How “scientific” are your skin-care products?

Woman_applying_sunscreenAbout 13 years ago, when I returned from the UK with my rat-whiskers doctorate in hand and little idea of what I was going to do with it, I went to see a dermatologist.

Truth be told, my mother thought my face was too hairy — bless her, we’re Eastern European Jews — and she wanted me to see what could be done about it. Nothing I wanted any part of, it turned out, but  the visit did give me the opportunity to ask a professional about the so-called “personalized” skin creams that had just hit the market. For a few hundred bucks, you could swab your cheek at the Neiman Marcus make-up counter and receive a moisturizer tailored to your… something. “We have taken the guesswork out of the skincare equation,” one company’s president insisted in a 2003 press release.

It sounded fishy to me. It was the first story I ever really wanted to write — and I finally got the chance. A handful of companies have revived the idea of using gene sequencing to personalize skin care, but  as one of my academic dermatologist sources said, “Personally at this point in time I wouldn’t spend my money on that. I’d get a good sunscreen.” So, ok, not yet… but there *have* been some interesting advances in the molecular understanding of cosmetic dermatology, and it was fun to learn and write about them.

[Read the story at Nature Outlook (paywall) or download PDF // October 8, 2015]

**Image credit: Wikimedia Commons / National Cancer Institute