One of the hottest terms in skincare today is DNA. It’s either being incorporated into innovative anti-aging products and treatments or being targeted by DNA-repairing enzymes to improve the look of skin. While the ethics of using human stem cells derived from embryos in skincare is still highly controversial, that hasn’t stopped manufacturers from tapping into other sources. For example, Valmont incorporates DNA from Canadian salmon milt to provide antioxidants and moisture to the skin. “The Sockeye Salmon, found only in British Columbia, is the highest grade quality salmon,” says international training manager Celine Gudit. “This is the only species of salmon that has a single reproduction cycle over its two to three year life span, whereas salmon from Scotland can reproduce up to five times. Sockeye was chosen for Valmont products because its DNA is more resistant than any other salmon, as it can only fertilize female eggs once.” Spa-goers can also turn back the clock with the help of fish DNA in the Caviar Indulgence Signature Facial ($175, 50 minutes) at Equinox Spa (multiple locations), which features Restorsea products. Despite the ick factor, today’s spa-goers have no qualms about indulging in treatments featuring sheep placenta, bovine embryonic fluid, and more, for the sake of beautiful skin.
While not a fan of using DNA as a bioactive ingredient in skincare products, Neal Kitchen, Ph.D., vice president of strategy and development for HydroPeptide, does think products that interact and communicate with an individual’s DNA show promise. “Strategies to protect and repair DNA are critical to skincare regimens,” says Kitchen. “Focusing on DNA will have a huge impact on skincare strategies going forward. The better we understand how to communicate with the DNA, the more effective we can be at treating aging problems at the molecular level.”
According to board-certified dermatologist Debra Jaliman, M.D., and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From A Top New York Dermatologist (St. Martin’s Press, 2012), DNA repair can now be seen in all sorts of treatment products, including sunscreen. “Patients seem to like these products because they are not as irritating as retinoids,” says Jaliman. She attributes the rise in popularity to the attention they’ve garnered in the media. “I think we will see DNA repair incorporated into other products in the future,” she says. “Maybe even makeup.”
For the time being, treatments that seek to address the skin’s DNA are easier than ever to find. At the Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village (CA), guests can help repair photo-damaged skin with the medical-grade DNA Growth Factor Exfoliating Facial ($185, 50 minutes), which relies on the DNAEGF Renewal line from Ronald C. Moy, M.D. It infuses skin with professional-strength growth factor from Iceland, which is paired with DNA-repair enzymes, to help revitalize the skin. “The facial uses state-of-the-art bioengineered epidermal growth factor (EGF) from barley, making it more stable and effective than bacteria-based EGF,” says assistant spa director Mary MacDonald. “Using EGF on the skin has been scientifically proven to thicken and tighten the skin by stimulating the skin’s stem cells.”
Making it even more of a buzzword in the industry, DNA can also be analyzed to determine a course of treatment. Spa-goers can undergo DNA testing to help determine the skin regimen that’s best suited for them. Ruthie Harper, M.D., a leading physician in non-surgical aesthetics, developed Skinshift, a personalized line of skincare products and supplements based on an individual’s DNA. With a simple swab of the cheek, a lab can now determine how the skin fares in a series of categories, such as its ability to form collagen, protect against the sun and other environmental factors, and more. The genetic test can help determine the strengths and weaknesses of the skin. Such testing offers yet another way to provide true customization, something most spa-goers want.
While the attention focused on DNA has created a new frontier in skincare, opinions still vary widely on the subject, as some debate the effectiveness of specific treatments. There’s no denying though that DNA will certainly play a key role in the evolution of skincare. Says Kitchen, “The better we understand skin and the aging process at the DNA and molecular level, the better chance we have at formulating effective and potent products to counter the aging process.”