Peptides are an extremely broad subject with many areas of opportunity in skin care. Recent research indicates that some types of peptides may have a beneficial role in slowing the aging process, reducing inflammation, and even destroying microbes. A vast array of peptides can be found in many skin care products, promising everything from tighter, more youthful skin to longer, thicker lashes. So, how do you sort through the hype to understand what each peptide does and whether it will even be effective? In the ASCP Esty Talk Ingredient Decked Out subseries “The Peptide Perspective,” we explore many opinions and perspectives to help bring clarity, answer questions, and dispel misinformation. In Volume 1, we discuss peptides with Susan Wade of Viktoria De’Ann.
About Susan Wade:
Susan joined Viktoria De’Ann in 2015 as the Director of Education and Sales after working in the health and education industry for over 30 years. Education and learning are paramount to Susan. She holds a master’s degree in higher education and is a licensed esthetician and certified strength and nutrition coach. She is currently pursuing another advanced certification in applied functional medicine to dive deeper into skin and health issues for her clients. Susan’s passion lies in understanding the complexities of physiology, nutrition, and peptide science, and sharing her knowledge with estheticians to incorporate each component to achieve unparalleled results.
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00:50 S1: You are listening to ASCP Esty Talk, where we share insider tips, industry resources and education for estheticians at every stage of the journey. Let's talk because ASCP knows it's all about you.
01:05 Ella Cressman: Hello, and welcome to ASCP Esty Talk, The Ingredient Decked-out series. We're here, we explore the fascinating world of ingredients and how they work within the skin. I'm Ella Cressman, licensed esthetician and owner of the HHP Collective, as well as a certified organic skin care formulator. Not to mention, I'm a self-proclaimed ingredient junky, woohoo. So, I'm super-excited today because we're gonna discuss peptides with Susan Wade. Susan Wade is a licensed esthetician, a certified strength and nutrition coach. She's the Director of Education and Sales for Viktoria DeAnn, and if that wasn't enough, she's also pursuing an advanced certification in Applied Functional Medicine. Welcome, Susan.
01:49 Susan Wade: Thank you, thank you so much for having me today.
01:53 EC: So, Susan, can you help answer the question. What is a peptide and where do they come from?
01:57 SW: Yeah. I love this question because there seems to be a lot of hype, maybe, in the marketing about it, and I love talking about the science. So, this is something that you might have to just gear me down sometimes but...
02:12 EC: No. We love excitement. We love to get excited.
02:18 SW: Okay. Peptides are... You can think of them as protein and a lot of times, that is... Even in the medical arena, that's how they refer to peptides. So, when I'm looking at that report, I'm thinking they're really talking about peptides. So, since peptides are really protein, what happens really, amino acids make up protein. We all know that. In your body, when we digest protein, amino acids are broken up within our digestive system and they naturally form in the body. It's fascinating because our body makes protein, our body makes peptides. So, amino acids, really, if you looked up the word of peptide, amino acids are the natural bonding together and they form a peptide. So, when we digest the food from protein and it breaks up into amino acids, there's a natural chemical bond that comes together that forms these amino acids together and that's a peptide.
03:38 EC: So, we make our own natural peptides.
03:42 SW: Yeah. It's fascinating because peptides are already in the body. When our body digestive system breaks down the proteins, then they form the amino acids and the amino acids are bound together and make that peptide. It's fascinating.
04:00 EC: Science, love it.
04:02 SW: Yeah.
04:02 EC: So, that would be like an endogenous peptide. Where do exogenous peptides come from then? Where do, outside of the bodies come from?
04:10 SW: The same thing. So again, protein broken down is amino acids and when you take amino acids and bind them together naturally or use a peptide bond, that becomes a peptide. So again, amino acids linked together by chemical, natural bond is a peptide.
04:36 EC: You mentioned digestive tract and that this change happens within the digestive tract but how do peptides work within the skin? What do they do with the skin, histologically?
