studies before rushing out to buy a product with this ingredient.
Hopefully, such confirmation will come soon. At the moment, no topical ingredient can treat old stretch marks, so it would be wonderful if someone had finally developed something that can really get rid of them.
The controversy about peptides
Not everyone is in love with peptides. Some experts, like dermatologists Leslie Baumann believe they don’t work. That’s because they are too big to penetrate skin. It has been suggested, though, that they could still work even when left on the surface of the skin by signalling to receptors present there how cells should behave.
The Bottom Line
Hexapeptide-7 is a new promising ingredient that could help in the fight against wrinkles and stretch marks. Problem is, all the studies proving its efficacy have, so far, been conducted only by the company that makes it. Until independent research supports these findings, I’d be hesitant to purchase a product just because it contains this ingredient.
Have you ever tried Hexapeptide-7?