Would you throw out all your skincare for ever, for just these four creams? That’s a big ask for someone like me, who has at least 17 anti-ageing serums on the go.
Yes, I know 17 sounds excessive, but like many women I’m a sucker for a good marketing campaign and often can’t resist. Of course, all I really want is something that works — on me.
It was this quest for simplicity — and results — that brought me (pre-lockdown) to the new Tempus Clinic in London’s Belgravia, a swanky aesthetics hub co-founded by Dr Veerle Rotsaert.
Now in her mid-30s, she has an enviably clear complexion, and you’d never guess that until last year, she believed she was doomed to spotty skin, blaming her stressful life as an international plastic surgeon
What changed? She started using custom-blended skincare made to match her DNA.
Back in her native Belgium, Dr Rotsaert discovered a brand called Nomige, and having seen impressive clinical trials and the transformation in her own skin, brought it to the UK earlier this year.
DNA testing in order to personalise fitness regimes and diets has been quietly trending for a while. I’ve had great success with an energy-boosting DNA diet tailormade by a nutritionist, and some gyms also offer a DNA test to determine which kind of workout is best for your genetic body type.
When applied to skincare, DNA testing involves a cheek swab test which is then analysed for various genes associated with skin ageing to see what you’re most predisposed to, whether that’s sagging, wrinkles or redness, and so on.
Yes, those things all come to us eventually, but certain gene variations can put you on the fast track. Gene-tailored skincare aims to precisely target your weaknesses.
The trouble with anything bespoke, however, is the eye-popping cost. This is the couture end of wellness, and price tags upwards of £200 are not unusual for the test alone, before you’ve invested in any of the products themselves. Even the DNA tests sold at Superdrug cost from £199 to £499.
So is it worth it? I’ll be a whopping £770 poorer after my consultation with Dr Rotsaert, plus my DNA test and my four made-to-measure creams, which are enough for three months.
That’s a terrible deal if it doesn’t work out, but if it does, I can cut out my 17 other lotions. (I daren’t add up the cost of those!)
Covid regulations mean that facials are off the cards right now, so I’m prepared to see if this is a better use of my cash.
Nomige sells itself on its particular blending of DNA and lifestyle. The two factors need to be looked at in tandem, explains Dr Rotsaert, because 60 per cent of skin ageing is genetic and the other 40 per cent is down to environmental factors.
Lifestyle can affect the way our genes work, switching them on and off — known as epigenetics.
The process starts with the cheek swab (which is straightforward), a lifestyle questionnaire and a check-in with Dr Rotsaert to make sure there are no underlying medical issues that need to be treated first.
The genes tested include those that control collagen (how firm your skin is), anti-oxidant production (how well it fights stressfrom inside the body and the environment) and hydration and skin barrier health (keeping moisture in and nasties out).
The information is sent to Nomige founder Dr Barbara Geusens, 38, a Belgian bioengineer with a PhD in dermatology, who will make my personalised concoctions from a pool of 150 ingredients with clinically proven results.
So far, 800 people (average age 38) have signed up. Despite the price, it has an impressive loyalty rate which is six times higher than other luxury creams, because there’s no trial and error.
A month later, when my DNA report arrives via email, I’m excited to see what my results reveal. Since my late 40s — I’m 52 now — I’ve seemed unfairly plagued by sagging compared to other women my age. I’m pleased to see that in two out of three genetic skin ageing markers — antioxidant capacity, and hydration and skin barrier health — I have done well.
I have no genetic mutations here, meaning I’m not on the fast-track to wrinkles, dullness, brown spots, redness, breakouts, fine lines and lack of volume.
It’s not such good news for the third ageing factor: my ability to produce collagen.
I have two out of a possible four mutations on my ‘collagen genes’, which means I am at ‘medium’ risk of losing collagen faster than normal. That could explain the sagging. I knew it!
The main focus of my personalised DNA regime will be my night cream, says Dr Geusens, which is where the collagen boosting can happen.
In it will be mixed three collagen-supporting peptides (the building blocks of protein): one that inhibits the enzyme that breaks down collagen, one that stimulates new collagen and a third that protects the stuff already there.
