Think of peptides as the project managers of your skin; from sending messages to produce more collagen to encouraging hydration, peptides tell your skin what to do. Here are the ones to know

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If you’re prone to scrutinising skincare packaging,  peptides  are something you’ll see cropping up time and time again but are maybe unsure exactly what it is that they do. That’s because there are dozens of peptides out there, all with different powers. “Peptides are short chains of amino acids,” explains consultant dermatologist Dr Thivi Maruthappu. “They are the building blocks for making proteins in our skin such as collagen, elastin and keratin.” Peptides can also control factors that contribute to skin tone, sensitivity and hormonal activity such as breakouts.

“Each peptide is designed to communicate a different skincare task such as improving skin colour, hydration, firming skin or making new fibroblasts,” adds Paula Begoun of skincare range Paula’s Choice. In a nutshell, peptides are messengers to tell your skin to do things, so depending on your skincare needs there are different peptides to go for.

Example of peptides include collagen accelerators matrixyl, used by both No7 and The Ordinary, and copper PCA which is commonly used in anti-ageing products. Brands often have their own complex blends of peptides made especially for them, such as Drunk Elephant's signal peptide complex, which combines nine peptides and Elemis' Peptide4, which is made up of four amino acids to help support the skin's processes for a revitalised and replenished appearance.

If plump skin is on your wish list, you’ll be interested to know that this month sees the launch of Olay’s new Collagen Peptide24 range, comprising of  Olay Regenerist Collagen Peptide 24 Day Cream , £17.49,  Olay Regenerist Collagen Peptide 24 Day Serum , £17.49 and  Olay Regenerist Collagen Peptide 24 Eye Cream , £17.49, all utilising the power of palmitoyl pentapeptide, a fragment of pro-collagen I (type one  collagen  is the sort the found in skin) which tells your skin to produce more collagen. “Collagen itself is a large molecule (with over 1000 amino acids!) and can’t be absorbed directly through the skin, but palmitoyl pentapeptide is much smaller and can penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin, where it stimulates our own collagen production,” explains Dr Thivi.

Here are the best peptide serums to try, for all of your skincare needs.

The best peptide for glowing skin:  Olay Regenerist Collagen Peptide 24 Day Serum, £17.49

Launching today with a special half-price launch price (normally £34.99), this fragrance-free serum blends skin-strengthening niacinamide with collagen peptide palmitoyl pentapeptide to target deep into the skin layers to boost hydration resulting in a healthy, plump, glowing complexion.

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The best peptide cream for thinning skin: Lumene Nordic Ageless [Ajaton] Radiant Youth Night Cream, £42.90 for 50ml

As we age our skin can become thinner and more prone to sensitivity. This rich pale pink cream from Nordic brand Lumene has been developed to support the rejuvenation process overnight with a blend of Nordic superfoods such as cloudberries and lingonberries along with copper peptides to smooth the appearance of wrinkles for firmer-looking skin.

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The best peptide cream for dark spots:  Sisley Phyto Blanc La Lotion, £113 for 125ml

This delicate lotion is to be used as the second step in skincare (like a serum) to prepare skin for the following steps and make them work more effectively. It uses pea peptide extract to lessen the production of melanin to brighten the skin and reduce dark spots.

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The best peptide cream for the neck:  Dermalogica Neck Fit Contour Serum,£75 for 50ml

Don’t leave your neck out of the peptide benefits! This brand new roll-on serum tightens and tones the skin for a visible lift to the sometimes sagging area. Peptide palmitoyl tripeptide-42 delivers retinol-like results to visibly smooth, tone and firm the skin on your neck which has really been suffering this past year thanks to our constant looking down at screens, resulting in ‘tech-neck’.

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The best peptide cream for eyes:  Trinny London BFF Eye, £26

Combining eye serum with concealer in one handy tube, this clever hybrid depuffs as you apply thanks to a cooling metal applicator. It comes in 12 shades and contains a duo peptide complex to help firm and tone while boosting microcirculation under the eye to reduce red and blue undertones.

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The best peptide serum for skin barrier strengthening:  Venn Age-Response Compound K Hyaluronic Booster, £115 for 30ml

This Korean/LA brand not only looks slick on your bathroom shelf but works hard too, soothing inflammation, strengthening skin and visibly reducing the appearance of wrinkles, pores, and discolouration. The peptide it includes is nicotinoyl dipeptide-22, which hydrates and softens the skin and is created by combining a peptide chain with  niacinamide , which we all know has impressive barrier strengthening powers.

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The best peptide cream for hydration:  Institut Esthederm Propolis + Cream, £42 for 50ml

This lightweight moisturiser is enriched with ferulic acid (to reduce the effects of damaging free radicals on the skin) and includes acetyl hexapeptide-8, a synthetically made peptide with water-binding properties to keep skin hydrated. The cream glides onto the skin, mattifying as well as hydrating, making it a great last step before makeup.

