Should you get tested, too? A longtime beauty writer and a dermatologist weigh in.

By By Melanie Rud Chadwick
January 03, 2018
Photo: Hywards / Shutterstock

I fully believe that knowledge is power, so when I heard that there was a new at-home DNA test that provides insight about your skin, I was all in.

The premise: HomeDNA Skin Care ($25; plus a $79 lab fee) measures 28 genetic markers in seven categories associated with various concerns (think collagen quality, skin sensitivity, sun protection, etc.) to provide you with a more complete understanding of your skin and what it needs. Based on the results, you then get personalized recommendations for topical ingredients, ingestible supplements, and professional treatments in each category. Sounds worthwhile, right? (Related: Forget Diet and Exercise-Do You Have the Fit Gene?)

"The more you know about your skin as an organ, the better off you are," says Mona Gohara, M.D., associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine. The only downside? "Sometimes you can't change the future," she says. "Creams often don't have the power of reversal necessary to battle genetics."

Let's go back to basics for a minute. When it comes to how your skin ages, there are two types of factors at play: Extrinsic, which include lifestyle factors such as smoking or if you wear sunscreen (please say you wear sunscreen!), and intrinsic, aka your genetic makeup. The former you can control, the latter you cannot. And, to Dr. Gohara's point, even the best skin-care regimen can't change what your momma gave you. Still, by learning more about your genetics through a DNA test like this, you can gain valuable knowledge about how best to take care of your skin, not just as it pertains to aging, but overall skin health, too.

Dr. Gohara notes that this is especially important with regard to skin cancer. "Although some may think that skin health is fluff, skin cancer is the number-one malignancy in the United States," she says. "Someone whose skin is lacking in sun protection or antioxidants may be at higher risk, and knowing that can help you realize that you need to step up your sunscreen game." (BTW, do you know how often you should really have a skin exam?)

Point being, the more you know about your skin, the better. But back to the test itself. The entire process (which included creating an account on the company's website) took me two minutes, max. The kit comes with cotton swabs and a prepaid envelope; all you do is swab the inside of your cheeks, pop the swabs in the envelope, and send the whole thing back to the lab. The definition of quick and painless. A few weeks later, I received an email that my results were ready. (Related: Does At-Home Medical Testing Help or Hurt You?)

The 11-page test report was concise and easy to understand. Essentially, for each of the genetic markers across the seven categories, it ranks your genetic profile as non-ideal, standard, or optimal. I came in as standard/optimal for fine lines and wrinkles, pollution sensitivity, collagen formation, skin antioxidants, and pigmentation. In the skin sensitivity category, I ranked as non-ideal, which makes perfect sense as my skin is super sensitive and prone to all kinds of rashes, reactions, and the like. My collagen fiber formation and collagen depreciation were also non-ideal. (Related: Why It's Never Too Early to Start Protecting the Collagen In Your Skin)

My report also came with helpful suggestions about what to use and do to bolster these areas specifically, which Dr. Gohara says is good to keep in mind when tailoring a specific skin-care regimen. "Just like everyone should exercise and eat a well-balanced diet, everyone should use a sunscreen and an antioxidant serum," she says. "Still, the results of a DNA test can help pinpoint personal nuances. For example, if pollution sensitivity is an issue for you, it's worth using a serum with ingredients that protect against this specifically." In my case, she recommended avoiding harsh chemical exfoliants (so as to not exacerbate my sensitive skin) and upping my retinoid usage (to help with the collagen issues).

At the end of the day, I found the test totally worth the investment-and would recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about their skin. As much as you may *think* you know about your skin, digging deeper can really only be a good thing. If you don't know, now you know.