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palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 (Matrixyl), a gentler wrinkle cure candidate.


Palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 (Matrixyl) is a new skin rejuvenation compound developed by the corporations Sederma SA and Proctor & Gamble. Lately, it has generated a lot of media buzz and has been included under the trademark Matrixyl in a variety of skin care formulas on the market.

The proponents claim that palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 is at least as effective against wrinkles as retinol but does not cause skin irritation, which is a common side-effect of retinoids.

So, is there any science under the hype? Chemically speaking, palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 (Pal-KTTKS) is a relatively small molecule. It consists of five amino acids linked together and attached to a fatty acid to enhance oil solubility for the sake of better skin penetration. It is structurally related to the precursor of collagen type I (a.k.a. procollagen type I). Researchers found that when added to the culture of fibroblasts (the key skin cells), palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 stimulated the synthesis of the key constituents of the skin matrix: collagen, elastin and glucosamnoglycans. How exactly palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 did that remains unclear, although a number of theories exist.

Unfortunately, the ability to improve the productivity of skin cells in the test tube, does not always translate into an effective anti aging treatment. Less than one in ten promising test tube discoveries ever becomes an established therapy. Clinical studies of palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 do exist but all of them (to my knowledge as of the day of this writing) have been conducted or sponsored by the manufacturers (Sedema and Proctor & Gamble). This does not necessarily make the studies biased, but potential conflict of interests is always a red flag. Unfortunately, this situation is typical. Early studies of patented chemicals are almost always sponsored by manufacturers. It usually takes a long time before completely independent research is conducted.

So far, clinical data are encouraging. One study demonstrated that palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 was as effective as retinol in repairing sun-damaged skin but was devoid of side-effects. Most other studies showed at least some improvement in various objective and subjective measures of wrinkles. No side effects have been reported.

Unfortunately, the clinical data is still too skimpy to view palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 as a proven anti-wrinkle treatment at this time. So, should you wait? Or is palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 worth a try today? There is no universal answer to this question. If your skin care budget is tight, you may not want to spend your hard earned cash on "perhaps-effective" products. On the other hand, if you have cash to burn and/or other alternatives didn't work, palmitoyl pentapeptide-3, with its good safety profile, may be worth a try. palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 may also be considered as a nonirritating fall back option for people who develop skin irritation in response to retinoids or alpha-hydroxy acids.

If you decide to try palmitoyl pentapeptide-3, keep in mind that its concentration in a product should be sufficiently high (e.g. matching the levels used in the clinical studies). There is a large price variation between different palmitoyl pentapeptide-3 products, although none are dirt-cheap. However, the price does not always reflect the concentration of the active ingredient. It may reflect prestige of the brand, advertising overhead, sophistication of packaging and so forth. Be wise. Make sure you are paying a fair price per until of the pentapeptide.

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