Science is dynamic: once, DNA was believed to write your destiny, which made people feel powerless regarding their genetic traits; however, you actually modulate the expression of your genes according to your behavior. How? through epigenetics. This biological phenomenon is the “indirect” modification of genetic material which occurs as a response to environmental exposure. For several reasons, a great variety of fields are investing in epigenetics, including dermocosmetics, and out of this article you will understand why.
Epigenetics is the field of genetics that studies heritable changes in gene expression. This process happens through three main mechanisms:
chemical marks attached to your DNA: you can imagine those marks as “tags” that signal how active that sequence is, once they change the binding and activity of the transcriptional apparatus.
post translational modifications at the histones: these proteins pack your DNA, and the level of DNA condensation directly impacts gene expression.
noncoding micro RNAs which are able to guide the recruitment of the previously mentioned mechanisms and to bind to mRNA blocking its translation.
These processes are crucial for the regulation of biochemical processes within your body, and they occur due to numerous environmental factors. Luckily, many of those factors are actually under your control: for example, diet, stress, sun exposure, smoking, and exercise have epigenetic consequences, therefore the control of the expression of your genes can be affected by your lifestyle.
The mechanism of “tagging” DNA can provide humans the ability to regulate the activity of their genes. For instance, it is possible to silence, or “switch off”, some genes associated with cell ageing, malignity, and other damaging processes. Thus, the idea behind the therapies and products that use epigenetics is based on marking DNA sequences in a way to have the undesirable genes switched off and the desirable ones switched on. Once genes which encode for proteins that influence crucial skin health factors, such as ageing, firmness, elasticity, moisturizing, anti-oxidation, pigmentation, and many others, can be switched on and off, the use of epigenetics in skincare is promising. Several studies already revealed the strong impact of epigenetics on the skin, and this knowledge is being used not only against skin ageing, but also to revert its effects. There are more companies working in this field than you can imagine, and many products are already available in the market, like R3 cell matrix mask, La grande crème, Pro 60+ extra nourishing cream, RoyalEpigen P5, just to name a few. Interestingly, some of these products have their main active ingredient originated from natural products, for instance, the Pro 60+ extra nourishing cream has a compound obtained from a flower which is able to reactivate dormant genes providing a younger looking skin.
Nevertheless, there are some concerns you should consider. First, how specific those products are? Biology is very complex, so it is incredibly hard to predict if only the targeted genes will be affected. Secondly, people have variations in type, quantity, and activity of genes, so its efficacy may be different for each person. However, companies are aware of that, and as a consequence, they are providing services in a personalized approach to solve this issue. Like the Skintelli kit by EpigenCare, where they evaluate your current skin epigenetic profile before suggesting the right products especially for you. The third concern is the inheritance characteristic of epigenetics, so how do you know if the induced acquired epigenetic status will not pass on to your offspring? These are some reasons why the development of products with an action principle based on the science of epigenetics needs to be studied with caution.
The takeaway is the power of epigenetics in skincare and how society can use it to its advantage. The genome alone does not determine your traits, but its activity regulation also plays an important role. Thus, with this knowledge, humans have the possibility of controlling, at some level, their traits. This is of particular interest to an organ highly exposed to the environment such as the skin.
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