Oligopeptides were first discovered to have therapeutic properties in the 1950s by du Vigneau and Tuppy when they characterised the chemical structure of the first peptide hormone, octapeptide oxytocin which led to an increasing interest in the field of bioactive peptides.
What are oligopeptides?
Oligopeptides are short sequence amino acids which are defined as peptide (protein) sequences which range from 2 to 20 amino acids. The key feature of these proteins is that they have been discovered to be biologically active, meaning that it can interfere with various skin processes both on the cell and the molecular level.
Oligopeptides have been described as early as twenty years ago when researchers discovered some chemicals in the body which can affect physiological processes. The understanding of how the same oligopeptides can influence activity within the skin has only been recently examined and it is an interesting and rapidly advancing field of dermatologist research.
What are some of the benefits that oligopeptides have been shown to have in skin?
Several dermatologist led studies published in top journals have shown that common skin ageing conditions such as hyperpigmentation as well as skin thinning, loss of skin elasticity can be well-treated with good outcomes with these oligopeptides1.
How do oligopeptides work?
Oligopeptides interfere with the regulation of collagen and elastin production which accounts for many of the changes in ageing skin such as skin laxity, loss of skin plumpness and enlarged pores. Finally, it also helps to regulate pigment (melanin synthesis) which can help to treat pigmentary disorders.
Are oligopeptides safe in cosmeceuticals?
The key benefits of oligopeptides are equivalent to retinoids which have been used in dermatologist offices for several decades but without the same side effects. Retinoid treatment can also help to increase collagen and elastin production as well as regulating melanin synthesis but not without the significant side effects of skin dryness and irritation, causing redness, flaking and sometimes flare-ups of cystic acne over time. Oligopeptides are considered much safer and easy for incorporation into skincare being well-absorbed.
What happens during skin ageing and how do oligopeptides work?
Skin ageing is caused by a multitude of factors such as one’s genes, environmental damage, hormonal alterations and metabolic processes. During the process of ageing, one may notice increased wrinkles, skin sallowness and laxity, loss of radiance, enlarged pores as well as loss of skin volume, causing a haggard, dry and wrinkled appearance. What’s going on under the skin can really be explained in terms of physiological processes. If you refer to the diagram of the structure of the skin in Chapter I of the book, allow yourself to look at the second layer of the skin which is known as the dermis. The best way I can explain the process of ageing to my patients is via this skin model, so everything that has got to do with the loss of skin radiance, sallowness, pigmentation occur at the epidermal level which can be effectively addressed with topical cream applications as well as physical agents such as chemical peels which help to shed the top layer of skin which are known as the keratinocytes to stimulate cell turnover, leading to increased radiance.
Most of skin ageing however, happens in the dermal level in the second layer of skin – the dermis, where collagen and elastin is present and production of these components are decreased during the process of skin ageing, leading to loss of skin volume.
The proteins in the dermis are known as extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins. How oligopeptides work is mainly in the second layer of skin when they stimulate these ECM proteins and also, help to regulate the production of pigment at this level.
How do oligopeptides help wound healing?
Bioactive peptides such as oligopeptides have shown potential health benefits to combat inflammation, wound healing, angiogenesis and antimicrobial defense.
In the same way when one’s skin is wounded, for example either from trauma or severe inflammation such as in post-inflammation hyperpigmentation or in severe cystic acne flares leading to scars, oligopeptides interfere with the second layer of skin where most of the wound healing takes place to stimulate the production of collagen so that the wound heals faster as well as better.
Bioactive peptides as medical and therapeutic interventions have great potential. They have been utilised as treatments for infections, chemotherapy and in recent times as cosmeceuticals. The best qualities of this molecule I believe have to do with our ability to alter the penetration, delivery, stability and potency.
1. Reddy, B. , Jow, T. and Hantash, B. M. (2012), Bioactive oligopeptides in dermatology: Part I. Exp Dermatol, 21: 563-568.
© 2019 TWL Specialist Skin and Laser Centre. All rights reserved.
Meet with Dr Teo Wan Lin, an accredited dermatologist at TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre, for a thorough consultation to determine the most suitable treatment for your skin.anti-ageing, Cosmeceutical Skincare, Oligopeptides