Acetyl hexapeptide-8

Straight from the lab, this synthetic ingredient works to decrease deep wrinkles.

Written by
Ruby Feneley
Medically reviewed by
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Smile lines, furrows in our brows, and crinkles around our eyes. They're all signs of a life well lived, but that doesn't mean we're totally obsessed with them.

While we may as well accept wrinkles as a tax on all the good times, as we age it's natural to turn to quick-fix solutions like Botox. But, botox comes with a sharp needle and an even more painful price tag. Wouldn't it be better if there was another way?

Well, there kind of is, and it's hiding in your skincare products.

In recent years, research-backed skincare ingredients called peptides have been trending in cosmetic formulations (and on TikTok). They promise similar benefits to Botox, for a fraction of the price and none of the pain.

Peptides have been found to give skin a firmer appearance, help with expression lines and even boost the efficacy of other skincare ingredients [1][2].

There are a range of peptides, and while they function similarly, each one helps skin look and feel younger in a slightly different way.

One of the most exciting peptides on the market is acetyl hexapeptide-8, sometimes referred to as acetyl hexapeptide-3 or simply acetyl hexapeptide.

Acetyl hexapeptide is an anti-ageing peptide with serious skin-restoring abilities. Straight from the lab, it's a synthetic ingredient that promises to decrease deep wrinkles.

In essence? While it won't iron out imperfections and wrinkles quite as fast as the jab of a needle, its liner buffering properties offer a lot to get excited about.

We loved the sound of it and wanted to know more — and we thought you might, too. So, we took a deep dive, bringing you everything you need to know about this magic ingredient.

What are peptides?

There's little point getting down and dirty with acetyl hexapeptide peptide if you're still a little lost on... peptides. You can read more about them in our guide to peptides, but we'll provide a quick summary.

Peptides occur naturally in the skin.

They're protein fragments made of amino acid chains, specific combination of which form specific peptides.

When these peptides interact, they form larger proteins like collagen and elastin. These larger proteins are commonly referred to as the building blocks of the skin; a healthy, youthful-looking complexion is nothing without them [3].

Peptides are also known for their role in intracellular communication.

They interact with our natural physiological processes, impacting skin responses to stress and inflammation. They can help with everything from fine lines to blocking neurotransmitters that lead to skin sensitivity [4].

Unsurprisingly, scientists and dermatologists have picked up on the usefulness of these biologically occurring wonders and, in a win for skin-havers everywhere, have developed tailored synthetic versions for inclusion in cosmetic products.

Four peptides are commonly used in skincare products, each performing a slightly different function. 

These are the members of the peptide family:

  1. Carrier peptides: These are often called copper peptides. They work to deliver copper to certain enzymes critical to collagen, elastin and wound healing.
  2. Signal peptide: Signal peptides prevent ageing by reminding skin fibroblasts to wake up and get busy, resulting in more collagen and elastin.
  3. Neurotransmitter peptide: These peptides block communication between the skin and the brain, which causes muscle contractions.
  4. Enzyme inhibitor peptide: These peptides inhibit the behaviour of enzymes that degrade collagen as we age.

These peptides all play different roles; they can assist with anything from hyperpigmentation to smoothing expression lines and boost the efficacy of other skincare ingredients, helping them penetrate the skin's surface layers more easily [5].

What is acetyl hexapeptide?

Acetyl hexapeptide or hexapeptide 8 is a neurotransmitter-inhibiting peptide.

As a neurotransmitter-inhibiting peptide, acetyl hexapeptide works by blocking the messages from the brain that cause muscles to contract as we talk, laugh and smile and form deep wrinkles over time.

What are the skin benefits of acetyl hexapeptide-8?

Acetyl hexapeptide-8 is good for your skin in many ways:

It's a muscle relaxant

Acetyl hexapeptide-8 is considered a "neuro cosmetic", part of a class of ingredients that work with the skin-brain connection to provide preventative and immediate anti-ageing results.

Generally, you'll find acetyl hexapeptide in anti-wrinkle products — targeting the creases that form around the eyes and mouth.

