Defenage Products: Full Review

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. The company sent these products to me for free for review purposes. All opinions are my own and represent my honest assessment of the product. I am not a health care professional. Please keep in mind that everyone’s skin is different, so you may have a different experience.

Quick Bottom Line:

These products are designed to reverse visible and textured skin aging and promote younger acting skin. The company describes the line in three words: “Simple. Regenerative. Effective” and honestly, I couldn’t agree more. Unlike other products that may temporarily plump the skin to give the appearance of younger looking skin while you are using them, these products (specifically the BioSerum with its high concentration of defensins) lead to the production of new keratinocytes (and eventually new skin) that lasts a lifetime. Bottom line, after using these products my skin has never looked better.

What makes these products unique?

In short… defensins. Defensins are a fourth-generation type of stem cell skincare.  The products don’t have stems cells in the ingredient list; instead, it has synthetically produced messenger peptides (defensins) to target dormant LGR 6+ stem cells located in our hair follicles to wake up and create young healthy cells. When the old cells are exfoliated off, the young cells migrate to the surface revealing skin that looks brighter, smoother, more youthful and with less obvious lines and wrinkles.

What are Defensins?

  • LGR 6+ stem cells are involved in repairing the epidermis. They are the skin’s “Master Stem Cells” (Snippert et al. ,2010).
    • These cells produce all of our skin during development and they are preserved in the hair follicle where they lay dormant unless activated during wound healing. Because they are largely dormant, they are less likely to have acquired mutations, environmental damage, UV damage, etc. In other words, they are “Fresher” (Campisi et al., 2007).
    • When the skin is wounded, these LGR 6+ cells are activated by defensins, and they create new basal stem cells which fill in the wound with “fresh” keratinocytes (Lough et al., 2013). These keratinocytes migrate to the top, to form the skin’s barrier, protecting the skin against external aggression, preventing moisture loss and ensuring optimal skin health.
    • The paper by Lough et al. (2013) led Dr. Nikolay Turovets, a stem cell scientist and founder of MediCell Technologies, to look at defensins as an anti-aging skincare product. Dr. Turovets discovered that these molecules can turn on very specific “sleeping” stem cells to make new skin when defensins are present.
  • The peptide Alpha-defensin 5 communicates specifically with skin’s Master Stem Cells (LGR6+ ) which lead to the proliferation of new “fresh” skin cells.
  • Beta-defensin 3 peptides help to form “tight junctions” between the epidermal cells which helps to significantly improve skin barrier functions.
    • Something that is different about the order of application between the cream and the serum is that the “serum” needs to be applied last because the serum has a much larger concentration of beta-defensins 3. These peptides  form a “tight junction” on the skin that will inhibit the penetration of anything you apply on top of it.

What is the evidence to back this up?

Feel free to gloss over these details, but I think it deserves mentioning because in my career as a social scientist I design and conduct experimental studies, so I really appreciate it when I see a rigorous study design. A lot of skin care products either don’t conduct rigorous tests of their products, or they don’t register it as a clinical trial (which removes the transparency of the results). So I applaud the company for how they have tested the efficacy of these products.

After promising results from open-label and double-blinded 6-week pilot studies (N=22, average age 56), the product was tested in a rigorous clinical study.

  • Design: Multi-center, double-blinded, vehicle-controlled, IRB-approved study
    • Double-blinded: What this means is that neither the participant nor the researchers knew whether they had been given the actual product with defensins or the same product without.
    • Vehicle-controlled: This is saying that the product was compared to another product (rather than being compared to people who didn’t use any skincare products or where there is no comparison group and they are just compared to themselves at the start of the trial). For this study people were randomly assigned to either receive the actual product or they were assigned to the control group and they received the exact same product, in the same packaging, except it did not contain the active ingredient of defensins. Both groups were given the same cleanser and SPF to use along with the 3 products.
  • Time points: 6 weeks, 12 weeks
  • Participants: 45 participants all female, average age of 60 (note the older age), 1/3 assigned to placebo and 2/3 to full formula.
    • One thing to note is that in order to have a comparable baseline sample, all of the participants were skincare virgins (they were not currently routinely using any skin care products with anti-aging ingredients). This is probably why they had more impressive results at 6 weeks than my mom or me.
  • What they found:
    • Thicker epidermis: Generally speaking, when you thicken the epidermis it’s going to be less transparent, so you’re going to have a brighter reflection on it. It’s also going to retain more water.
      • They also didn’t see any signs of inflammation or signs of proliferation cells.
    • At 12 weeks, they found an improvement in appearance of pores (p<.0001), superficial wrinkles (p<.0001), deep wrinkles (p<.0001), skin oiliness (p<.01), skin evenness (p=.002), and reduced melanin (p=.002). There was also significantly less trans epidermal water loss (p=.02).
    • No differences in skin’s hydration or skin’s elasticity.

