skincare

DNA-Based Skincare

Genetic testing is playing an important role in personalizing beauty and grooming products.

Skincare is never one-size-fits-all,” says Sejal Shah, MD, a dermatologist based in New York City. Both how your skin responds to a new cleanser and whether that changes over time is determined by a number of factors—such as family history and environment—that vary from person to person, she says. Just like at-home DNA tests can give you recommendations about the best nutrition for your body, skin-specific tests can help personalize your beauty or grooming routine by giving you “insight into what types of nutrients, lifestyle measures, and topical and procedural treatments can benefit your skin,” says Shah. 

That’s the idea behind companies like LifeDNA and SkinGenie, two of the newest genetics brands to use DNA (either from their own in-house tests or from data you share from an Ancestry or 23andMe report) to help you choose the most effective skincare products.

How it works

The science goes much deeper than oily, dry, or combination skin. On the overall DNA sequence level, humans are surprisingly similar—99.9 percent identical, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute. “What makes us all different are single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs),” explains Maarit Tiirikainen, Ph.D., genomics researcher at the University of Hawaii’s cancer center. Humans have roughly 10 million SNPs in our DNA. “Certain ones can potentially cause your skin to be extra sensitive to the sun and therefore increase your chances of getting sun spots, while others can negatively impact genes that protect your skin from aging,” Tiirikainen says.  

After mining the SNP info from your DNA, you can choose products such as toners and moisturizers that contain ingredients shown to help prevent or protect against any individual weaknesses. However, “while genetics can give you a sort of roadmap, genes are not necessarily deterministic,” points out Shah. In other words, just because you have an SNP associated with sun sensitivity, doesn't mean you're doomed to a future of skin cancer. That’s why it’s important to discuss your results with a board-certified dermatologist, she says.

What’s next

“Using these tests, we envision a world where everyone will be able to perfect their beauty routines and select the perfect skin and hair care products for them based on their unique genetic makeup,” says Marcie Glicksman, Ph.D., chief scientific officer at Orig3n, a genetics company that launched a beauty-focused DNA test in 2016.

As the science evolves and at-home genetic testing becomes more affordable, it opens up new possibilities for ultra-personalized skincare. “Over the last few years the tests have become more comprehensive looking at more SNPs, or sections of DNA,” Shah says. “Personalization in health care is the wave of the future and DNA-based skin care is part of that."