geneONYX – The High Street ‘Wrinkle Gene’ Test

This month’s theme is all things NEW is the world of weight loss, fitness and the odd bit of beauty – and you’re not going to get much newer than geneONYX technology that allows you to find out which variety of a gene that controls collagen breakdown you have – and therefore how much you might wrinkle.

Carried out at the Organic Pharmacy in London the geneONYX test is not the first consumer skin DNA test – that prize goes to one called erm, SkinDNA, but it is the first one that sees you get your results in 30 minutes while sitting front of a nice lady who can then console you when the result comes back. I’ve tried it – here’s what happened.

The test is carried out very simply – you just spit into a little tube. Apparently this is harder for some people than others. I, it seems, have a natural talent for saliva production and managed to get to the desired amount into the tube in one hoik (updates CV). Lots of scientific jiggling then occurs in the box below and eventually the saliva, plus some chemicals, end up on a microchip which is then placed in a machine and your DNA data whizzes off to a machine in Hong Kong which spends the next 30 minute analysing which version you have of a gene that controls how fast you break down collagen.

The Magic Box of Science

You can either do this quickly or slowly – and which version of the gene you possess determines, without cosmetic intervention, how much like a crocodile handbag you’re going to look as you get older.

The next 30 minutes is spent answering a heap of questions about your skincare and lifestyle – at the time I did the test this was more to pass the time than anything – but I’m told that in the next few weeks your answers will also be integrated into the product recommendations you get at the end of the test making them even more targeted to you.

After 30 minutes my geneONYX result comes back – apparently I’m a fast degrader of collagen. This surprises me as people are generally shocked when I tell them my age, even though I didn’t start wearing sunscreen until I was over 20, I drink alcohol and I stress a lot – although I have never smoked, I do eat a LOT of antioxidants every day and in the past I have spent time and money having things like microdermabrasion which stimulate collagen production. According to the ‘nice lady’ even this haphazard approach might have been enough counteract my wrinkle genes and grant me skin which makes people believe I’m still in my thirties.

However, the thing I don’t like about this test is that the result doesn’t come back as a scientific analysis of your genetics. It comes back as a list of ingredients you should use to boost your skin – and which Organic Pharmacy products you should use to do so. That grates and gives the whole thing an air of a very expensive (the test is £295) way to spruik product. I appreciate that perhaps having a tailormade skin prescription would appeal to some people but personally I feel it degrades the scientific element of the test. After all it’s legitimate technology. It was devised by a team at Imperial College London and, in the future it’s hoping it’ll be used to target drug treatments more effectively. It deserves the dignity of a little bit of scientific explanation as well.

This is the product they recommend as their most powerful collagen booster for me: Rose Plus Marine Collagen Complex

It’s also difficult to see why it’s better than the SkinDNA test which tests, from my reading (they didn’t return my call – thanks for that) 15 different genetic variations – giving you measures of five different skin elements including sensitivity, firmness and sun damage. Yes, that one has to be sent off and you don’t get a list of prescribed products (though you do apparently get ingredient recommendations) but I’d live with that. Admittedly, I can’t find a price for the test here in the UK yet (as I said, they didn’t return my call – it hurts, can you tell) but considering when it was launched in Australia in 2010 it retailed at around $400 – approximately £260, I can’t see it being much more expensive than the Organic Pharmacy test yet it gives more information.

Going back to the positives on geneONYX, I did like the little information sheet I was given on diet – not least as I learned something. While I do know a lot about foods that claim to boost collagen, I hadn’t before heard that tomatoes suppress the release of collagenases – the enzymes that breaks down collagen. This could also account for my ‘younger than I deserve’ skin – I eat tomatoes at virtually every meal – yes, even breakfast – and have done for at least 20 years. My old dishwasher was actually stained red on the inside from the amount of ragu pans it washed up. I also didn’t know that foods like Miso, Fennel and sweet potato potentially increase water levels in the skin plumping things up. And, if I was 25 years old and living a 25 year olds life, it probably would shock me into changing a lot of my behaviour regarding sunscreen use, alcohol, smoking and reducing stress which can only be a good thing for the whole body not just the skin. But how many 25 year olds have £300 knocking about to spend on a gene test?

So my ‘in a nutshell’ verdict: It’s a great innovation, but I feel the test is too expensive for what it tells you and how the information is used. While you digest all that I will now be going to yell at my mother who it seems has not only donated me fat genes – but wrinkle ones as well.

Update: 9th November 2012: Since I wrote this, the MD of SkinDNA has contacted me personally and given my the price for the test in the UK. It’s to cost around £199. He’s also sending me a test to try so I can compare it against geneONYX. I’ll report back when it’s done.

Sharpei picture: (Photo credit: Used via Zemmatta) this thing on? Talk to me, it's lonely down here

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