Ok so on to OUR results…

First: How did we use it?

  • Note: I asked my mom to use the products as well so that I could get the perspective of someone with more mature skin (she also has dry skin whereas I have oily/combo and acne-prone skin so it was good to have that comparison as well).
  • My mom and I have been using the products for 3 months. For the first 10 days, we exclusively used these products (I have a review posted on IG).
  • After that first 10 days, we used two pumps of each morning and night for 3 weeks (I only used the reveal masque two more times during those 6 weeks, which I’ll talk more about later). At the end of week 3, we went down to 1 pump of each (morning and night) and I only used the barrier cream on the left side of the face and the serum on my entire face (I wanted to test if the right side of my face would look worse without the barrier cream). I didn’t notice a difference between the right and left side after those 3 weeks, but it isn’t a perfect assessment (I wish I had done that for the full 6 weeks, but sadly I can’t go back in time :-))
  • For the 7 weeks I had really streamlined routines.  All I tended to incorporate was Vit C in the morning, copper tripeptide-1 at night, acid exfoliation 3 times a week, and I would use an additional serum or oil every so often. My mom almost exclusively used the Defenage products. For the initial 6 weeks, there were only 2 days that my mom and I didn’t use the products (it felt a little bit like Groundhog Day [the movie], to be honest!). Now I still use the cream and serum (especially the serum) almost every day.
  • You are able to use retinol with these products. For the last 4 weeks of testing, I incorporated retinol once a week. (I normally use some form of retinol 3-4 times a week, but I pulled back while I was testing these out. I really tried to do as minimal routines as possible to really focus on the Defenage products).

Summary of our results

My mom and I both found that consistent, long term use resulted in a noticeable improvement in how our skin looked and felt.

Below are some things that we saw by week 7: 

  • Reduction in appearance of pores (this happened closer to week 6)
  • Reduction in overall redness (this happened closer to week 6. Although I did notice quicker healing of red post-acne spots which I talked about in my one-week review)
  • Skin felt thicker/firmer and bouncier
  • Our skin felt less sensitized and it felt balanced (tough to put into words, but it was less reactive, didn’t have flakes, didn’t flush as easily)
  • Our skin felt hydrated, moisturized, and plump and that it didn’t need a lot of products (in fact, I didn’t feel like I needed a separate hyaluronic acid serum and I didn’t use one the entire testing period)
  • Overall brightness or glow to skin (love this effect–this definitely appeared over time, and wasn’t an overnight effect)
  • Improved texture and tone.
  • My mom had some lightening of some of her larger dark spots.  I have a couple brown pigmentation spots above my lip that didn’t noticeably fade (but those are my most stubborn spots that I am currently trying to target with L-Ascorbic Acid).
  • We both also found that we had received a lot of compliments on our skin (This is always a lovely way to get feedback that something you are doing is working!)
  • In terms deep wrinkles, I think that the jury is still out. But at 6 weeks my mom had some really promising results though. Specifically, the deeper lines around her mouth and her expression lines on her forehead had softened.

Below are some things that I noticed after 10 weeks:

  • At 6 weeks I didn’t see a reduction in the parentheses around my mouth and the tiny lines at the corner of my lips (which is what I was really hoping this would help with), but I am now nearing week 12 and the lines around my mouth don’t bug me as much, so I will take that as a sign that it is working (usually I put on my makeup and immediately get annoyed at the parentheses around my mouth, but now the parentheses don’t seem as deep and the makeup doesn’t settle in them as easily).  The tiny little lines at the very corners of my mouths haven’t improved, but I’m happy that the parentheses have.

Any breakouts from the products?

  • Not only did these products not cause any breakouts for either of us, I had fewer breakouts than I have experienced in a long time. I was very surprised that when I was highly stressed during my move, my skin still looked great. Note that YYMV because there may be ingredients in these products that your skin doesn’t agree with. I can only share what my mom and I experienced.
  • Also, these products never made me oily. If anything, I noticed that I had somewhat less oil production starting around week 4 or 5.