I can’t wait to get started. Two weeks later my package arrives. I expect it to contain lab pots, but my four products — a serum and a cream each for day and night, in pink and grey tubes with gold lids — appear beautifully wrapped in ribbons and tissue paper.
There’s even a white marble plinth to display them on. There are also two blue tubes, a cleanser and a toner, which aren’t custom-made, but which allow the other creams to do their job.
I’m pleased to note that as well as collagen-boosting peptides, my night cream contains a daisy extract to even out skin tone and a ‘lactococcus ferment’ (a type of probiotic) that promotes skin renewal, because I’d asked for something to tackle my sun spots.
It also has extra moisture-locking ingredients because I’d complained of dry skin in the mornings. So far, so me.
Although I’m not genetically at risk of ageing from lack of antioxidants, my day cream has a high dose of antioxidants such as vitamin C and flavonoids to offset the damage caused by stress, pollution and UV light from screens and the sun.
It also has basic sun protection of SPF 15: sun exposure being the most ageing lifestyle factor.
One thing that’s puzzling: if my gene profile indicates that I have well-hydrated skin, how to explain my constant tight face feeling?
‘This may well be the result of using products or soaps that are too aggressive for your skin, but also hormonal factors,’ says Dr Geusens.
My age means that plummeting oestrogen can be causing my skin to feel dry. The stress hormone cortisol does the same. So, my day cream is also ultra-rich with olive oil and apricot kernel oil to keep my skin feeling flexible, the antioxidant coenzyme Q10 to treat wrinkles, as well as pro-vitamin B5 which attracts moisture.
What I notice immediately is the glove-like fit of my new skincare. My face and neck seem to lap everything up, there’s no filmy residue, no bobbling, no stickiness.
You only need very small amounts, which makes me realise I’ve been rather too enthusiastic (read: wasteful) with my skincare.
To further minimise my risk of collagen loss, Dr Geusens recommends I add more carrots to my diet for vitamin A, as well as cabbage and garlic which contain sulphur: ‘These stimulate collagen production and help to strengthen your skin from within.’
Dr Rotsaert adds that a collagen supplement could be useful as well as collagen-boosting injectables such as Profhilo now the clinic is open again.
First impressions are good and I’m sold on the idea, but to stay on the regime would cost me £390 every three months for new creams. That’s a cool £1,560 per year, so you’ve got to be seriously devoted to the idea or flush to pay that kind of cash.
I’m keen to know what Dr Sophie Shotter, of Illuminate Skin Clinic, thinks. She has a degree in Genetics in Relation to Medicine but does not yet offer DNA testing herself.
‘DNA testing in skincare is, in my opinion, the future,’ she says. ‘Having said that, at present it is expensive and many of the companies offering it will dictate to you the skincare products you should use as a result. It must always be analysed in conjunction with your lifestyle.’
She believes that it’s a useful tool to help streamline your skincare. ‘It can be really overwhelming for consumers to unpick what might work best for them.’
I like the beautiful simplicity of Nomige and the personal service, and I’d love to free up the shelves in my bathroom by ditching all the other half-used products I seem to collect. But at £130 month, I’ll need to raid my piggy bank for sure.
This new serum was launched earlier this month, after seven years of epigenetic research. To target and reduce the signs of ageing caused by modern stresses, it helps each skin cell to maximise its own DNA repair by boosting the skin’s cell renewal and collagen production.
The brand Hydropeptide has a range of skincare products, from cleansers, to toners, oils, serums and moisturisers which are all based on gene tailoring.
This means that they use special ingredients, such as peptides, which, it is claimed, ‘switch on’ genes that send signals to cells to behave in healthier ways; and turning off those that don’t.
Juice Beauty has a range of ‘signal peptides firming’ products which use only organic ingredients, such as sunflower lipids, ice peptides and wild blueberry to target genes, with products including this eye balm, a mask (£84) and serum (£93).
This epigenetic technology claims to reduce lines in seven days, as well as improve the appearance of wrinkles, rough texture and dullness.