Can DNA predict what’s best for your skin?

Can DNA predict what’s best for your skin?
Can DNA predict what’s best for your skin?

Judging from the vast array of jars jostling for counter space in your bathroom, there’s nary a one of us who is immune to the marketing mumbo-jumbo of skincare products. “Wipe out wrinkles in 10 days,” “eradicate age spots,” or “erase under eye circles” — the promises are just too good. So we plunk down the cash, apply as directed, and wait, hoping for the best.

The latest trend in skincare is aiming to take the “wait and see” out of the process, taking simply knowing your skin type to a whole new level of scientific self-awareness. According to Prevention Magazine it involves analyzing your personal DNA to assess the specifics and potential problems you may encounter with your skin.

We’re all sporting 23 pairs of chromosomes, each containing tidy little packages of DNA. These packages of genes, passed on from your parents, dictate your eye color, hair texture, and the risk of certain illnesses. Since researchers managed to map the human genome in 2003, the race to benefit from this knowledge was on — and in the spirit of racing — new companies rushed headlong into offering personalized DNA analysis via a theoretical swab of your cheek. The idea is to reveal whether you’re at high risk for skin cancer, collagen degradation, and premature sagging and wrinkles.

Charging anywhere from $99 to several hundred dollars, DNA test kit companies will analyze your DNA and provide you with personalized health information, including skin-health details like collagen formation, sun protection, glycation protection, antioxidant protection, and inflammation control and just how these apply to you. The idea is that, armed with this individual knowledge, you are better able to make informed decisions about what products are best for your skin.

Now, before you tick DNA analysis off as a cure-all (so-to-speak), a recent article in Prevention magazine reminds us that gene markers, mutations and susceptibility variants are still being identified and studied, and are not always deterministic. The concern is that consumers will be unable to differentiate risk based on the results. *No, you may not cease to wear sunscreen regularly, regardless of your DNA analysis.

And then there’s the question of quality. *Sigh. Critics have long sounded alarms over at-home genetic testing, and a recent crackdown by the FDA on DNA testing companies brought to light allegations of “failure to prove the product’s validity.” The lesson here: A spiffy website is about as indicative of ability as pretty packaging is of a product’s effectiveness.

The reality is that these test-kit companies can only provide a certain amount of information —they are not seeing-eye balls into the future. Nor are they reason to hit “pause” on your daily appliqué of sunscreen, Retin-A, and antioxidant. What they are though, is a good indicator of the valuable research that is being done by doctors and scientists all in the name of keeping you and your skin at it’s healthy best — and by golly, we can’t be mad about that.