04:46 SW: Oh, okay. I love this question because there's so many different types of peptides. Okay. So, one thing that they do, peptides... Think of peptides as the primary messenger to the cells. That's really what their job is, and cells are constantly communicating. If cells don't communicate, then that's where we get the damaged, aging skin because nothing is performing correctly.
05:14 EC: They don't know what to do. They don't have the proper direction, if you will, like a city without traffic lights. [chuckle]
05:18 SW: Yeah. Right, right. And you know what's really fascinating, Ella, is that as we advance more in cancer research, they're using peptides to really target the cancer cells. So, I love that part. But anyway, as far as what peptides do, they can signal messages to the cells. Peptides can modulate muscle contractions, they can modulate enzymes. They can assist with collagen, elastin, hyaluronic or... I love this one. They can fight bacteria and those peptides are called antimicrobial peptides.
06:04 EC: Hey, guys, stop. Let's take a quick break.
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06:39 EC: Let's get back to the conversation. So, when we're looking at the skin and conditions of the skin and we're thinking of aging skin or imbalanced skin in some way, peptides really are a game changer as a concerning to re-establishing order, is that...
06:57 SW: Absolutely, because when I'm talking to and training my estheticians throughout the country, there's a real shift going on to, what is the cause of that, and we're always, we're digging... We have to put those pieces of puzzle together in order to help that client because peptides really are your answer when it comes to treating conditions at the core because, remember, everything starts at the cellular level. And so, what's causing that imbalance, what's causing that skin condition and looking at the puzzle pieces, it's fascinating because peptides can address almost every condition. That's what's fascinating about it.
07:45 EC: I have to agree with you. I think that we do have a shift. I have been licensed almost 15 years now and I think the biggest change that I've seen as a practicing esthetician, 'cause I also have a practice here in the Denver metro area. The difference that I've noticed in the way I treat the skin is root cause, so it's kind of fun because we act just like a little investigator. Okay. You have aging skin, that's easy. Let me just give you X, Y, Z ingredient, and that's what that's for. Instead, we're saying, "Why do you have aging skin? Why do you have acne?" I guess acne is one of my specialties, and I like to find out what is the root cause of this because where I live, it's a dry climate, and traditional therapies for acne, specifically, have been, the approach has been to strip the oil because that's obviously the problem, but I guess I'm grateful to live in Colorado where that is not always the root cause. It's usually some other extenuating circumstance. I love that peptides are tools, communicative tools to help address root cause.
08:47 SW: Well, it's interesting that you talked about acne because that's one of my most favorite peptides to talk about. Now, like I said, they do a lot of different things but there's peptides that are anti-microbial. What does that mean? They're gonna go to the bacteria and disrupt the... It's like they form this communication. Bacteria loves to communicate just like ourselves. That's why it's difficult to address sometimes because what you're doing to the normal cells, the bacteria is going, "Yey, we love that, too." But antimicrobial peptides actually target the bacteria and disrupt the communication. So, if there's no communication, they leave that site and go some place else.
09:39 EC: Now, would they disrupt the good bacteria, too, or is it targeted to just bad bacteria?
09:42 SW: Most of it... The over-proliferating bad bacteria, and that's what's fascinating about peptides is because it's such a targeted message, it goes directly. I think of it like as a direct line. If I were to call someone but I mess up the last two numbers, I could not get that message to that person. So, that's exactly what peptides are, extremely... Cells are very particular who they talk to or who or what they allow into the memory.
10:16 EC: So, not declining the call. [laughter] You send it to voicemail.
10:23 SW: Exactly. Yeah, yeah. And so, that's... So, when you talk about going to the root cause, there's nothing better because the cells go, "Oh yeah, I know you. You're a peptide. You're supposed to talk to me. What's your job? Okay. You're gonna be anti-microbial. Cool, let's work this out." And so, the antimicrobial peptides are targeted. Antimicrobial peptides are used for many skin conditions and you talked about aging.
10:49 EC: Aging. Yep.
