Can DNA analysis tell you what kind of skin cream to buy?

Can DNA analysis tell you what kind of skin cream to buy?

A new, so-called scientific method is being marketed to help you find out the best way to take care of your skin. Prevention magazine reports that you can swab your cheek and mail your DNA sample to one of the new companies doing DNA skin analysis. In return, manufacturers will send you a personal analysis that will help you nurture the beauty of your skin based on your unique genetic characteristics.

The analysis purports to reveal skin problems you may be predisposed to. For example, if it indicates you're at risk for skin cancer, you can start using sunscreen and antioxidants to prevent free radical damage. If it says, you're vulnerable to collagen break down, you can use Retin-A to prevent wrinkles and sagging.

Your genes can only tell you so much
Just because you have a genetic marker does not necessarily mean you will have the trait or get the disease. "All these results may be technically accurate, but there is still considerable concern that consumers may misunderstand that the ability to differentiate risk based on these variants is very, very modest," cautions Robert Green, MD, associate professor of medicine in the division of genetics at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. In terms of skin cancer risk, DNA analysis is not enough. It does not determine whether or not you will get cancer. Sunscreen is necessary for all, no matter what DNA analysis indicates.

Problems with home testing
It is difficult to evaluate the merits of the home test that you might order. One manufacturer, 23andMe, was ordered to stop its sales by the FDA because the company was providing ancestry information, but not information on health risks. Even before this FDA crackdown, home testing had many critics who believe such tests belong in the doctor's office.

The reality
Even if the tests are accurate, the results you will see are pretty obvious. If you have fair skin and freckles, you are probably slathering on extra sunscreen without benefit of DNA analysis. Further, take a look at your mother. Her appearance is a good indication of the direction your skin will go in. If you see sagging and wrinkles, then start a regimen of Retin-A and antioxidants. A common sense approach to skin care for all, genes withstanding, is to use the tried and true products: sunscreen, Retin-A and antioxidants.