How can genetics inform us about skincare?

19 May 2015

Question

I recently saw a business advertising personalised skincare based on genetic analysis. Assuming they are picking up genes which influence the skin in their lab is it really as simple as this allele + this active ingredient = beautiful skin? Or is skin affected by a range of genes, with different levels of penetrance, and unlikely to be so easily classified and treated? They also cover lifestyle and environmental factors when formulating the "personalised" skincare, but I'm wondering how much of a role the genes and genetic analysis really play?

Answer

We put Arline's question to Kat Arney...

Kat - Now, I was intrigued by this so I went to look it up and it's a company called Geneu. This is actually a spinout from Imperial College. This is researchers who've developed a very, very tiny DNA analyser. They call it their lab on a chip. Now, they didn't just do this to look at skin care. They actually did it just as a more general way of developing something very small that could analyse DNA. Now, this isn't the kind of DNA analyses where you're looking at lots and lots of genes. They're just looking at variations in just a couple of genes and geneticists call these SNPs or single nucleotide polymorphisms. In the kind of genetic variation that makes us all unique, some of more unique than others. So, they're looking at a couple of these SNPs, these variations that have been linked to things like collagen in the skin, the amount of collagen you have and all these kind of thing. and then they go, "Tada! We go this, and this, and this and look at this." And so, you have this wonderful serum matched to your SNPs that relate to your skin. Now, that's all kind of interesting, but to me, I think that the data is somewhat lacking. I've done a bit of looking into this. Certainly, evidence that the SNPs that affects things to do with your skin and then linking that to the effects of a specific skin care regime I think is somewhat lacking at the moment. Although I don't want to be too down on it because it's really cool technology. The lab on a chip stuff is very cool and the guy who invented it, this professor at Imperial said it's a good way to get people to start interacting with their genomes, with their genetics. But to be honest, when it comes to skin care, I think it's probably - there's more influence of lifestyle, things like not smoking, taking care in the sun.

Chris - Yeah, because smoking has a really profound ageing effect, doesn't it?

Kat - I think much more so than any influence of your genes I reckon.

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