10:51 SW: Okay. And, aging, really, is just damage. It's just damage to whatever, environment, toxins, cells not communicating. And really, that's what it is. To me, cellular aging is damaged skin.
11:08 EC: It's tired. It's been working all this time and put under these extenuating circumstances. It's just tired. [laughter] So, with that being said, so I can imagine, when you call in to a cable company or wherever, and you get this message, "For sales, press one, for issues, press two." It seems like that is kind of what's going on where the skin is like that board, when you call in and the peptides are pressing whatever number they need to get exactly to the department that they need to speak to. Is that right?
11:45 SW: Exactly right. And that's a great analogy because, like I said, there's a lot of different types of peptides and what they do. They all have a job, just like ourselves have a job. They all have a specific job, what to perform. It's like a well-functioning city. There's garbage collectors, there's mail, there's highways. Everyone's doing their own job.
12:08 EC: So, with that being said, I imagine, not all peptides are getting the phone number, [chuckle] So, in order to talk to the skin, you have to have the phone number, right?
12:20 SW: Right.
12:21 EC: So, that would be called bioavailability.
12:24 SW: That's right.
12:24 EC: Okay. So, I already have the phone number. That means you're bioavailable, which means that the skin is gonna be able to receive the call. So, what makes a peptide bioavailable?
12:32 SW: Okay. So, that term is transposed sometimes to bioactive and bioavailable, and we see that on the shelves now when we shop for our great food that we want. So, bioactive actually means that you can actually make a change within the cell or the tissue, meaning that the cell recognizes it and says, "Oh yeah, I know you. Okay, you're supposed to talk to me." I equate that to like, you have that special invitation to the party, and you can only come in to that party if you show that invitation and that's really what's happening. Remember, our cell membrane is very particular, what comes in and what goes out.
13:25 EC: So what makes it bioavailable? Is it just a certain way it communicates? Is it biomimetic? Are they...
13:33 SW: Well, okay, good question. Bioactive means that it's the purest form of amino acids, and that means L form amino acids, that's your purest and highest form, and that's what your body recognizes. So if a peptide is not bioactive, many times it's because it has a lot of fillers surrounding it, it's not stable or it doesn't make a difference in the cell.
14:02 EC: So are all mass produced, not bioavailable?
14:08 SW: I can't say all, but the difference you'll see trademark, which will be like penta hepta-5 peptide. That's usually a trademark. Matrixyl is a trademark. And so those... If you see the Matrixyl, again, that kinda comes medical, and then that depends upon how much you get from your doctor. When we're talking about cosmeceutical, when there's companies that could be right on that edge, pharmaceutical grade ingredients is making the difference of your peptides.
14:44 EC: So it's the quality then?
14:47 SW: Mm-hmm.
14:48 EC: It's the quality, but there's no... For those who are listening, what question should they be asking then if they're looking at an ingredient deck, and they see Matrixyl on the ingredient deck, what question should they be asking of that company, for example?
15:01 SW: Well, they're gonna... Matrixyl, again, is gonna be a mass produced and so if they're getting it from their aesthetician, then they know that that there's not gonna be enough probably in that particular product to elicit a change. There's companies that will have just listing of the L form amino acids, and they didn't name the peptide, they're just giving you the ingredients of the peptide so that you know that it's amino acids. A lot of times you'll see the peptide's listed in the middle or at the end, that meaning, there's not much of that peptide within that product, so then that tells you right away.
15:44 SW: For instance, when companies have peptides, most of them have to outsource that. If you outsource a peptide, and I did some of this research, how much does it cost? If I were to pick a peptide that I wanted to, let's say, the epidermal growth factor that's gonna help my skin renew itself, one drop would cost over $3000, just one drop. That's how expensive peptides are. So that makes you think, "Okay, if I can only get one drop, how could I afford to do that?" Well, you're gonna put 0.001% of that peptide in that particular product in order to say you have a peptide, which is allowed. The difference is the amount that you have, the concentration is huge when it comes to peptides.
