Imagine walking up to the cosmetics counter in your local department store and taking a DNA test so that your skin care products can be formulated to your exact genetic markers. A few days later, a package arrives in the mail filled with an entire line of cleansers, moisturizers and cosmetics that are designed for you and only you. The cleanser is carefully tailored to target your skin's oil production levels; it's also formulated not to irritate your sensitive skin that breaks out in a flaming red rash if certain botanicals even come near it. That same bottle of cleanser has a hint of kojic acid to combat pesky age spots, which tend to pop up in your family [source: WebMD].
The theory behind genetically customized skin cleansers is rooted in the fact that not everyone's skin has the same genetic makeup and, therefore, the same needs. If you have very oily skin that tends to break out, your skin care needs are different than those of someone who has very dry skin that's prone to itching and flaking. There's a reason why that cleanser your college roommate used did wonders for her and only made your skin sting like you had spent a week in the desert.
That's the idea behind genetically customized cleansers. A specialist at a store swipes your inner cheek with a cotton swab. The cotton swab goes to a lab for analysis, and the lab uses the information gathered from your skin cells and DNA markers to formulate a cleanser for you.
Though it might sound futuristic, a few companies are already forging ahead into the field of customized skin care cleansers, moisturizers and other cosmetics products. If you're ready to find out whether this technology can shape your skin care routine, or if you'd just like to explore the basic principles of choosing the appropriate products without all the fancy testing, read on.
Designing Genetically Customized Skin Cleansers
If you've tried to choose a skin cleanser that provides maximum results, you know it's often a gamble as to which one will work for you. Skin cleansers are designed to remove bacteria, dirt, excess oil and other substances that can cause odors and infections. However, if you are using a cleanser that isn't right for you, you could be stripping away the valuable moisture that protects your skin or adding extra oils that will irritate your skin.
But how do you know which cleanser is right for you? This is the exact question that has prompted research on formulating the "perfect skin cleanser." Cosmetics companies claim that, based on your skin type and personal history, they are striving to design cleansers that contain only the ingredients that work for your skin type.
For example, if your skin cells show signs of low hydration levels, your genetically customized cleanser might be formulated to leave out certain alcohols that could further dry out your skin. This same cleanser might have a hint of moisturizer to help retain some of your natural oils. Likewise, if your skin analysis shows a buildup of old skin cells and slow cell turnover, your cleanser might contain an exfoliant to help rejuvenate the skin and promote new cell growth.
Some of these principles might sound familiar to you since there are currently skin cleansers on the market made for dry, oily and combination skin. What are the benefits of looking beyond just the three basic types of skin?
Benefits of Genetically Customized Skin Cleansers
Regardless of whether you opt for DNA skin assessment testing or a full skin analysis by a skin care professional, there could be benefits to using skin cleansers that are designed for you. Perhaps the biggest claim genetically customized skin care manufacturers make is that their products can take the guesswork out of knowing which type of product will bring out the best in your skin.
Some companies also say their goal in comprehensive skin assessment is to design skin cleansers that will help compensate for your skin's natural progression in aging and tissue breakdown [source: GeneLink]. For example, if you are prone to age spots from genetics or from years of exposure to the sun, your skin cleanser might be customized to include agents that will help reduce the appearance of age spots. If you have a history of eczema, your cleanser might include witch hazel if previous use has shown it to be an effective course of treatment [source: Mayo Clinic].
The concept of a company designing the perfect skin care package tailored to your specific needs, however, might sound too good to be true. But is it? Some experts have their concerns. Many question the credibility of such claims, doubt whether the products actually work, and assert that there is little difference between customized products and those you could pick out for yourself at the drugstore [source: Corderi]. CNN also reports that geneticists and dermatologists have called the products "snake oil" and "misleading" [source: CNN]. Dermatologists and cosmetics manufacturers can't necessarily turn the knowledge that you have a particular genetic marker into a cure or treatment for a specific skin condition. And, of course, there is always the possibility that what you end up with could still irritate your skin, in spite of the customized formula.
If you're not up for going through scientific testing, you can also search the shelves for cleansers with or without specific ingredients if you know your skin type and history. Gentle cleansers typically are best for dry skin. If your skin is the sensitive type and breaks out easily, look for cleansers that are fragrance-free. Avoid ingredients such as color dyes or preservatives in your skin care products if they've been known to irritate you [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. Treat adult acne with gentle cleansers, and avoid products with abrasives that might irritate your skin [source: Libov].
The more information you have about your skin, the better choices you can make about your skin care products. Up next is even more information about skin cleansers and how they work with different types of skin.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Cosmeceutical Facts & Your Skin." (Accessed 8/22/09) http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/general_cosmeceutical.html
- Corderi, Victoria. "Decoding the 'magic' of skin care." Dateline NBC. Oct. 17, 2004. (Accessed 9/17/09)http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6255436/ns/dateline_nbc/
- CNN. "DNA skin cream: New science or scam?" 12/20/2002 (Accessed 9/18/2009) http://archives.cnn.com/2002/HEALTH/12/19/dna.skin.cream/
- GeneLink "GeneLink Subsidiary GeneWize Launches Revolutionary LifeMap Me DNA Customized Skin Serum." (Accessed 8/22/09)http://www.genelinkbio.com/news_articles/08_12_09.shtml
- GeneLink. "GeneLink and Arch Personal Care Products Present 'Genetic Skin Care' Products at International Cosmetic Expo." Feb. 20, 2004. (Accessed 9/17/09)http://www.genelinkbio.com/news_articles/2_20_04.html
- Libov, Charlotte. "Adult Acne: Why You Get It, How to Fight It." WebMD. Aug. 21, 2008. (Accessed 8/22/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/acne/features/adult-acne-why-you-get-it-how-fight-it
- Mayo Clinic. "Atopic Dermatitis (eczema)." Aug. 22, 2009. (Accessed 8/22/09) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/eczema/DS00986/DSECTION=alternative%2Dmedicine
- Mayo Clinic. "Wrinkles: Causes." Jan. 27, 2009. (Accessed 8/22/09)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/wrinkles/DS00890/DSECTION=causes
- WebMD. "Contact Dermatitis." Aug. 10, 2005. (Accessed 8/22/09)http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/contact-dermatitis
- WebMD. "Skin Conditions: Understanding Skin Care Products." March 1, 2007. (Accessed 8/22/09) http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/skin-care-products