We are all familiar with these cracks and crevices called "dynamic lines" because they're caused by repeated facial expressions like laughing, smiling, and frowning. Like all peptides, acetyl hexapeptide works below the skin's surface layers to deliver its anti-ageing magic.

Hexapeptide-8 is often compared to botox because it smooths expression lines, just like the anti-wrinkle injection [6].

This results in a fresher-looking complexion over time, making it an essential anti-ageing step in your skincare routine. But while acetyl hexapeptide is primarily known for its wrinkle-busting benefits, the blessings bestowed by this synthetic hexapeptide don't stop there.

Hexapapeptide-8 has other skin-restoring properties and helps support the skin's collagen, improving the overall health of your skin.

It boosts skin moisture

Amino acids are often referred to as natural moisturising factors and comprise peptides.

This means hexapeptide-8 has naturally water binding properties and will play a role in maintaining surface-level skin hydration. Amino acids also improve cellular repair and decrease skin irritation [7].

These benefits are increased when peptides and amino acids are combined with other ingredients with water-binding abilities, like hyaluronic acid, a molecule that binds 1000 times its weight in water [8].

A peptide like hexapeptide-8 will help an ingredient like hyaluronic acid, which typically sits on the skin's surface, penetrate more deeply. 

In a study of 52 women, treatment with hyaluronic acid combined with acetyl hexapeptide significantly outperformed treatment with hyaluronic acid alone [9].

It helps support the skin's collagen

While hexapeptide-8 is best known for its muscle-freezing abilities, it also helps preserve and boost skin collagen.

The peptide has been shown to improve skin tissue, increasing the production of collagen fibres and boosting skin strength and elasticity [10][11]. This means that while the peptide inhibits the formation of new wrinkles, it also improves your overall skin health.

Is hexapeptide-8 suitable for all skin types?

The pharmaceutical sciences are known for being thorough, and exciting new ingredients tend to be investigated thoroughly.

Across the literature, hexapeptide-8 is non-irritating for all skin types [12].

But, if your complexion frequently reacts to skincare products, it's best to patch test anything new. All skincare products are made up of a combination of ingredients, and any one of them could cause skin irritation.

Is acetyl hexapeptide-8 safe?

Because peptides penetrate the skin on a deeper level, stimulating activity within skin cells, they have been thoroughly researched to ensure their interaction is limited to its surface.

In a report commissioned by Cutaneous and Ocular Toxicology, hexapeptide-8 was deemed safe for use and only found on layers of the skin where they could positively impact skin health and appearance [13].

How to incorporate acetyl hexapeptide-8 into your skincare routine

If you've read this far, you're probably wondering how to incorporate hexapeptide-8 into your skincare routine. It's important to remember that formulation matters when introducing a new ingredient.

A fantastic ingredient can be less effective if formulated improperly or included in an inappropriate product.

Given that hexapeptide-8 targets the deeper layers of the skin, it makes sense to find it in serum formulas. This is because they have a thinner consistency, making them more easily absorbed by the skin and allowing for the greatest penetration of your skincare actives.

You can then follow with protective moisturisers, hydrating oils at night, and sun protection during the day. There's no point freezing those fine lines if you're generating more by soaking up UVA and UVB rays throughout the day.

You will often find this peptide in skincare products designed to target the eye area, crow's feet or nasolabial fold region.

To address creases around your under eyes, look for acetyl hexapeptide in products formulated specifically for that area.

Creators of these products have followed specific formulary steps to ensure they have a low enough molecular weight to penetrate the delicate under-eye region, where the skin is significantly thinner than on the rest of our faces.

Finding an eye serum or lightweight emulsion will ensure any formula containing the peptide properly absorbs and that the peptide is accompanied by other actives designed for the under-eye region.

We might be a little biased, but Software's Multi-Peptide Eye Serum is an exemplary formula.

It combines hexapeptide-8 with:

  • Brightening nonapeptide-1
  • Hydrating avocado extract
  • Gucus vesiculosus (or algae) extract to soothe irritation
  • Plumping hyaluronic acid and glycerin to immediate smooth fine lines

Like the best eye treatment products, it provides instant hydrating and plumping benefits, while setting your under eye area up for long term youthfulness.

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