How Do Defensins Work as Anti-Aging Ingredients?

There are a number of topical anti-aging treatments for the skin that can help to diminish the appearance of lines and wrinkles. One of the latest anti-aging strategies utilizes peptides called defensins to “turn on” the stem cells in the skin that are responsible for healing wounds. This causes the skin to generate new, younger cells. 

Learn more about what defensins are, how they work, and which products currently contain these novel anti-aging ingredients.

What Are Defensins?

Defensins are a type of peptide. Peptides are made up of chains of amino acids and have been touted as potential anti-aging ingredients for years. In fact, many anti-aging products currently on the market contain peptides. However, most peptides are too large to be able to effectively penetrate the skin, rendering them useless as a topical ingredient. 

Defensins, on the other hand, are small enough that they are able to slide down the hair follicle and into the skin. Defensins have been shown to stimulate a specific type of stem cell called LGR6+, which is responsible for creating new keratinocytes within the epidermis of the skin. The result is a “fresh” layer of skin on the surface with fewer lines, wrinkles, and other signs of aging.

Defensins as Anti-Aging Ingredients 

When the skin is injured, our bodies naturally release defensins in order to trigger LGR6+ stem cells. We know that these stem cells play a pivotal role in wound healing and may also generate new fibroblast cells. Fibroblasts are specialized cells that produce collagen and other important structural components of the skin. While it is likely that LGR6+ also produces new fibroblasts, we do not yet have evidence of this.

As part of the wound healing process, LGR6+ stem cells produce new, younger-acting keratinocytes in the epidermis, or outer layer of the skin. Other topical anti-aging ingredients work by encouraging existing keratinocytes and fibroblasts to produce more collagen and other cellular components. Defensins offer a new approach, as they stimulate the process of new cell generation to achieve younger-looking skin. 

Which Products Contain Defensins?

Defenage is the only product that contains defensins and it is only sold by doctors. (Use physician code DRB to purchase on The 8 in 1 Bioserum is my favorite)  DefenAge uses a large, stable protein called albumin to stabilize, transport, and increase the efficacy of defensin peptides when applied topically. This patented formula also helps to improve the shelf life of defensins – another common problem among other topical peptide formulations. 

There is currently one study, involving 45 women aged 40 to 75, that has evaluated the effects a three-step DefenAge regimen on the skin. None of the participants had any cosmetic treatments such as Botox®, fillers, or laser treatments within six months prior to the study. Thirty participants used the three-part DefenAge regimen, which consists of a moisturizing cream, serum, and exfoliating mask. The remaining participants were given a three-part placebo treatment. 

Skin biopsies were taken at the start of the study, six weeks, and 12 weeks. Researchers found a statistically significant improvement in the overall appearance of the skin, fine lines, wrinkles, enlarged pores, uneven texture, and the thickness of the epidermis in the patients who had used the DefenAge system. Moreover, there were no adverse effects such as dryness, irritation, or increased sun sensitivity that can come along with other topical anti-aging treatments.

In Summary

Defensins are a welcome addition to current anti-aging strategies, such as topical retinoids and heparan sulfate, as well as lifestyle factors like limiting sun exposure and wearing sunscreen. 

However, work with your dermatologist to design a skincare routine that makes sense for your skin type and needs and that minimizes side effects like irritation and dryness. Do not start retinoids and defensins at the same time, for example, as this can increase these side effects. Use DefenAge as part of your customized Baumann Skin Type routine for best results.  

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October 6, 2019 Skin Aging