Brief Recap – last year I tested the first High Street DNA test for skin from London’s The Organic Pharmacy. While I found the science fascinating I wasn’t massively impressed with it as a product for its price. They only tested for one gene variant (the one that says how fast, or otherwise, you break down collagen) and to be honest, it just seemed like a pricey way to spruik product. At the time I moaned I was having trouble contacting SkinDNA, a company offering a more comprehensive test. Next thing I knew an email pinged in from the MD in Australia, sampling kits and DNA started flying back and forth across the ocean and back at the end of Jan I got my results.
Present day: Let’s start with a little bit of science. How fast we age is determined partly, by the types of genes we inherit. These will determine the natural speed at which things like collagen and elastin break down in your skin. On top of this, your genes also determine how well your skin is protected and how quickly or slowly it repairs from the daily attack of things like UV, pollutants, chemicals in cigarette smoke etc. We all carry all the genes that control these things, but what differs among us is exactly which variants of them we get from our parents. That’s what the DNA tests examine.
The SkinDNA test sample is taken at home. You scrape your cheek back and forth with the gizmo above. Package it up, stick in the post and off it goes to be analysed.
The test looks at 15 total gene variants over five areas…
1) Firmness and Elasticity – this looks at how effectively you make – or retain – collagen.
2) Wrinkling – this looks at how prone your skin is to a process called glycation that causes faster aging.
3) Propensity to Sun Damage – how well do you make melanin to protect your skin and can you repair UV damage if it occurs?
4) Free Radical Damage – does your internal anti-oxidant system function effectively?
5) Sensitivity and inflammation – this explores if your skin is likely to be easily irritated
In each of these you get a percentage efficacy score – which you can then compare with that of the average population. This then tells you if you are at high, medium or low risk of damage in this area.
My result for Firmness and Elasticity came out the same as the Organic Pharmacy test – I have rubbish collagen genes and I’m doomed to sag any day now. The other variants were less horrible – I’m at medium risk of wrinkling (hello more botox), at medium risk of sun damage and pigmentation (which is probably why I don’t look like a giraffe despite spending all those years in Oz and NZ) and at low risk of Free Radical Damage and Sensitivity.
Admittedly, the report that comes with the top line result does make slightly more sobering reading – there’s nothing like seeing a percentage marked ‘sub-optimal’ to make you feel like a little genetic failure. If I wasn’t already over subscribed on my to-do list this week I’d probably be making a jar for my loose change entitled ‘facelift fund’ and sobbing quietly into my keyboard as I looked at pictures like the below on the SkinDNA website .
The cold hard facts do however give clear description of exactly what is going to happen with your skin in the future if you don’t start prevention. I know if I’d read this back when I was 20, I’d never have gone out without SPF 50. However, what I can take advantage of now is how to potentially negate some of the damage occurring. Now I know that the reason I’m going to sag is that my collagen stimulation genes are weak and lazy, I’ve got a list of ingredients to look for in my skincare that might buck them up a bit. It’s also been suggested that I have red light treatments to stimulate the collagen my own body can’t be faffed making itself.
I also now know that I’m moderately prone to glycation – which causes stiffening and loss of flexibility in the skin. Sugar makes this worse, green tea helps counteract at. I’m therefore thinking that while I might have spent a lot of time turning down sweets, ice cream and Tate and Lyle in the past for the sake of my waistline, it’s probably also one of the reasons why I don’t look my age now. After all, as they point out, you can have as many good genes as you like but if you smoke and eat rubbish you will counteract them. Ditto, you could have terrible collagen producing genes but if you wear sunscreen vigilantly it’s going to reduce the damage.
Talking of which, my sun protection genes are almost normal – which again probably explains why I don’t have the skin I deserve – although I’m diligent at protecting my face now my sunscreen habits have been erratic (at best) in the past. I was pleased to see that the genes that help me repair damage were working okay though. I also scored above average for my ability to fight free radical damage – which again might explain a lot
Overall, I thought this was a great test. I gives you a lot of information as to what’s genetically in store for your skin but then gives lists of ingredients and nutritional changes you can make that may at least partly counteract the gene variants you hold.
I suppose my only criticism would be that it’s hard to see how to translate that information into a usable skincare regime with the least amount of steps/products and cost. It feels as if you should sit in front of someone who can then talk you through the products that would work best for you. Which is interesting as that’s why I didn’t like the Organic Pharmacy test – I think the key difference between the two though is that SkinDNA doesn’t sell their own products so it feels more independent. They tell me that if you have the same issues with you can question things 24/7 with them via email, plus they do have contacts with some skin experts in the UK who will work with you face to face if the email information isn’t quite adequate.
Right now, the company are operating all analysis from Australia – but they would still love you to send them your cheek scrapings. Visit www.skindna.com.au for more details. The test costs AU$299 – about £199 at current prices. There may however be the odd special offer (particularly right now if what I just read on the site was still valid!).
Images: All from skindna except sunbather freedigitalphotos.net