I am typically wary of brands that stray too far outside their core competency. Actresses have no business venturing into singing, just as fashion houses don’t belong in the world of cosmetics. Take Chanel, for instance. Though I have long been an admirer of Chanel’s fashion and makeup, I was utterly underwhelmed by the brand’s attempt at skin care - Sublimage Essential Regenerating Cream (at $350 for 1.7 oz). Beautisol is one of the rare exceptions to this rule.

Beautisol started as a sunless tanning company just last year. The line was founded by Sinead Norenius, a licensed aesthetician with a background as Director of Education for St. Tropez Tan and author of a blog about all things sunless. Up until recently, the only products in the line were self-tanning lotions of varying shades and exfoliators to prep the skin for a smooth tan. Forever on a mission for an authentic-looking glow to return me to my Florida roots, I tried out Beautisol’s All-Seasons Glow, a gradual tanning lotion. It has become my new favorite for getting a paraben-free, funky odor-free, natural tan. But when I saw that Beautisol was attempting to break into the anti-aging category, I grumbled that self-tanning expertise does not lend itself to an understanding of effective skin care.

After my three week trial, I stand corrected. It seems that the secret to making such a leap is to start small so that there is plenty of space for fine-tuning. Beautisol added just three products to its anti-aging line-up, which includes Eye Want cream, Bright Eyed mousse, and 99% Pure Peptide serum. While the eye products look promising with their mix of peptides, antioxidants, and nourishing oils, my curiosity was mostly piqued by the 99% Pure Peptide serum. Claimed to be the newest and most advanced anti-aging and sun damage reversal product on the market, this serum certainly has its marketing pitch down. Does it pack a big enough punch to justify its $120 price tag?

For starters, it contains the most cutting-edge peptides available, and the most I’ve seen in a single product - eight in all. As a bit of background on peptides, the skin is composed mostly of collagen, which contains long chains of amino acids strung together. Short segments of three to five amino acids are what make up peptides, and these active molecules aid in communication within the cells. Topical peptides were engineered to regulate skin functions that have deteriorated with age, thus restoring youthful cellular communication. Clinical trials both in vitro lab tests and with human subjects have born out the theory that they work, though some synthetic peptides have been more empirically proven than others.

So now you know what all the fuss is about when peptides are put into a skincare product. Beautisol’s serum boasts the same peptides present in YNS Medspa Intensive Peptide Complex Radiance, except there are many more of them. A few of the peptides are so uncommon that they didn’t even make an appearance in Marta’s cosmetic peptides round-up. The first one, hexapeptide-11 (under the trade name Peptamide 6), which makes up 24% of the total 99% peptide content in the serum, is said to have firming, brightening, and protective properties. At 20%, Matrixyl 3000, a mash-up of palmitoyl-tripeptide and palmitoyl-oligopeptide, works by stimulating the matrix molecules in the skin. As one of the most reliably potent peptides available in cosmetics, Matrixyl 3000 demonstrated a 33% decrease in wrinkle density and 20% decrease in depth in clinical trials. It tied with Syn-tacks for a slot on our Five Best anti-aging ingredients list.

Next up, at 15% of the total 99%, is palmitoyl tripeptide-5 (SYN-COLL), otherwise known as synthetic collagen. In vitro studies showed SYN-COLL to increase collagen synthesis by 119%, and an 84-day study by Pentapharm found that it significantly reduced irregularities and wrinkle depth. Acetyl Hexapeptide-3 (Argireline) works through neuro-transmitters to relax facial muscles from contracting, which is ultimately what causes wrinkles. Leuphasyl and SNAP-8, each accounting for 10% of the peptide content, are known to deter the degeneration of collagen and elastin, as well as lessen the appearance of wrinkles.

The final two peptides each come in at 5%. Nonapeptide-1 (Melanostatin-5) is a rather new skin lightening peptide that blocks the hormone which signals the production of melanin, thus preventing and lightening pigmentation. It is being reviewed as a hydroquinone alternative. Lastly, Aldenine, a combination of tripeptide-1, soy and wheat proteins, and xanthan gum, detoxifies cells by scavenging free radicals and protects collagen. The concentrations of the peptides are important, and each percentage in the 99% Pure Peptide Serum exceeds the minimum amount required for effective results.

Despite my initial misgivings about getting anti-aging care from a sunless tanning company, I couldn’t be more pleased with Beautisol’s serum. A great deal of thought clearly went into developing this formula. Each peptide serves an important purpose in the battle against premature aging and wrinkling and their cumulative effect is remarkable. After three weeks of testing the serum, my complexion looks smoother, my skin plumper, and my fine lines less noticeable. It is quite hydrating as far as serums go and plays nicely with my moisturizer and makeup. Beautisol, I owe you an apology for being a Scrooge.

Ingredients in 99% Pure Peptide Serum: Aqua (Water), Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Hexapeptide-11, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-5, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Pentapeptide-18, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Acetyl Octapeptide-3, Tripeptide-1, Nonapeptide-1, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Sodium Hyaluronate (L), Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus (Lemongrass) Oil*, PEG/PPG-20/15 Dimethicone, Carbomer, Polysorbate 20, Caprylyl Glycol, Dextran, Xanthan Gum