A strand of hair, a swipe of skin cells — sounds like the stuff of cloning experiments, but we’re talking about beauty here. If you’re game, you can now hand over personal data in exchange for perfectly customized products. Send a sample of your hair to Strands Hair Care, for example, and “our lab runs a number of proprietary tests, looking at the hair’s cuticle quality instead of just guessing if it’s damaged or not, and identifying your true hair texture by looking at the thickness of hair under a high-magnified microscope,” says Rita El-khouri, chief innovation officer at Strands. For now, the analysis is used to create a custom shampoo-conditioner duo with the ideal balance of protein and moisture for your hair health, but additional personalized treatments are next on the agenda.

Taking it a step further, Biologique Recherche’s My Beauty DNA analyzes your genetic makeup (from a saliva swab that you send to them in a vial filled with a buffer fluid that keeps your sample viable) to assess your skin’s unique characteristics, such as predisposition to collagen breakdown, photoaging, and sensitivity. By the end of this year, the brand hopes to start using the data to help customize regimens using its own line of products. The goal is to prevent some of the genetic signs of aging before they appear. For example, if the swab analysis shows that your skin is prone to glycation (a process that causes fine lines), a Biologique Recherche aesthetician can recommend a serum containing mimosa extract.

With DNA testing, you’ll learn much more about your skin than what your eyes can see, says
Wilson. Genes are a little like light switches — they turn on and off — but some get stuck in one position, causing trouble. A gene that controls collagen breakdown — clearing away the old to make room for the new — can get stuck on, destroy fresh collagen, and lead to sagging, Wilson adds. In the future, pharmaceutical companies could use a topical ingredient to turn that gene back off. But you can bet it will cost a whole lot more than any of the skin care now in your bathroom vanity. —J.C.

As part of our Future of Beauty issue, we partnered with Wired to explore the technologies of tomorrow and how they’ll shape the way we live. This story originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of Allure. Learn how to subscribe here.

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