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Donna Trope
Photography Donna Trope

You can now use your DNA to target specific skin concerns

TextOlivia Cassano

It’s like couture, but for your face

Skincare has never really been one-size-fits-all, after all, a product’s efficacy highly depends on your skin type. A cleanser that might give your mate a healthy glow can just as easily break you out, so finding a product that is perfect for you is, more often than not, a gamble. However, that might change soon, thanks to the beauty industry’s latest science-driven trend: DNA-driven, bespoke skincare.

Personalisation has been a mainstay in fashion for some time, but our quest for individuality has (somewhat inevitably) reached our bathroom cabinets. By now, everything from haircare to mascara can be tailored to each customer’s specific needs, but when it comes to skincare, some brands have gone the extra mile by relying on your genetic make-up. As it turns out, beauty might not only be skin deep after all.

“We’re seeing a rising popularity for DNA-targeted skincare as consumers generally move toward not just personalisation, but hyper-personalisation,” says Lucie Greene, worldwide director of trend forecasting agency JWT Innovation. “This started with a few very high end and niche brands but has now prompted a wave of new lines offering tailored products. It’s also being integrated into spas - Harrod’s Wellness Clinic offers Gen Identity, a skincare regime based on DNA and using what it describes as “cutting-edge Prima Derm Technology”. Elsewhere, just the term ‘DNA’ is being applied liberally to a number of skincare lines, which indicates that the term alone carries some weight.”

“You combine the whole thing, like a puzzle, and instead of having to buy a lot of products that you think you might need, you actually know exactly what you need” - Dr Wetter

DNA has definitely been the latest driving force in skincare. Last year skin expert Marie Reynolds developed the Dermal Resonance system, which tests your DNA and personal frequency to create a unique product programmed for your skin’s needs. And Barbara Sturm, pioneer of the infamous vampire facial, is renowned for formulating her fabled MC2 cream by using the client’s own plasma. A moisturiser literally made out of you own DNA, it doesn’t get any more bespoke than that.

Like couture for your face, DNA targeted skincare relies on the idea that the secret to perfect skin already lies in your genes. While outside factors like environment and lifestyle account for a lot of skin woes, so does your ancestral history. In fact, Dr. Anne Wetter, specialist dermatologist and co-founder of Allél - a Swedish skincare brand that uses DNA analysis - says up to 50% of the ageing process alone depends on genetic factors. She also believes that the secret to your skin woes lies in your DNA.

Dr. Wetter tailors a routine for her clients based on a mix of lifestyle and predisposed genetic factors. “You combine the whole thing, like a puzzle, and instead of having to buy a lot of products that you think you might need, you actually know exactly what you need,” she says.

So how does this process actually work? The science goes way beyond oily, dry, or combination. Allél analyses 16 different genetic markers throughout the five main types of ageing: structure, energy, pigmentation, defence, and sensitivity. A DNA sample (a simple cheek swab, no needles involved) is taken at a partner clinic and sent to the Allél lab for testing. A week later you receive your results along with a consultation, and a personalized three-month regiment of skincare and nutritional supplements is provided to you. Similarly, French brand Ioma Paris offers Ma Crème, a bespoke formula with more than 40,000 variations based on the customer’s specific skin concerns.

Dr. Wetter explains that DNA analysis enables you can take care of your skin at an earlier stage, before signs of wear and tear start appearing. “You always want to be ahead of your destiny, in a way. You want to prevent.” It’s not just a way to “know the skin you’re in” (her motto), but also a way to stay ahead of the game. Once you know what your skin’s genetic predisposition is, you can tackle issues at the root of the problem rather than relying on what you see on your face - large pores, I’m looking at you.

"As more and more brands start relying on genetic science to formulate products, bespoke skincare is bound to become the status quo"

“Consumers are hoping that DNA analysis will offer the ultimate in bespoke care for the skin. We do welcome this breakthrough, but must advise that genetics are not set in stone,” adds Dr. Aamed Khan, founder of the Harley Street Clinic. “Just as it is possible to compromise good genetic inheritance by leading an unhealthy lifestyle, it is equally easy to repair a less fortunate genetic make-up by tackling lifestyle, nutrition and overall health, both mental and physical, which will be reflected in your skin.” So there’s hope for everyone.

Although this kind of technology has been around since 2016, the demand for individually tailored beauty routines is growing and mirrors a tuned-in consumer base that is no longer ignorant of their specific skincare needs. Call us selfish, but we want it to be about us. “Initially there was a medical impetus driving this kind of investigation, and it has been recently that global brands such as Estee Lauder and L’Oreal have expressed an interest in setting up their own research facilities,” says Dr. Khan. “Like all advances in technique, this cutting-edge service will soon become mainstream. Skincare will evolve to be as complex and individual as medicine.” While bespoke skincare is set to become an industry standard, given that currently package prices start at £150 and can reach £1200, high street brands better jump on the bandwagon, ASAP.

And yet, despite the prohibitive prices, DNA-based skincare isn’t just another industry fad. “The trend has grown, and increased access to things like blood and microbiome testing is making it accessible as a consumer service, while it might have been purely medical before,” explains Greene. “This trend will likely only continue, especially as technology advances. We see photo recognition becoming able to diagnose not only skin age but rare skin conditions. We see new sensors like L’Oreal’s new PH sensor that sits on the skin. People are integrating these kinds of granular tests into every aspect of their life from health, to beauty, to self-optimise.” Greene also believes that DNA analysis will not only become a mainstay, but it will, in fact, feed back into product development, and brands could soon start addressing customers’ needs that aren’t currently being met by the mainstream product offering.

As more and more brands start relying on genetic science to formulate products, bespoke skincare is bound to become the status quo. Rather than spending money on a 10-step routine that might be doing nothing for your skin, you’ll soon be able to tailor your shopping basket to your completely individual skin. Blogger recommendations and reviews might have been sufficient until now, but it could be time to reassess how you chose your skincare purchases.

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