A couple of weeks ago, Jennifer Aniston divulged two major confessions in her "Wall Street Journal" interview. The first is that she once tried a salmon sperm facial, though she admittedly isn't sure if it did anything for her skin. Then she shared the antiageing secret she actually swears by, calling peptide injections "the future" of skin care.
The general public has been tuned in to Aniston's beauty routine ever since her days playing Rachel Green on "Friends." Now, almost 30 years since the debut, that statement rings even more true. So, this latest admission has many asking themselves, "Should I be getting peptide injections, too?"
If you consider yourself to be a beauty fanatic, you've likely heard of peptides before. However, that was probably concerning skin-care ingredients and product formulations — not necessarily injections. Peptides are naturally occurring in the body and are found in all human cells. "Peptides are short chains of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins, and work with different hormones, enzymes, and organs," NY-based longevity and regenerative medicine doctor Neil Paulvin, DO, tells POPSUGAR. They're also called polypeptides and affect things such as collagen, elastin, and keratin in the skin.
So, what exactly is peptide therapy? Instead of being applied topically to the skin, this treatment is administered via a syringe meaning you need to see a doctor or trained aesthetician to get it.
Ahead, learn more about peptide injections from Dr. Paulvin and NY-based board-certified dermatologist Michelle Henry, MD, FAAD. They're sharing how they work, what the key benefits are, and potential side effects to be aware of.
What is Peptide Therapy?
Peptide therapy goes far beyond just beauty purposes. "Therapeutic peptides represent a distinct category of pharmaceutical agents, characterized by their precise arrangement of amino acids," says Dr. Henry. "The exploration of therapeutic peptides originated from investigations into natural human hormones like insulin, oxytocin, vasopressin, and gonadotropin-releasing hormone." The first commercial therapeutic peptide created was insulin, she adds.
Since its inception in the early 1900s, peptide therapy has undergone many advancements. "Modern peptide therapy, including the utilisation of peptide injections, represents a cutting-edge approach utilised in both medical and aesthetic disciplines," Dr. Henry says.
The therapy as a category encompasses more than just injections. "Peptide therapy can be given via oral supplements, topical creams, suppositories, IV therapy, injection, and intranasally," says Dr. Paulvin.
How Do Peptide Injections Work?
Peptide therapy utilises carefully selected peptides to deliver a variety of benefits. "[They're] synthesised in laboratory settings to achieve specific desired effects," says Dr. Henery. "These peptides are then introduced into patients through injection, a procedure usually conducted by trained medical professionals to ensure precision and effectiveness."
Dr. Paulvin adds, "In general, peptides are most effective when they are injected directly into subcutaneous fat. From there, they exert their effect on hormones, enzymes, and organs." The synthetic peptide harnesses the body's natural mechanisms, interacting with specific cell receptors and triggering various cellular responses.
The treatment itself is fairly quick and easy — just like a regular vaccine. "First, the provider will draw the correct amount of units with an insulin syringe. Then, they will rub an alcohol wipe on your abdomen to disinfect the area. Finally, you inject the peptide," says Dr. Paulvin. Another common injection site is the inner thigh. Dr. Henry describes it as "swift and minimally discomforting."
Similar to Botox and filler, this is not a one-and-done solution. "The frequency of treatments varies according to the specific peptide utilised and the intended outcomes," says Dr. Henry.
"For patients focussed on anti-ageing benefits, I recommend two cycles per year, lasting two to three months each," says Dr. Paulvin. This breaks down to one treatment a month for that period.
The Benefits of Peptide Injections
As previously mentioned, there are different types of synthetic peptides, offering different benefits. "These responses include heightened collagen production, expedited tissue repair, and the stimulation of growth factors," Dr. Henry says.
When a peptide injection stimulates collagen production, it can help enhance your skin's vitality, improving texture, firmness, and the appearance of wrinkles.
"Certain peptides expedite wound healing and tissue regeneration, proving beneficial in addressing scars and overall skin well-being," Dr. Henry says. There are also peptides that can be used for treating hair loss by activating the follicles.
Outside of beauty, certain peptides offer benefits like muscle development and weight management. Ozempic is a type of peptide that works in this manner and has boomed in popularity recently.
Who Is a Good Candidate For Peptide Injections?
The first step in understanding if peptide therapy is a good fit for you is consulting with a board-certified physician. "Appropriate candidates for peptide injections are individuals seeking non-invasive and naturally aligned solutions to counteract the effects of ageing," says Dr. Henry. "While the optimal commencement age for peptide therapy can vary, it generally falls within the late 20s to early 30s, serving as a preemptive approach." But that's not to say it's not beneficial for anyone older, as Aniston is in her 50s.
While peptides are generally safe for most people, Dr. Paulvin notes, "Those with severe heart issues, active bleeding issues, and cancer being treated should not take peptide therapy."
Peptide Injections Side Effects and Risks
As with any treatment or drug, there are side effects to be aware of. First, it's important to note that "individual responses to peptide therapy are diverse," says Dr. Henry. This is to say that it's not guaranteed to work the same way for everyone.
"Potential side effects are generally transient and mild, including localised redness, swelling, bruising, and temporary discomfort at the injection site," Dr. Henry says. Dr. Paulvin also notes, "If the peptide is too strong or interacts with other medications, one of the biggest risks is nausea and fatigue."
As always, you can lower your chance of complications and adverse side effects by consulting with a healthcare professional before undergoing treatment.