How much is skin’s appearance down to DNA? Not as much as you might think, according to American beauty giant Estee Lauder. In fact the VP of its parent company’s skin biology and bio-actives global research and development department, Dr Nadine Pernodet, claims that genes are responsible for just 25 per cent of the signs of ageing. The other 75 per cent? It’s all down to environment, she says – UV exposure, climate, lifestyle choices such as diet and sleep et cetera or, as scientists like to describe it, epigenetics.

Literally meaning “over genetics”, it’s a term that refers to how what we do and experience affect how genes are expressed. It would explain why conditions such as diabetes could pop up suddenly and then remain in families for generations. Or how identical twins might grow up to be of different heights. Or, yes, how the state of one’s complexion often has a correlation to the amount of shut-eye one gets at night.

Scientists at Estee Lauder claim that genes are responsible for just 25 per cent of the signs of ageing. The other 75 per cent boil down to environment, lifestyle choices such as your beauty sleep et cetera or, as scientists like to describe it, epigenetics. Film Still © Miramax/Courtesy of Everett Collection

It’s not that a person’s DNA has changed, but rather, that certain parts of it get switched on and off by external factors; the “nurture” argument if you will. Just think of epigenetics as the so-called control panel for genes and – as Pernodet puts it – it means that we can to a large extent control how our skin looks and ages.

It’s a science that’s seen growing interest among beauty brands – particularly those that fall under the luxury or niche categories – in recent years. With its best-selling Advanced Night Repair (ANR), Estee Lauder can be said to be a pioneer. Introduced in 1982, the iconic treatment already lays claim to many firsts: It’s the world’s first serum (its lightweight texture was considered revolutionary when it was created), first skincare to incorporate hyaluronic acid and first to adopt an apothecary-style brown bottle that’s since become part of its signature look (it protects the product’s active ingredients).

Read More: Op-Ed: I Took A DNA Test For My Skin, And Here’s What Happened

While the original ANR didn’t involve epigenetics, iterations that followed have at least been inspired by it – Estee Lauder started researching this field more than 10 years ago. And launching Aug 1, the latest version, Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Multi-Recovery Complex, draws directly from it and promises to deliver results faster than its predecessors.

To create it, the brand looked at micro-signalling models, which are molecules that exist throughout the body. These react to external factors, then influence genes to produce responses. The likes of pollution, sun exposure, climate and unhealthy lifestyle choices such as poor sleep and smoking trigger negative ones, resulting in signs of damage like wrinkles, dark spots and sagging. Others – including certain skincare ingredients –encourage the creation of positive responses and through its research, Estee Lauder has identified the very micro-signalling molecule that generates skin repair.

One of the world’s best-selling serums, Estee Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair has been reformulated to not only optimise the repair of one’s skin during bedtime, but also encourage the production of new cells and collagen for more youthful-looking skin faster.

Says Pernodet: “This specific micro-signalling molecule helps skin increase its natural renewal of fresh new cells and boost its natural collagen production. In the R&D laboratories, we consider it a guardian of skin youthfulness.”

The magic ingredient found to boost levels of this reparative molecule: the extract of the seed of the adansonia digitata (aka the African baobab). The tree is known to survive harsh environments and its seeds have multiple health benefits. Combining this with its proprietary yeast extract and a peptide, Estee Lauder has upgraded the technology that’s been the backbone of ANR (its aptly superhero-like name: Chronolux Power Signal) so that the serum not only optimises skin’s overnight repair, but also – for the first time – encourages the production of new cells and collagen.

There are also ingredients to mend skin’s moisture barrier, hyaluronic acid for hydration and antioxidants to protect from aggressors like pollution, blue light and UV rays. What this all means: The 2020 version of ANR supposedly leads to plumper, firmer-looking skin in just three weeks and is able to reduce lines 25 per cent faster than the version before. Couple that with how the product’s distinct bottle has similarly been updated – it’s now slimmer, sleeker and is made of recyclable glass, not plastic – and the idea of beauty sleep just got even sweeter.

This article first appeared in the August 2020 Home Edition of FEMALE.