The power of peptides

Dr Neal Kitchen took to the stage at Wigmore Presents to explain why peptides are the ideal epigenetic approach to skincare, and what the future holds in this pioneering field

Epigenetics has always been a passion of mine, in part because I happen to be an identical twin. Although my brother and I look alike and our DNA sequence shows a 100 per cent match, we still have some differences. The science of genetics and epigenetics dictates how an organism like a human being can look a little different based on how their DNA is being expressed. My brother, for example, was what I call a ‘placenta hog’ in the womb, taking more nutrients, and it changed the genetic expression patterns for him versus me. He was born over a pound heavier, and when we were little to now, he is three inches taller.

Because ageing is also influenced by epigenetic factors, the way our DNA is expressed can change as we age. I like to tease my twin that he looks a little older than I do, now that I work for a skincare company! Teasing aside, our appearance does emphasise how the right skincare applications and ingredients can change the way our DNA is expressed and help us attain a more youthful appearance.

One such ingredient is peptides. I love peptides in skincare, and especially enjoy researching and selecting the best peptides to use for specific skincare treatments and needs. Peptides in topical formulations are an ideal epigenetic approach to skincare, and can help dictate how we get the right genes turned on, and turn off some of the genes that cause damage in the skin.

Ultimate versatility
Making a peptide is relatively easy these days, but we still have to screen for the right type of peptides that have been clinically validated at the proper levels and are proven to improve the health of the skin.

Peptides are an effective molecule because they are a natural ‘small signal’—meaning they are biomimetic and our body naturally knows how to use them. They are not foreign to the skin, so it knows how to readily process a peptide signal. This means we have versatile options as each peptide is unique and we can use peptides from different categories to work in synergy. You can also use peptides with other active ingredients such as vitamin C, vitamin A, niacinamide and AHAs, to amplify the results.

Some of the key advantages to peptides used with other ingredients, is that they can help facilitate transmission through the skin barrier and improve the efficacy and bioavailability of the actives in the formulation. For example, we are creating better ways to formulate with ingredients like retinol so that the response in the skin is more beneficial while minimising the inflammation response.

Pulse with peptides
Our circadian rhythm allows us to optimise treatment with peptides. In the skin, daytime expression is different to night time expression for many genes, and we can use this knowledge to maximise the activity of peptides. HydroPeptide’s Power Lift Moisturiser for example, triggers expression of structural proteins within skin during the night time repair process, but during the day you need to focus on skin protection.

One of the key peptides we use in our daytime moisturisers and serum is a prevention peptide called Perfection Peptide P7. This peptide has been shown to stimulate the NRF2 dependent antioxidant enzymes, so the peptides trigger antioxidant activity within the skin to protect against free radical damage.

The future of peptides
We have advanced our techniques to identify and isolate peptide sequences that will stimulate the right activity in the skin. When we use this process on the epidermal layer of the skin, we can develop new patented peptides, such as CellRenew-16. When developing a peptide, our main objective is to stimulate the regenerative qualities in the skin while bypassing the inflammation response.

One of the other interesting aspects to using new technologies is how effectively we can get peptides and other key ingredients into the skin.

We are currently developing filled-micelle technology with the CellRenew-16 peptide , which can improve penetration into the skin by over 400 per cent, thus you can deliver significant penetration into deeper layers of the skin.

There is also a new technique called ‘lipo-salvation’, which uses bioactives as an alternative to traditional ways which have been used to get active ingredients into topical formulations. Typically, solvents, emulsions, or even microsomes have been the primary delivery of water soluble bioactive ingredients, but the idea of lipo-salvation is to convert the bioactive itself into an edible lipophilic agent through covalent attachment to an unsaturated fatty acid, which is itself a bioactive. You are amplifying the activity by having the active and unsaturated fatty acid enter the skin conjugated together and then the enzymatic cleavage of the lipid arm is released in living skin. .

We can apply this to a number of key actives that we’re looking at developing, while retaining the positive bioactivity and reducing the negative bio-activity irritation on entry. When you look at acute toxicity and high doses, this is going to be powerful for a number of different gold standards within our industry of actives, such as retinoids or vitamin C, as there is only so much you can use without causing irritation to the skin. For example, this unique method of encapsulating the ingredients by using different forms of retinoids together through lipo-solvation can stagger the release and conversion to retinoic acid, which will minimise and reduce the risk of an inflammation response.


Power Serum

This transformative serum contains a powerful blend of eight different peptides, divided between neuropeptides and structural peptides. This combination leads not only to the relaxing of wrinkles, but also building up the collagen and elastin underneath. The three neuropeptides work together in three different ways to temporarily disrupt the neuromuscular junction, meaning it disrupts the contraction of the muscle. Then the structural peptides combine to trigger the expression and stimulate key structural proteins like elastin and collagen within the skin.


In this formulation we use 20% sodium ascorbyl phosphate—a more stable form of vitamin C—and have combined it with two peptides. The Granactive 1518 is a brightening peptide that helps to reduce pigmentation and therefore complements vitamin C, and Reproage epigenetic peptide is used to enhance cell turnover. This is a modern reparative peptide that has been especially developed by focusing on epigenetic mechanisms. It has been shown in our clinical studies to significantly improve regeneration and cell turnover time.

Retinol Eye Renew

This product is for anyone looking to achieve firmer, brighter, more youthful under-eyes. Formulated with 0.65% Universal Tri-Retinol Complex, our exclusive, patented peptide CellRenew-16 and two other peptides that treat dark circles, this restorative eye balm delivers visible antiaging benefits to the delicate eye area without causing inflammation. It is proven to hydrate, brighten dark circles, and reduce fine lines and wrinkles in the under-eye area.

Daily Resurfacing

These gentle exfoliating pads promote healthy cell renewal using the peptide Neutrazen, a neuropeptide that significantly reduces the consequences of substance P release, calming skin, and reducing redness.

The HydroPeptide range is available at Wigmore Medical. To purchase, email or log into your account at

Dr Neal Kitchen is the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Geneticist at HydroPeptide. He holds abachelor’s degree in cell biology and a doctorate in protein and molecular biology from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and an MBA from Rockford University. Dr Kitchen’s expertise in peptide and protein biology supports the technical initiatives at HydroPeptide. He leads the company’s efforts to accelerate the development of clinically proven skincare products and the advancement of epigenetic technologies in their cellular health treatments and protocols.
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