DNA-Based Beauty Products: The Future of Skincare?


We all know your DNA can help predict many genetic conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or cancer, but is your DNA related to what kind of skincare products you should use? Dr. Ruthie Harper, a Texas-based dermatologist, claims she has found predispositions to aging present in one’s DNA, including aging and health factors impacted by collagen production, sun protection, antioxidant protection, glycation issues and inflammation control. Armed with this information, she then creates skincare products personalized to her patients’ unique genetic makeup.
 
As a part of her line, SKINSHIFT, Dr. Harper takes a sample of your DNA and has it examined by a lab.  By taking this simple genetic profile test, she will be able to see your skin’s genetic potential based upon 16 areas of DNA, called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).  Based upon this data, Dr. Harper can determine how well your skin builds collagen, protects itself from the sun, builds antioxidants, controls inflammation, and fights glycation.  She will then recommend products and supplements based on your results. 
 
It’s interesting, but as a scientist, I was skeptical. Based on the science, it is difficult to determine the efficacy of this line without knowing which specific 16 SNPs Dr. Harper is examining, and how specifically she is treating each variation of the SNPs.  I turned to Dr. Harper for more answers.
 
Nicki Zevola: What gave you the idea for this product?
Dr. Harper: I originally started my medical practice as an emergency room physician. When I moved from the world of emergency medicine into the world of nutritional or integrative medicine I began to take a very personalized approach to taking care of people. Each of our bodies are different with unique strengths and weakness and if we can determine what these strengths and weakness are we can specifically address them and improve our health exponentially.  A very unique and high tech way to determine our skins strengths and weakness is to look into our DNA. So SKINSHIFT was the desire to use this philosophy of personalized medicine in the skincare world…to look into our DNA to determine our skins strengths and weakness and utilize this information to create a customized or personalized skin care regimen for each person.
 
There are other skincare lines out there with good ingredients, but a woman can be using a product line focused on building collagen and yet her genetics are such that her body does a great job of making and maintaining collagen. What she really needs support with is reducing inflammation which is robbing her skin of its beauty and health. She would never know this information without doing a SKINSHIFT genetic test. By looking into her genes we know exactly what the strengths and weakness of her skin are and can then customize a skincare regimen based on this.
 
So, the goal for the SKINSHIFT program was to get very personalized with each person, to really know their skins strengths and weakness so we could design a skin care line and supplements just for them…and then see clinically what happens. The results have been extraordinary.
 
NZ:  How does it customize the line based upon your DNA?  Is it based upon genetic predisposition to certain skin disorders, or is it based upon conditions that you're already expressing (rosacea, psoriasis, or acne)?  Please explain!
Harper: We look at five keys areas of skin health based on 16 Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNP's…pronounced snips). These SNP's are the genetic variations in our DNA from one person to the next, which determine the tendencies of our skin (and body) to do certain things.
These 16 key chromosomal variations-SNP’s- significantly affect the appearance and health of our skin. These five key categories of skin health are:
Collagen Formation Factor- how well your skin makes and maintains your collagen.
Sun Protection Factor- how well your skin is able to protect against the sun and other environmental insults.
Antioxidant Protection Factor- how well your internal antioxidant systems work to keep your skin young and healthy.
Inflammation control factor- how much inflammation is robbing your skin of its health.
Glycation Protection Factor- whether or not your body processes sugar well, because if it doesn’t it will cause a process called glycation. Glycation caramelizes your skin fro the inside out, leading to aging and pigment changes etc.
 
So, we swab the inside of your cheek to get your genetic info, send it to our isocertified lab and then get your results back telling us your unique profile of strengths and weakness in these 5 key areas of skin health. Based on that, we are then able to create a custom designed skin care program just for you!
 
NZ: How many different types are in your system?
Harper: There are an unlimited number of results that we get back from people’s testing because we are all unique and different and an unlimited number of recommendations that are made for skincare products and supplements.
 
NZ: How does this work?  
Harper: The individual orders a kit. They do the test by swabbing their cheek at home (or in our office) with a small applicator that looks like a popsicle stick. They send it to us and we send it in to our lab. We get their result back after the testing is performed and are then able to customize a skincare program with skincare products and supplements based on their genetic strengths and weakness. This is the ultimate way (and most scientific)  to support their skin in becoming more beautiful and healthy. Our master esthetician is happy to go through the report with any person who wants to do this or they can simply order products based on the personalized recommendation that comes with their report.
 
NZ:  Can you still use other products with the line?
Harper: Absolutely, although no other skincare line is custom designed based on your genetics.  This is an important differentiator of our product line.
 
In addition, I really think our products are superior. Each ingredient is clinically researched for effectiveness, after the ingredient manufacturer proves to me that the ingredient has scientific validity I further test it in my practice with my own patients to make sure that I see the same type of clinical results. Finally, because my practice is all about health and wellness, we make sure we never use ingredients that are bad for the skin or the person’s overall health.
 
Further, we have scientifically designed supplements that the person can take to address their high or medium risk categories and these recommendations are made based on their report and are available online. We believe that working from the inside out for skin health and beauty (using scientifically designed nutritional supplementation) is as important as working from the outside in (using great skincare).
 
NZ: Please describe your ideal customer
Harper: People, regardless of their age or sex, are drawn to our skincare line because it is scientific and customized for them. It’s interesting because we see a lot of teens getting SKINSHIFT tests. They love the technology and the uniqueness of understanding how their skin is different from everyone else’s. It’s like a skin horoscope. And what better time to begin a healthy skincare program than in your teens?
 
The twenty-to-thirty-somethings also love it to begin early to prevent aging and changes that would occur if they didn’t know their skin’s unique strengths and weaknesses.
 
Obviously women in their late 30’s and on are really focusing on their skin quality, on how they can meaningfully impact the aging process.
 
And men love the concept because it is simple, straightforward and scientific.
 
I think it is important for people to know that our genetics determine the tendency of their body to do certain things. These tendencies are just that…tendencies…not absolutes and this is why it is so important to get the SKINSHIFT testing.  We have the ability to impact our skin with great skincare and supplementation if we have the knowledge of what our genetic tendencies are. Without this information we are making decisions regarding skincare without a roadmap.
 
Thank you, Dr. Harper!
 
What do you think about DNA-based skin care:  all the rage or hype?  I would personally love to see the results of patients using this method vs. traditional skin care methods in peer-reviewed, double-blinded, independent, unbiased studies. 
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