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The best peptide night cream:  No7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Night Cream, £25 for 50ml

This is one of the more affordable peptide creams we've tried but it's no less powerful. It includes anti-wrinkle peptide matrixyl 3000+, along with retinyl palmitate to support the renewal process of the skin, while still being mild enough for gentle skin.

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The best peptide cream for wrinkles:  Kate Somerville Peptide K8 Power Cream, £127 for 30ml

Kate Somerville’s peptide offering will set you back a pretty penny, but works very hard to diminish the visible depth of wrinkles. It includes copper PCA peptides, which provide defence against premature skin ageing and palmitoyl oligopeptide which stimulates collagen and elastin.

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The best peptide serum for fine lines:  Wildsmith Active Repair Copper Peptide Serum, £95 for 30ml

Wildsmith’s Active Repair Copper range has both a rich cream,  Active Repair Copper Peptide Cream,  £100, and a serum in the collection, but it’s this serum that really piques our interest. It combines the powerful anti-ageing copper peptide, to help reinvigorate skin cells and boost collagen and elastin production, with Kahai oil which reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It has a pleasing herbal fragrance which makes this a joy to use too. It has good eco credentials too; Wildsmith does run a Return and Recycle programme where a postage sticker is included with all orders so that customers can return their empty packaging so it can be recycled using the most responsible methods possible.

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The best peptide serum for soothing irritation:  Davisage Face Serum Intense

, £40 for 30ml

Another serum with the popular copper peptide in, this helps heal the skin, calm an irritated complexion, reduce spots and lessen hyperpigmentation, all in one little blue formula.

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The best peptide cream for skin rejuvenation:  Paula’s Choice Clinical 1% Retinol Treatment with Peptides, £53 for 30ml

A glimpse at the ingredient list of this purple tube reveals that the kitchen sink has been thrown at skin rejuvenation. There’s the relatively high vitamin A content (build up to this with milder concentrations if your have sensitive skin or are a retinol newbie), plus vitamin C, a spade of antioxidants, soothing oat extract to minimise the likeliness of retinol induced redness and reactions, hydrating agents and of course the peptide count- a blend of three different peptide molecules. The back of the hygienically sealed bottle reads like a novel, but there’s no doubt it’s seriously results-driven. Use once a week max at first and see how you get on- this is one case when a daily dose would be overkill.

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The best budget peptide serum:  The Ordinary Buffet, £12.50 for 30ml

Peptide skincare tends to be fairly pricey (a lot of science goes into it, after all) but this serum bucks the trend. It includes matrixyl 3000 (sounds like a spaceship, is in fact just a very decent collagen accelerator), plus numerous other peptides, this silky serum gets cells chatting to each other in a healthy way (actual pep talk) while bolstering moisture care of glycerin and sodium hyaluronate. A budget but brilliant everyday option.

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The best firming peptide essence:  Sunday Riley Pink Drink Firming and Resurfacing Essence, £42 for 50ml

This pretty pink spritz is like a health drink for your skin; scented with watermelon and rose a spray of this provides much more than hydration (though it does that too). In has firming peptides Acetyl Tetrapeptide-9 and Acetyl Tetrapeptide-11 in the mix to gently resurface the skin and help it look firmer, while ingredients including fermented honey, pink yeast filtrate, chlorella and kelp act as prebiotics to support and balance the skin’s natural microbiome. This refreshing spritz can be used morning and night, before serums, oils, and moisturiser.

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The best peptide for sensitive skin:  QMS Medicosmetics Night Collagen Sensitive, £73 for 30ml

Collagen stimulating peptide Matrixyl 3000 and hyaluronic acid come together in this restorative serum that improves tone and reduces the appearance of fine lines, working overnight when your skin does the majority of its regenerating.

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The best peptide cream for reviving skin:  Drunk Elephant Protini Polypeptide Cream, £57 for 50ml

Think of this rich cream as a protein shot for your post-workout shake; it replenishes the skin to get it back to a strong, healthy state thanks to the signal peptide complex, which is made of nine peptides (including palmitoyl tripeptide-1 to repair damage and collagen-boosting copper palmitoyl heptapeptide-14), which work together to bind moisture to the skin for a plump bounciness.

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Best overnight peptide cream:  Elemis Peptide4 Plumping Pillow Facial, £52 for 50ml

Applying this ultra-rich cream feels akin to sinking your head onto a super-soft down pillow. It has a dreamy scent of ylang-ylang and sweet orange to ease you into slumber while the Peptide4 formula gets to work.

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Best peptide cream for dehydrated skin:  The Inkey List Peptide Moisturiser, £14.99 for 50ml

The Inkey List can always be relied upon to create purse-friendly products that perform and this cell renewal promoting cream is no different, offering increased collagen production with a non-scary price tag. Acetyl Hexapeptide-37 is the peptide responsible for the firming powers of this easily absorbed cream; it works in the surface level of the skin to make sure hydration is balanced between the layers which stops dehydration in its tracks.

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MORE GLOSS: Why your skin desperately needs ceramides (possibly more than retinol)