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Prevention Magazine
2014
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Can Your Genes Reveal The Perfect Skin Care For You?

A new company allowing you to swab your cheek, send off your DNA for analysis, and get back a report detailing your skin's potential pitfalls—allowing you to personalize your approach to skin care.
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Prevention Magazine - 2014


Trying a new anti-aging cream can be a little like peering into a cloudy Magic 8 Ball: "Outlook unclear. Try again." Yet most of us dutifully apply anything we think may help keep our skin younger looking, from antioxidants and sunscreen to Retin-A and glycolic acids. We're swayed by promises of a skin-transforming miracle until, our bathrooms littered with jars, tubes, and bottles, we barely even remember what we're putting on our faces, much less why.

But buying products and hoping for the best may soon be passe. New companies are launching services that allow you to swab your cheek, send off your DNA for analysis, and get back a report detailing your skin's potential pitfalls—allowing you to completely personalize your approach to skin care. Find out you're at high risk of skin cancer, for example, and you could load your regimen with sunscreen and antioxidants to help prevent free radical damage, thereby decreasing your risk of skin cancer. If the test shows that your genes leave you more vulnerable to collagen degradation, you might switch to a Retin-A cream at night to help ward off premature sagging and wrinkles. It sounds almost too good to be true—so is it?

The Basics
Ever since the human genome was mapped in 2003, researchers have been busy uncovering ways in which we can benefit from this new knowledge. And outside of doctors' offices and researchers' labs, consumers are getting into the act by taking at-home tests, like the ones from the popular 23andMe, that look at all or part of one's genome and reveal any variations.

We each have 23 pairs of chromosomes. Each chromosome holds packages of DNA, which contains genes passed down from your parents and holds potential keys to everything from your hair color to your risks of certain illnesses. Within the DNA are many types of genetic variants, including one called single nucleotide polymorphisms. There are about 10 million SNPs in the human genome, and some have been found to predict risks of diseases or have a regulatory effect on a gene's function. So by swabbing your cheek, you can—theoretically, anyway—find out what the future holds for your skin.

One company, SkinShift, [who uses this technology] analyzes 16 SNPs, according to Ruthie Harper, MD, those SNPs pertain specifically to five skin-health factors: collagen formation, sun protection, glycation protection, antioxidant protection, and inflammation control. "These SNPs are well established, and by analyzing them, we can tell you if you are at high, medium, or low risk of each," says Dr. Harper. Then, based on your results, the theory goes, the tester can tell you what targeted ingredients and products to use.

What the Research Says
Even though numerous strides have been made in the decade since the human genome was first sequenced, the field remains a work in progress. "We have already learned that specific genes are responsible for certain skin issues," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. "And countless numbers of potential gene mutations are being studied to better understand these diseases and help explain other conditions, like acne and skin aging." These so-called susceptibility variants are still being studied and identified.
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