Two-year-old homegrown company Imagene Labs specialises in genetic research, and branched out into providing skincare and wellness solutions last September. Via DNA testing, its products are formulated based on an individual’s genetic make-up.
There are three different types of tests – skincare, fitness and nutrition – to choose from on Ori, the company’s e-commerce platform. The OriSKIN test kit, for example, evaluates genetic markers in your skin in 10 traits, from hydration to pigmentation and premature ageing. “These specific traits have been selected as they are ones that people are most concerned about”, says Alina Uchida, Imagene Labs’ skincare expert.
All that sounds well and good, but why should doing a DNA test be important to a person and his or her skincare routine? Uchida explains: “It’s very good for pre-emptive action as it tells you things you can’t see yet. For example, collagen breakdown in your skin may be high if you have a variation on a certain gene, so your body doesn’t recycle or preserve collagen. A machine or scanner wouldn’t be able to see this.”
Her answer prompts a follow-up question – just how accurate are the results? Uchida’s response: “How we came up with the genes to test and the traits they are linked to is based on a global genome-wide study called GWAS, which is still ongoing. In terms of connection between trait and gene, it’s robust. In terms of our testing of the sample, we’ve scored a 99.8 per cent concordance with other labs we’ve benchmarked against.”
I order an OriSKIN+ kit online (priced at US$229 or S$320, it encompasses a DNA skin test and a customised serum), which takes two to three days to arrive. The kit contains a mini test tube which you spit into (yes, literally) for the purposes of collecting a saliva sample. Once it’s sealed, a courier picks it up and the sample is sent for processing in Imagene’s in-house laboratory. Three weeks later, an email lands in my inbox announcing that the test results on my genetic profile are now ready.
The results come in the form of a 27-page-long document that outline how the test was conducted – it screens for multiple genetic variations that can affect the functionality of various skin traits – and shares how the percentile scores are calculated. The description of each trait comes with an explanation of the genes tested, an assessment of each genetic variation (ranging from normal to high) as well as dietary, lifestyle and skincare recommendations. It’s information overload, but an insightful one at that. “The purpose of these tests is to cut out all the noise, especially for skincare,” adds Uchida. “People tend to buy based on marketing message or packaging, not so much on whether it’ll really help you.”
While most of the results are issues that I already recognise (pigmentation and dryness are two of my biggest skin woes), I’m surprised to find out that I’m genetically predisposed to not be able to eliminate toxins, irritants and pollutants in skin as easily as others, which may result in signs of premature ageing. I am (obviously) also happy to be ranked in the 90th percentile of the population in terms of youthfulness, which means I experience a slower skin ageing process compared to others.
The information doesn’t just stop there. Every trait comes with specific and detailed recommendations of the type of skincare that’s ideal for my skin. For dryness, I am recommended cold-pressed oils and soap-free cleansers; to prevent spots, I should use a mineral-based sunscreen that would reflect UVA and UVB rays; and to prevent sensitive skin, I should use hypoallergenic, fragrance-free and/or organic beauty products.
The customised serum that I receive upon completing the test claims to treat the top skin issues identified in my DNA (in my case, inflammation, detoxification and collagen production). Produced in Imagene’s laboratory, it contains patented ingredients such as marine plant cells to boost radiance and grape extract to protect skin from free radicals. The serum comes in a lightweight, watery formula that is absorbed easily into skin, and just one to two pumps is needed. While its scent takes some getting used to (the closest thing I can describe it as is that it smells like crushed vitamin powder), the results are pretty immediate – after two days, my complexion feels smoother and appears slightly brighter.
Another thing that I appreciate about the profile: Apart from dishing out beauty-related recommendations, it also includes other tips on changing my diet and lifestyle. The one that caught my attention the most? To limit my sugar intake, because sugar and protein molecules supposedly form a harmful molecule called Advanced Glycation End Products, which can cause elevated blood sugar and lead to skin inflammation.
No matter if you’re a beauty novice or a skincare junkie, this test is an illuminating exercise. Try it out of pure curiosity, or simply because you want to discover the secrets to attaining eternal youth (just kidding).
Main image: Showbit.com