best ingredients for sagging skin

Topical anti-aging ingredients have come a long way in the last few years and go beyond repairing the odd fine line and wrinkle. Although sagging skin remains a challenge, this can also be helped with actives that have been specially designed to help with the retention of firmness. While their effects take patience, regular use may prevent you from wishing that there was scaffolding for the face. Here’s a roundup of ingredients to help sagging skin that you can keep a lookout for.

Trifluoroacetyl tripeptide-2

This is a new peptide, and so I was pretty excited to learn of it. Known as TT2, this peptide can reduce “sagging and slacking” as well as improve firmness and elasticity, according to a study conducted for Lucas Meyer Cosmetics (the manufacturer). TT2 works by inhibiting elastase (an enzyme that attacks structural proteins) and reducing progerin (a protein responsible for cell death) production. I am not aware of it in many products yet, but if sagging eyelids and under-eyes are your concern, you can find it in E'shee Clinical Esthetic Alpha and Omega Gene Therapy Eye Cream ($284 in the shop).

Acetyl tetrapeptide-2

There isn’t much research published on acetyl tetrapeptide-2, but what I know about it is that it mimics the hormone thymopoietin. This hormone diminishes as we grow older and results in a slower regeneration of cells. Acetyl Tetrapeptide-2 seems to compensate for the loss of thymopoietin by boosting the skin’s immune defenses and stimulating the growth and differentiation of keratinocytes. Result (at least, in theory): firmer skin. I get my dose of this peptide from Osmotics Blue Copper Prime ($135).

Copper peptides

Although this peptide hasn’t specifically been developed for sagging, the elastin and collagen boosting properties of copper peptides make it a great anti-aging ingredient that fades wrinkles and firms the skin. There are many studies, such as one conducted in Korea, that demonstrated that copper encouraged collagen synthesis. A 2002 study on 20 women showed that it increased collagen in 70% of those treated with copper, compared to 50% for vitamin C and 40% for retinoic acid. You can find copper peptides in these skin firming serums: Bénir Beauty BV-9 Platinum Bee Venom Cream ($136 in the shop), Kenneth Mark MD Antioxidant Hydrating Cream  ($120) and Medik8 Firewall ($145 in the shop).

Red LED light and ultrasound

I was very excited when I read that combining copper peptides with red LED lights has been shown to increase collagen production by fibroblasts. LED works by targeting water layers on elastin. Ultrasound is incomparable, in my experience, at firming the skin – the ultrasonic waves pass through the skin and cause a vibration of the surrounding tissues, particularly those that contain collagen. The two technologies are combined in the Truth Vitality Lux Renew ($279 in the shop) at-home anti-aging device.


ChroNoline is a relatively new peptide, but it has already become a standard bearer for skin firming. It works by protecting our laminins, proteins that keep the epidermis adhered to the dermis – which sounds pretty critical to me. The skin’s scaffolding is effectively the basement membrane structure and keeping it going helps against sagging. ChroNoline is a tetrapeptide – Caprooyl tetrapeptide-3 and you can find it in La Vie Celeste Extra Rich Cream ($75 in the shop) and Prana Precious Fluids ($135).


Don’t even think about trying to pronounce Syn-Hycan’s real name, but do look out for it. Tetradecyl aminobutyroylvalylaminobutyric urea trifluoroacetate is a tripeptide that is aimed at lifting sagging skin. It stimulates hyaluronan (HA) synthesis and expression of the proteoglycans, decorin and lumican. The company that makes it tested it on women aged 56 to 65 years with loose skin on face and forearms and claims a significant decrease in sagging and double chins.

I first came across it as Syn-Hycan in Osmotics Nécolleté ($63), for neck and décolleté, and more recently Your Best Face Control ($160 in the shop), which has been newly formulated with another interesting elasticity improving ingredients mentioned below. So far, I haven’t come across it in anything else that looks promising (if anyone has, do let me know).


Essenskin is mostly calcium and essential amino acids (the full combo is pentylene glycol, polysorbate-20, 3-aminopropane sulfonic acid, calcium hydroxymethionine and hydroxyethylcellulose). Sederma claims it will reboost cell metabolism and protect cells from osmotic shock. There are results from a two-month clinical study (conducted by Sederma, so not independently verified) on 29 women with an average of 60 and mature skin and sagging necklines using a cream with 2.5% concentration of Essenskin. The company claims skin density increased by 68% while firmness and elasticity increased by 80%.You can find it in a neck cream by Isomers ($34.99), Hydroxatone ($80) and in Osmotics Nécolleté ($63).


Another intimidating sounding peptide: acetylarginyltryptophyl diphenylglycine. This is actually a tripeptide that inhibits elastase activity and boosts collagen 1 synthesis. It has also been designed to treat sagginess and restore firmness to the skin. I haven’t found any independent studies, but the manufacturer claims that women around the age of 49 saw a 14% improvement in overall elasticity within 8 weeks. Relistase is in Your Best Face Control ($160 in the shop) and Your Best Face Prep ($80 in the shop).

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP)

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the main energy source for the majority of cellular – and muscular – functions. This includes the synthesis of DNA. Living things use ATP like a battery – storing and using energy when needed and, it seems, in complex ways (a sprinter will use ATP very differently from a marathon runner). Theory has it that microcurrent treatments work by improving the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the chemical in muscles that provides energy. Hence firming the skin. Products with ATP include Skin Nutrition Cell CPR ($150) and M.A.D Age Corrective Serum ($60)

Matrixyl 3000

Tried and true, M 3000 still seems to be one of the most reliably potent peptides available. It is made from two peptides: palmitoyl-tripeptide and palmitoyl-oligopeptide. The company that owns the patent has conducted research on two panels of 23 volunteers aged from 39 to 74 to demonstrate that Matrixyl 3000 is more effective than the original Matrixyl at regulating skin cell activity. The data is limited, however, and uncorroborated. Nonetheless, anecdotal evidence (including my own experience) suggests collagen boosting is what it is all about. Find Matrixyl 3000 in BRAD Biophotonic Ultra Elastin Lift ($210 in the shop) and Sciote Peptide + Defense Firming Youth Serum ($98 in the shop).

Marta Wohrle is an anti-aging skin care and beauty expert and the founder/CEO of Truth In Aging. Marta is dedicated to uncovering the truth behind anti-aging product claims.