DefenAge 8-in-1 BioSerum

One pump of the BioSerum
  • Cost: $165 for 1 oz
  • This is the real star of the show. This has the highest concentration of the alpha- and beta-defensins as well as some other great ingredients. It is a lightweight gel-serum with no added fragrance (and no discernible scent). It absorbs nicely and doesn’t leave any film on the skin and never makes me greasy.
  • This is safe to use around the eyes and safe for contact lens wearers. (YAY!!)
  • I love this serum…A lot. Yes, it is pricey. But in my mind, I would buy this and then not buy a separate hydrating serum or peptide serum. Since it is multipurpose and effective, to me it is worth it.
  • In addition to the key ingredient of the messenger peptides it has niacinamide, Sodium Hyaluronate, Matrixyl Synthe’6, Sea Whip Extract, and some ingredients I hadn’t heard of before but that sound really great: Subliskin, Roxisomes, Thiotaine (I talk about these at the bottom of the post but basically these other ingredients help to support DNA recovery, hydrate, balance and brighten the skin).
  • NOTE: An important thing to note about this serum is that is needs to be applied last in your routine (the one exception is that I will apply an oil over this). So if you use other essences, toners, creams, or serums, this should go after those. Because of that, I find myself using less products because I don’t want to have too many layers on my skin to impede penetration of this product.
  • Would we buy this: YES. When mine ran out I already was planning to buy a replacement, as was my mom.
  • Full ingredients
    • Water (Aqua), Cyclopentasiloxane, Glycerin, Niacinamide, Sinorhizobium Meliloti Ferment Filtrate (SubliskinTM), Dimethicone, Polysorbate 20, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Lauryl PEG-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Phospholipids, Alpha-Defensin 5, Beta-Defensin 3, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38 (Matrixyl Synthe’6), Sodium Hyaluronate, Arabidopsis Thaliana Extract (Roxisomes),  Sea Whip Extract, Ergothioneine (Thiotaine), Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Rosmarinus Offinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract,  SH Oligopeptide-1, Tocopheryl Acetate, Ubiquinone, Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Albumin, L-Alanyl-L-Glutamine, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetyl Hydroxyethylcellulose, Lecithin, Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin, Phytic Acid, Phenoxyethanol,  Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hexylene Glycol, Sodium Chloride.

DefenAge 24/7 Barrier Balance Cream

One pump of the Barrier Balance Cream

 

  • Cost: $95 for 1.5 oz
  • This is a lightweight moisturizer contains the alpha- and beta-defensins to stimulate new skin cell growth and strengthen and balance the skin’s barrier as well as some powerful antioxidants for protection and defense.
  • This has a mix of oils that are high in oleic acid (good for dry skin) as well as oils that are high in linoleic acid (good for oily skin) so I wasn’t sure if this would be too rich for my oily skin. But this never made me greasy and I always felt like my skin was hydrated and balanced. My mom has drier skin and this was enough to help her skin feel moisturized and hydrated (note: this was test before the winter. In the winter she may want to add in an additional layer of moisture).
  • This has added fragrance (but it is the last ingredient so there is a very small amount of it). I think it has a faint self-tanner smell, but I got used to it. My mom hates the smell of self-tanner and she doesn’t think that this smells like that at all. In fact, she likes the smell of the cream, so clearly everyone’s nose is different!
  • People sensitive to shea butter or fragrance may want to spot test.
  • Would we buy this again: I say maybe and my mom says yes. It has a pretty amazing list of ingredients and it did an excellent job of moisturizing my skin, but I found that I missed my other moisturizers (specifically, Stratia Liquid Gold). I like to save money on moisturizers (a la Caroline Hirons advice) and spend more on serums, but I would consider buying this in the future.
  • Full ingredients
    • Water (Aqua)​,​ Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Oleosomes,​ Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter​,​ Macadamia Integrifolia Seed Oil​,​ Niacinamide​,​ Yeast Extract​,​ Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/ VP Copolymer,​ Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil​,​ Phospholipids​,​ Alpha-Defensin 5,​ Beta-Defensin 3,​ Hyaluronic Acid​,​ Ophiopogon Japonicus Root Extract,​ Hydrolyzed Candida Saitoana Extract,​ Sea Whip Extract​,​ Lycium Chinense Fruit (Goji berry) Extract​,​ Vaccinium Angustifolium (blueberry) Fruit Extract,​ Vaccinium Marcrocarpon  Fruit (Cranberry) Fruit Extract,​ Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract​,​ Panthenol,​ Albumin​,​ Tocopheryl Acetate​,​ Ubiquinone​,​ L-Alanyl-L-Glutamine,​ Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate​,​ SH Oligopeptide-1,​ Xanthan Gum​,​ Phytic Acid​,​ Polysorbate 20​,​ Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride​,​ Phenoxyethanol​,​ Caprylyl Glycol​,​ Ethylhexylglycerin​,​ Hexylene Glycol​,​ Potassium Sorbate​,​ Sodium Chloride​,​ Fragrance​.

