Skin Care DNA Testing | 5 things to know before buying
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Skincare DNA tests are the latest trend in at-home DNA testing. Here at Genomelink, our goal is to educate consumers about various DNA tests and techniques - so you can be confident and happy about any purchases you make.
In this article, we look at DNA tests that aim to determine your skin type, skin conditions, and potential treatments for these conditions. The good, the bad, and the ugly - all easily laid out to navigate this complex subject.
What’s the Buzz about Skincare DNA Testing?
Like many other DNA testing industries, skincare DNA testing sprang from the innovation of high-throughput DNA analysis. With our newfound ability to quickly and accurately measure the variation in almost any gene, the skincare industry was quick to jump on the bandwagon.
Companies currently offering skincare DNA testing range from stand-alone storefronts that test your DNA within minutes for nearly $1,000, to more hands-off results that simply report what genetic variants you carry. Not surprisingly, actual dermatologists see these tests in very different ways.
Many dermatologists are cheering the shift to more personalized skincare medicine. Like all things in our body, our skin type and skin issues are highly related to our DNA sequence and how it interacts with our environment. With this technology, doctors can more accurately determine how to diagnose and treat specific skin conditions.
For example, rosacea and skin aging may have many causes. With a DNA test, your doctor might be able to determine your genetic predisposition to these conditions and help identify any environmental factors that might be contributing.
But, some doctors also note that DNA testing will not be a cure-all for every skin condition, because not all skin conditions are caused by your DNA. For those conditions, DNA may be helpful - but you will still need to rely on the expert opinion of a dermatologist.
At best, this science is in its infancy. However, there are some really cool things you can learn from a skincare DNA test! Companies promising beauty routines, vitamin C intake, or any other supplement you must buy based only on a DNA sample are typically ignorant of a healthy skincare routine.
To really understand how DNA testing might aid in your fight against unhealthy skin check out what genetic science can actually tell you about your skin!
The Science Behind Skincare DNA
Not surprisingly, there are a large number of traits related to your skin that can be clearly identified and measured by DNA testing. In fact, here at Genomelink, we have compiled many different traits directly related to your skin’s health. Check them out!
At least one scientific genome-wide association study has shown that your DNA influences whether or not you will be prone to age spots as you age. Also known as “liver spots”, these dark blotches on your skin are related to how your skin reacts to UV light from the sun. Interestingly, people prone to freckles may also be more prone to age spots. While this study was only done within the Japanese population, it could lead dermatologists to a more complete understanding of age spots and how to treat them!
The “Freckles” Gene
There is quite a bit of evidence that freckles are related to your DNA. One study of people from European descent shows that the presence of freckles is related to genetic variations found in several different genes. Some of these genes are thought to affect your sensitivity to sunlight, which in turn can help determine how easily you get freckles. Other genes are known to affect pigmentation in your skin, which also helps determine how big and widespread your freckles are. It can also suggest what types of sun protection you need to stay safe.
Tanning ability has been shown to be about 45% heritable. In other words, half of your ability is determined by how much sun exposure you regularly receive and the other half is from your parents. Several genetic studies have shown which genetic variants are associated with your ability to tan (or burn!). The variants you carry in these genes can directly affect how you react to the sun, and can even help predict what level sunscreen you should use.
Do you have a small fold of skin that sits just above your eyelids? These are known as “double-fold” eyelids and have become a very desirable beauty trait in some cultures. Luckily for you, the presence of double-fold eyelids is affected by at least one gene - included in the Genomelink database.
Should I Buy DNA-based Skincare Products?
First and foremost, any consumer of skincare products based on DNA must realize that these products are in their testing phases. We have far more data to collect before we can truly start understanding the complicated relationship between environment and health. Just because a company can measure and quantify some aspects of your skin’s health does not mean they can also predict what you will be allergic to or if your skin will react in the way they expect. So, you really want to look for a well-established skin health company or dermatologist that can provide a more comprehensive skin condition analysis.
If any DNA skincare company claims they can give you personalized recommendations based on your DNA alone, you should likely be skeptical. At best, there are a handful of studies that have been completed on skin condition and genetics. The number increases every day, but there are still a number of unknown environmental and genetic variables. For instance, a company recommending a moisturizer solely based on your DNA data will likely not be effective.
But, if your dermatologist simply takes a DNA swab as part of your regular exam, it is much more promising. This is what dermatologists are talking about when they claim DNA testing will have benefits for “individualized medicine”. It means taking in the all data points, including DNA data, and considering the whole individual before making any diagnosis of skin health.
“I have a big red rash (or any other condition), should I get a DNA Test?”
No! If you have a specific concern, you need to talk to your doctor, not your DNA. Go see your dermatologist or health care provider if you have a specific health concern of any kind. Even if DNA variants may be causing or affecting your specific skin condition: your DNA can’t change and you need a solution now.
If you do not already have a dermatologist to consult, consider looking into telehealth options. One cool option available on iPhone and Android is speaking to an online dermatologist at First Derm. With this app, you can send a picture (or two) to a board-certified dermatologist. The doctor looks at your pictures and gives you recommendations on treatment. Once you have an answer you can take this to your local gp or dermatologist should you need further assessment.