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The beauty of DNA

Give it a few years and we predict we’ll all be consulting our saliva instead of our smartphones before we put anything on our face. Welcome to the world of genetic testing and personalised skincare

DNA testing, which used to be the preserve of universities, CSI detectives and paternity labs, has now permeated the world of skincare and cosmeceuticals. Photograph: iStock

DNA testing, which used to be the preserve of universities, CSI detectives and paternity labs, has now permeated the world of skincare and cosmeceuticals. Photograph: iStock

 

In a world of contradictory skincare advice and an overwhelming choice of products, it’s unsurprising most of us end up choosing skincare that does not work on an individual level. You only need to look at your bathroom shelf to see how many jars of expensive miracle creams did not cut it, or worse, caused a breakout of spots or flared up skin sensitivities.

But DNA testing, which used to be the preserve of universities, CSI detectives and paternity labs, has now permeated the world of skincare and cosmeceuticals (skin products deemed to rank above a cosmetic but below a pharmaceutical) and is promising to take all of the guesswork out of the complex beauty equation.

Biologique Recherche, a French skincare line known for its clinical approach to skincare, is one of the first commercial brands to bring this technology to Ireland this September. The DNA test is quite straightforward and involves little more than a practitioner swabbing some saliva from the mouth. The sample is then sent off to labs to be assessed for genetic markers linked to different skin-ageing categories, including whether you’re genetically predisposed to premature wrinkling; how well-equipped your skin is to cope with the sun; and how it fights free radical damage.

Two weeks later, and you’ll find out if you’re predisposed to rapid collagen breakdown (think firmness and elasticity), sun damage and pigmentation (which pretty much applies to nearly all Irish people), free radical damage, inflammation and sensitivity, and glycation (excess sugars, causing deep wrinkles).

“Understanding your genetic predispositions helps both the patient and the dermatologist [or practitioner], to better understand an individual skin’s “inherited” needs, and can explain up to 60 per cent of factors affecting your skin’s condition,” says Raphaëlle Faure, brand manager of Biologique Recherche.

One half of the story

However, consultant dermatologist Prof Caitriona Ryan points out that understanding the genetic variants of a patient is only one half of the story. “There will always be epigenetics [environmental factors which influence skin function] at play – seasonal changes, hormonal influences, diet, smoking, lifestyle, pollution etc.”

So to get the full picture, Biologique Recherche use a scientific-grade skin analysis machine with probes to measure hydration levels, trans-epidermal water loss, elasticity, pigmentation and sebum production levels. “This is equally important when optimising skincare regimens, as we all know our skin changes, especially in Ireland with our erratic weather,” says Prof Ryan.

Once you have all of this very precise information, your practitioner can tell you the specific ingredients your skin needs and those which you need to avoid based on what your genetic markers and a highly individualised and effective skincare regimen can be prescribed. In most cases, products from a range of cosmeceuticals is chosen for the consumer, “but there are some people out there, mostly very rich Asian consumers, who then hand this information over to a cosmetic scientist, and commission them to make them their very own couture skincare line.” says Prof Ryan. Give it a few years and we predict we’ll all be consulting our saliva instead of our smartphones before we put anything on our face.

My Beauty DNA testing is available at The Institute of Dermatologists, Dublin 4, from €200

What

skin DNA testing measures

1. Firmness and elasticity: Are you genetically predisposed to premature wrinkling?

2. Wrinkling (glycation): Glycation affects collagen and elastin and creates accelerated skin ageing.

3. Sun damage and pigmentation: How well can your skin naturally cope under the strains of the sun?

4. Free radical damage: Are you genetically protected against free radical vulnerabilities?

5. Skin sensitivity: How well are your genes protecting you against irritation?