Anti-aging & Cosmeceutical Corner

Genomic-Based Anti-Aging Products Hope or Hype?

By Navin M. Geria, Senior Technical Advisor | September 27, 2013

The US anti-aging skin care market is valued at $832 million by Mintel, and is expected to expand 46% from 2010 to 2015, according to the market research company. However, sales gains have slowed during the past year, according to Mintel, and 69% of consumers believe skin aging has more to do with an individual’s genes than the strength of their topical products regimen, which they say offers “more hope than help.”

Consumers believe in the power of genes and have a basic understanding that the primary reason why they age is due to progressive damage to their DNA. This column will briefly review the current status of genomic-based anti-aging products and examine DNA, the critical molecule of life and how its health affects skin aging.

The human genome study, completed in 2003, provided a valuable insight into the human body. It identified nearly 25,000 genes in human DNA and how they are regulated in response to both internal and external stimuli. The study also determined the sequence of almost three billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA. This information has the ability to provide answers to the behavior of skin aging biomarkers. Specific biomarkers show an age dependent increase or decrease, which is helpful in understanding causes of aging. It could also help validate efficacy of anti-aging actives formulated into topical formulations. This potentially could also help develop effective anti-aging actives. You know what they say, “our genes load the gun, but our environment pulls the trigger.”

Available Products
Is it really possible for a cream that is applied to the face to actually repair DNA or make genes younger? The answer is provided by Mt. Sinai Medical Center’s Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology, Dr. Jeanette Graf, increasingly popular “DNA repair” promises of the cosmetic industry, the words sound little scary, as if these products are going to go into the body and change your DNA. What’s really happening is that the products contain actives that help the body’s own natural efforts to protect and heal the skin.

Topical formulations have peptides as one of their actives. They act as messengers to a specific cell. They either switch some function on or off. They are very specific in nature. Some peptides increase the expression of specific skin biomarkers, thus conferring anti-aging skin care benefits. According to some researchers, if the creams we are using on our face are not suited to our genetic requirements, we are unable to metabolize the actives and they are left on the skin to build up as unwanted toxins in our system. There are skin care products specifically formulated for each individual by reading the person’s own DNA. The product development process begins by collecting a swab from the subject’s inner cheek to assess DNA of the six genes that affect the skin health according to Gene Link, which holds the patent for genetically assessing one’s skin. From these skin cells, experts find the customer’s propensity for collagen breakdown, photo-aging, wrinkling, skin aging, skin’s ability to tolerate environmental pollutants and overall health.

Products are delivered within three weeks after initial cheek swab procedure. According to the company, the consumers using genetically guided formulations had significantly reduced signs of skin wrinkling and skin aging while outperforming random topical anti-aging products. However, results of double-blind clinical studies were not available to make a fair assessment of efficacy. Sunscreens, when combined with antioxidants such as L-Ergothioneine, provide enhanced DNA protection against the harmful effects of UV radiation. The consequences of unrepaired DNA damage are enormous.

Genes are the gifts that keep on giving—whatever your particular genetic sequence may be. All external stimuli have influence on gene expression without changing the gene themselves, thus genetics play a major part in how our skin ages. We know that facial wrinkles arise partly because of our facial muscle movements, which has nothing to do with DNA, despite what some experts insist.
Beautiful skin and a youthful complexion are all in the genes and these good genes are something money can’t buy. It remains to be seen if the next generation of genomic-based research will yield highly effective anti-aging products. Until such time, consumers must carefully choose their brand from conflicting marketing messages.

However, we all should feel optimistic because, according to dermatologist Dr. Zoe Draelos, a consulting professor at Duke University’s School of Medicine, there is ground-breaking research underway to determine the differences between old and young genes. The hope is that by understanding how to keep young genes from getting old will result in putting truly effective genomic based anti-aging products in consumers’ hands. 

For additional in-depth information on this subject, check out  “Satisfactory, Superior or Superfluous? Stem Cells, Growth Factors, DNA Protective Actives and Botanical Antioxidants” at Happi’s Anti-Aging Conference & Tabletop Exhibition, set for Oct. 29-30, 2013 at the Hyatt Regency, New Brunswick, NJ.
More info:

Navin M. Geria
Senior Technical Advisor and Principal Doctors Skin Prescription

Navin Geria, ex-Pfizer Research Fellow, is senior technical advisor and principal of the dermatological research company, Doctors Skin Prescription (DSP), Boston, founded by dermatologist David J. Goldberg, MD JD and plastic surgeons William P. Adams, MD FACS and Jason Pozner, MD. Geria has more than 30 years of experience in the personal care industry and was previously with Clairol, Warner-Lambert, Schick, Bristol-Myers and most recently, Spa Dermaceuticals. He has earned nearly 20 US patents, has been published extensively and has been both a speaker and a moderator at cosmetic industry events.
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