DefenAge 2-Minute Reveal Masque

  • Cost: $55 for 2.5 oz
  • Key ingredients: triple enzymes including papaya, pumpkin and pomegranate, sugar crystals, and sea whip.
  • This is a gently warming cream mask with ultrafine sugar crystals and enzymes to remove dull, unwanted cells.
  • This doesn’t have any defensins in the INCI. Instead, this is just to offer some exfoliation to help the products absorb better. You apply a small amount to your face (focusing on the chin, nose and forehead or other areas with blackheads and congestion) and gently massage for 20 seconds. Wait 2 minutes, and then with wet fingertips you massage the crystals until they are dissolved (I actually really enjoyed this part, the mask turns milky and washes away really nicely). This says it isn’t recommended for people with rosacea, acne, extremely sensitive or abraded skin. I didn’t have any irritation the first time I used this, but when I used it a week lately it was a bit too much for my skin (I had a couple spots at this time). But I can typically only do physical exfoliation once a month at most. I ended up swapping this out for acid exfoliation instead. However, my mom never had an issue with it and really loved it.
  • This is more gentle than the Dr. Lancer scrub and reminded me of the Tula exfoliating treatment mask.
  • Would I buy this? No. However, if you like a physical exfoliation, you may really enjoy this. My mom loves it but I prefer acid exfoliation.
  • Full ingredients:
    • Butylene Glycol​,​ PEG-8​,​ Tapioca Starch,​ Sucrose,​ Titanium Dioxide​,​ Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer​,​ Squalane​,​ Polysorbate 60​,​ Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit,​ Papain,​ Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice​,​ Lactobacillus/Pumpkin Ferment Extract,​ Lactobacillus/Punica Granatum Fruit Ferment Extract,​ Sea Whip Extract​,​ Cananga Odorata Flower Oil,​ Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil​,​ Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride​,​ Lactic Acid​,​ Phenoxyethanol​,​ Caprylyl Glycol​,​ Ethylhexylglycerin​,​ Hexylene Glycol​.

Some other ingredients you will find in the products

  • Sea whip: Strong anti-inflammatory to come from the sea that is a powerful healing ingredient.
    • Found in all three
  • Niacinamide: A favorite ingredient of mine as it can help with a number of different things, including fading brown spots, boosting collagen production, and increasing the synthesis of free fatty acids, cholesterol, and ceramides.
    • If you use both products you will be applying the equivalent of 5% niacinamide
  • Sinorhizobium Meliloti Ferment Filtrate (Subliskin): Promotes the smoothing and strengthening of fragile skin. In vivo and in vitro tests have found that it stimulates the synthesis of the hyaluronic acid, improves hydration and suppleness (which helps smooth fine wrinkles), it improves the elasticity and dryness of the skin and it can soothe and reinforce the skin’s barrier.
    • Serum only
  • Arabidopsis Thaliana Extract: Recognizes the damage in your skin, and then initiates the body’s natural way of repairing it, speeding up the process of restoring your skin.
    • Serum only
  • Ergothioneine (Thiotaine): Powerful antioxidant amino acid found in mushrooms to help with photodamage and aging skin
    • Serum only
  • Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38 (Matrixyl Synthe’6): Regulates cell activity, wound repair and boosts collagen
    • Serum only
  • Roxisomes: Helps to curb oxidative damage to cells and repair DNA. This mDNA repair enzymes that show some promise in terms of being able to increase collagen and decrease matrix metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1) that breaks down collagen.
    • Serum only
  • Ophiopogon Japonicus Root Extract: Rich in saccharides known to hydrate the skin. It protects the skin from dryness by boosting the skin’s moisture-retaining ability and brings a more refined texture.
    • Cream only
  • Hydrolyzed Candida Saitoana Extract: Performs repairing and detoxifying functions that allow the skin to maintain homeostasis and rid itself of damaged proteins that can lead to disease, skin dysfunction and premature aging
    • Cream only
  • Lycium Chinense Fruit (Goji berry) Extract: Strong antioxidant full of nutrients, amino acids, carotenoids, and polysaccharides
    • Cream only

Who would this work great for?

  • (First: This is just my opinion and I am not a licensed professional. YMMV, etc. etc. )
  • More mature skin or skin that is photo damaged and showing visible signs of aging. (In other words, if you are under 35 you probably don’t need these products).
  • Great for people that aren’t experienced with skin care because the products really cover everything you need (minus cleanser and SPF, and I think a Vitamin C, but that’s because I love L-Ascorbic Acid)
  • If you are looking for an overnight WOW product, or if you have a hard time consistently using a product, then you might want to skip this. I think that it works best for people that can use something consistently and that like more streamlined routines.
  • I think this would work on all skin types. My mom is more dry and it worked great for her, and I am oily/combo and it worked great for me. When my skin was sensitized from another product and everything seemed to make my face sting, I was able to use these products with no irritation.