16:46 EC: In summary, I'm thinking of soup, and you can buy soup, [chuckle] that's already got all the ingredients put together, right?
16:57 SW: Yes, yes.
16:58 EC: I'm thinking beef barley, that's one of my favorites, and that would be Matrixyl, for example, so all the components, all the little amino acids are put together. And then the alternative would be making something similar to Matrixyl, but you're buying the celery from the farmer's market and you're understanding the process and the love and the character to cultivate the celery, you meet the butcher who raised the beef, the barley, same thing and then you're putting them together differently. Is that like a homemade soup versus a canned soup?
17:30 SW: I think that's a great analogy. And I also think too, because I used to train athletes where we talked about quality of protein, and that's a big arena that we can delve into it at a later date some time, but when you're talking about the quality of the protein and how your body accepts it, it's exactly your analogy. If I'm gonna put in the really good organic ingredients and get all the nutrients from it, then I know that if I make it at home and I have more concentration of that particular ingredient, it's gonna benefit me even more. And that's exactly what you were saying, yeah, great.
18:12 EC: So where do peptides come from then? Are they all lab created then, the topical peptides? There's no natural source of them.
18:20 SW: Well, we get protein from animals, plants and from the sea. There's lots of algae that you can get, but think mostly plants and animals, where do you get protein? Protein you get from animals and plants. And remember when I first started talking about peptides, it's kinda like protein broken down into its components.
18:52 EC: But then is that created in, those specifically protein... I mean, excuse me, specifically, peptides in skin care, those can come from natural sources, but where are the peptides that we're putting in skin care coming from? Those are mimicked, aren't created in the lab and organized in a way, in a specific order. Is that right?
19:13 SW: Yes, they're synthesizing, they're making them in a lab, but they still have to come from... You still have to get the amino acids from a plant or an animal source, yet you're... Yeah, what you're talking about is, can they make up that amino acid? Yes.
19:31 EC: And is that where most of them are coming from?
19:34 SW: Yeah, yes.
19:35 EC: Okay, so they're lab created and scientist organized, organized by a scientist.
19:39 SW: Yes, yes.
19:40 EC: Okay. So with peptides, what other ingredients best complement peptides?
19:46 SW: I'm all about the naturalness and complementing what the cells need. So other ingredients, now, peptides have to be stable in order for them to work so you don't wanna have a lot of other ingredients within a bioactive peptide product, but other vitamins such as your B3, your B6, and your B5 work extremely well with peptides because what they're doing, again, is energy to the cell, providing those nutrients to the cell.
20:26 EC: Well, that's a lot to chew on.
20:28 EC: We got a lot of food analogies with this.
20:30 SW: Yes.
20:31 EC: So awesome. Well, I'm super excited to be talking peptides with you today. Now, with that being said, if anyone has additional questions and wants to reach out to you, Susan, what's the best way to get in touch with you?
20:43 SW: I think the best way is my email and it's susan.viktoriadeann.com. And I can also leave you in the show notes if you would like my cell number. I'd love talking to people about this as I'm just fascinated with the science, and that number is 208-949-5401.
21:12 EC: Awesome. Well, thank you so much Susan, for joining us today on ASCP Esty Talk, the Ingredient Decked Out series, and we will have contact information for Susan in the show notes. Thanks so much Susan.
21:24 EC: Thank you for listening to The Peptide Perspective, sub-series of ASCP Esty Talk Ingredient Decked Out. Stay tuned for future episodes that include other perspectives from companies that boast the power of peptides and even an industry naysayer who's not quite sure that they do what they say they do.
21:46 S1: Thanks for joining us today. If you like what you hear and you want more, subscribe. If you wanna belong to the only all inclusive Association for Aestheticians that includes professional liability insurance, education, industry insights, and an opportunity to spot like your six skills, join at ascpskincare.com, only 259 per year for all this goodness. ASCP knows, it's all about you.