We know that to some extent, good skin is in our genes, although we often over or under play lifestyle factors that affect our ageing process. I’m not just talking about big stuff like the two packs of cigarettes a day that you puffed through your late teens or that naughty sun-bed addiction. Factors harder to avoid like working late into the night, travelling home on public transport and even a sweet tooth can be underlying triggers to premature ageing. Initially, I had my doubts about how effective gene testing can be when it comes to beauty, asking “what is DNA skincare and does it work?”. Is it just a marketing ploy and how much can we do if we’re already genetically predisposed to an ageing factor?
Read my review and experience of the latest trend in the future of beauty, and which elements you could incorporate into your routine.
My foray into DNA based beauty starts with ALLÉL, a company founded by two female doctors who are bringing gene testing into the high end skincare market. And it’s very high end, at a price tag of about £1400 for the full range of eye cream, supplements, facial cleanser, serum, sun protection and moisturiser. It also includes the laboratory test, involving a saliva swab, which produces a report on your strongest drivers that cause premature ageing.
I paid a visit to their partner in London, the Cadogan Clinic to collect my results. My first point of contact was a therapist who asked me a few of the usual lifestyle questions, like whether I tan (no), do I drink frequently (yes) and proceeded to read off my results from the print-out… and then sent me off. If that sounds lacklustre and off-putting it really was. Sure I was there via a PR agency so this was at no cost to me, but I questioned whether paying clients would appreciate this level of professionalism or lack of it. It’s also the analysis of your DNA results that point to which of ALLÉL’s product lines would best suit you, therefore its critical that you are with an advisor who really knows what they’re doing.
Personalisation is a major trend affecting the future of beauty. It isn’t new but brands are always trying to uncover novel ways of providing this service, which gives way to plenty of sceptics. When a geneticist friend of mine heard about this, she asked me, “what genome are they testing? How can they even tell?”, doubting the strength of the science.
And I was cautious too, especially after an unsuccessful first round of trialling ALLÉL, where I was incorrectly given a moisturiser that made my skin irritable. I was hesitant to give it another shot, particularly when it’s the first time I’ve reacted to a product this way. But I agreed to meet with Doctor Rozina Ali, a plastic surgeon who was willing to provide a consultation based on my skincare results and prescribe me new products.
Let’s just say, if I had written this review two months ago without having met Dr Ali, this post would be very different. She explained that we can view DNA skincare in two parts: the ALLÉL report is for everyone – it indicates the strongest triggers of premature ageing, which should be viewed alongside environmental factors. Then there are the products, which are optional when you take the test (the latter priced at just over £100) and they may not even suit every patient. But they’re a good jumping off point to ensure you have all the components of a regime that correctly addresses your needs.
The products are categorised by their function:
- Matrix (the natural deterioration of your collagen)
- Calming (those with sensitive skin)
- Glycation (reduced protection against the production of Advanced Glycation End-products, caused when your body is not at its optimum to process sugar, therefore the glucose binds to collagen).
- Tone (or pigmentation affected by sun damage)
- Anti-oxidant (pollution, stress and free-radicals)
These are the five cornerstones of the ageing process, where combinations affect each individual differently. For me Matrix was a low driver, which Dr Ali suggested was influenced by my Chinese heritage as we typically have soft features, bolstered by a healthy amount of collagen. Interestingly, the therapist I met had prescribed me a moisturiser to combat glycation and this was what caused my skin to react negatively. This was hugely convincing that there was a strong correlation between their skincare line and the report.
My highest ageing factor came out as Anti-oxidant, meaning that environmental factors particularly associated with urban areas are most likely to give me wrinkles. If there are any better excuses to go on frequent countryside spa trips, I’d love to hear them. I was given a new moisturiser to protect my skin barrier against the stresses of city living and recommended to focus on products containing Vitamin C and sun protection. Two months later, I’m still maintaining a clear complexion and soft supple skin and yes, the serum and face cream are part of my daily routine.
If you’re seriously considering ALLÉL, I’d recommend going for the DNA test first. I liked the eye cream (the packaging and its application is sublime), I thought that the serum and the new moisturiser worked well together and the SPF protection didn’t leave any unpleasant stickiness or a film over my face. However, I wasn’t a fan of the foaming cleanser which drying and I also didn’t feel any significant benefits to the supplements, although it never hurts to take multi-vitamins. It’s more important to educate yourself and tailor what you already have, instead of trying out a whole new expensive skincare range.
The problem is that most of us don’t know what our main ageing driver(s) are and are swayed by any newbie on the market, from retinol, lasers and products boasting potent Vitamin C % to microneedling. Whilst they’re all strong contenders in maintaining a healthy complexion, you could be saving future dollars and hours of downtime if you knew exactly what your skin needed. And that’s why despite all of the cynicism surrounding DNA skincare, I was finally sold.
Interested in getting your DNA test? Take a look at the certified clinics here.