Where can I buy it?

  • First, don’t buy directly from the website as the price is more expensive (this was apparently done intentionally to encourage people to purchase them through dermatologists, plastic surgeons, aestheticians etc.)
  • DefenAge is distributed by aesthetic professionals, authorized by DefenAge – dermatologists, plastic surgeons, aestheticians etc. If any of professionals has their own web-based store then they are able to sell the product online.
  • Some online retailers include:

Do I need to buy all three? If you only bought one, which would you buy?

Here’s the thing…my mom used both products the entire time and I used both products the entire time except for the last 3 weeks where I only used the serum (rather than cream + serum) on one side of my face. In those 3 weeks, I didn’t notice a difference between my right and left side, but I also can’t say whether we both would have experienced the same results if we had only used the serum the entire time. So it’s a gamble. Also, in the clinical trial they used all three products. But that being said, after I finish up 12 weeks and when I run out of the moisturizer, I think I will just buy the serum in the future. My mom said she would buy the kit or just the moisturizer and serum.

If you like the idea of a super streamlined routine and your skin responds well to physical exfoliation the 3-product kit is a great way to go.

How long will a bottle of the serum/cream last?

  • If you use 2 pump morning and night, the serum will last 6 weeks.
  • I think 1 pump is good for face only, but you need 2 to get your neck and chest. The barrier cream is slightly larger so that will last you a bit longer.
  • Once I get to 12 weeks, I think I am going to drop down to just using these products once a day to extend how long they last.
  • The reveal masque will last a long time because you only need a small amount and you should only be using it about once a week IF your skin can handle physical exfoliation that often (mine doesn’t like it anywhere near that often).

Other things

  • Not tested on animals
  • No human- or animal-derived ingredients
  • No sulfates or strong emulsifiers or formaldehyde-releasing preservatives or colorants
  • Products have undergone the following tests
    • 30-Day HRIPT (Human Repeat Insult Patch Test) to determine irritancy and allergy potential of a leave-on product. Results are reviewed and signed by a board certified dermatologist.
    • 14-Day Clinical Evaluation of Ophthalmologic Safety for all products used around the eye. Products are tested for safe use around the eye and for safe use by contact lens wearers.
  • The Serum and moisturizer come in airtight packages that really do get every last drop out (I broke up my bottle when I finished it and it was completely empty).

 

Airtight packaging that gets every last drop

 

Can it penetrate the skin?

Since there has been a lot of talk about Daltons in skincare, I asked Dr. Turovets how big of a molecule the defensins were and here was his response:

“Defensins are relatively small peptides, alpha-defenisn 5 has molecular weigh 3.6 kDaltons and beta-defensisn 3 has molecular weight 5.2 kDaltons. The key is that the pool of LGR6-+ stem cells that is primary target for defensins are located in the top layer of hair follicles, so there is no need for defensins to penetrate through stratum cornium of the skin to reach their target – defensins simply “slide” through pore/hair shaft to reach LGR6-positive stem cells to message them.”

References

Campisi, J., & di Fagagna, F. D. A. (2007). Cellular senescence: when bad things happen to good cells. Nature reviews Molecular cell biology8(9), 729-740.

Kiatsurayanon, C., Niyonsaba, F., Smithrithee, R., Akiyama, T., Ushio, H., Hara, M., … & Ogawa, H. (2014). Host defense (antimicrobial) peptide, human β-defensin-3, improves the function of the epithelial tight-junction barrier in human keratinocytes. Journal of Investigative Dermatology134(8), 2163-2173.

Lough, D., Dai, H., Yang, M., Reichensperger, J., Cox, L., Harrison, C., & Neumeister, M. W. (2013). Stimulation of the follicular bulge LGR5+ and LGR6+ stem cells with the gut-derived human alpha defensin 5 results in decreased bacterial presence, enhanced wound healing, and hair growth from tissues devoid of adnexal structures. Plastic and reconstructive surgery132(5), 1159-1171.

Snippert, H. J., Haegebarth, A., Kasper, M., Jaks, V., van Es, J. H., Barker, N., … & Stange, D. E. (2010). Lgr6 marks stem cells in the hair follicle that generate all cell lineages of the skin. Science327(5971), 1385-1389.