Know Beauty's DNA-Based Approach To Skincare: Science Or Gimmick?

Watch out, normal skincare companies: Madison Beer’s DNA-focused KNOW Beauty is here.

By Evie Solheim4 min read
Know Beauty's DNA-Based Approach To Skincare: Science Or Gimmick

In the age of FaceTune and Instagram filters, Madison Beer’s openness about her struggle with acne is refreshing. 

“I try to not get too upset when I have one pimple on my face because I used to be not able to count how many I had,” Beer said in a recent video for Elle.

The 22-year-old singer frequently talks about her journey to clearer skin – and as someone who’s also struggled with acne, I’ve found myself tuning into her videos and posts on the topic.

Naturally, I was intrigued to learn that Beer and fellow starlet Vanessa Hudgens launched KNOW Beauty this summer. KNOW Beauty has a twist: the company offers DNA test kits to determine genetic factors that could unlock customers’ best skincare routines.

“KNOW is the first brand to combine your DNA and daily habits to create your ideal routine,” its website states, giving users the option to take an online skin diagnostic test and order a $95 DNA kit.

The skin diagnostic test includes questions about skin texture and lifestyle (Do you drink alcohol everyday? Do you spend time in the sun regularly?) and even includes questions about anxiety and depression. It’s wide-ranging but reflects the consensus that our skin doesn’t just reflect the products we use, it reflects our diet, habits, and stress factors too.

A Dermatologist’s Take

Taking customers’ lifestyle and DNA into account shows that KNOW Beauty is not a gimmick, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Adam Mamelak told Evie Magazine

“Individualizing one's skincare products and routine has been the trend for years. What works for one person may not work for you. So manufacturers and skincare enthusiasts are constantly looking at more and more ways to match the best product with the person,” Mamelak said.

“KNOW Beauty's DNA-based skincare appears to utilize your own genetic make up to guide your skincare selection. By looking at specific genetic variants, skincare recommendations are made based on your own genetic makeup. I think this is definitely a unique and impressive approach to skincare,” he said.

Skincare manufacturers are constantly looking at ways to match the best product with the person.

But, he said, even an individual’s DNA-personalized routine from KNOW Beauty isn’t perfect, and an outing like a day at the beach calls for a different routine.

Mamelak says KNOW Beauty’s personalized approach is part of a natural progression in the skincare industry.

“There have been a number of trends in this regard,” he said. “Skincare questionnaires helped determine if a person had oily, dry, aging, or sensitive skin. Social media and skincare networks helped bring people together with similar skin concerns so they could share product recommendations and regimens. Artificial intelligence takes product recommendations to the next level by synthesizing numerous data points, like current UV and pollution levels, humidity, and temperature to give real time skincare advice.”

Hopping on the Clean Beauty Bandwagon

KNOW Beauty purports to be cruelty free as well as free from ingredients including parabens, sulfates, and phthalates that can irritate skin or, worse, are linked to adverse health effects.

Their commitment to clean products is definitely nothing new. Other clean skincare brands include Ren Clean Skincare, Beautycounter, and Farmacy, all competing for their share of the multibillion-dollar skincare industry, expected to reach $181 billion by 2025.

It’s important to remember that clean isn’t a rigid standard – it’s a label brands give themselves – but educating yourself about ingredients to avoid means you won’t be taken in by faulty marketing as more and more brands capitalize on the clean beauty trend.

"Usually, brands define clean by dictating a long 'no-no list' of what they consider to be toxic ingredients," Gloria Lu, co-author of “Skincare Decoded” and co-founder of skincare line Chemist Confessions, told Evie Magazine. "The meaning, and these no-no lists are evolving over time, so it can be very confusing for a consumer. To be honest, a lot of ingredients called out on no-no lists are either not commonly used to begin with or don’t really deserve the bad rep they’re getting. Whether shopping clean or not, we would recommend consumers to really patch test new products and listen to your skin for signs of irritation."

“Clean” isn’t a rigid standard, so educate yourself about ingredients to avoid.

Other skincare experts aren’t so positive about the clean beauty trend.

"I see clean beauty as a cynical marketing ploy to get consumers to be afraid of conventional products and to spend more money on products that cost more, don't actually work better, and aren't actually safer for people," cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski told NPR.

Time will tell if KNOW Beauty is able to eat into other clean beauty brands’ market share thanks to its DNA-based approach (as well as Madison Beer fans like me). 

Beer and Hudgens aren’t going it alone – they have Harvard-trained dermatologist Dr. Karen Kagha on their board. While some celebs have been known to slap their names on a label to cash in, Beer and Hudgens appear to be following in the footsteps of stars like Gwyneth Paltrow who lean into their lifestyle and wellness brands.

Beer and Hudgens seem to realize that having healthy skin is about more than appearance for women too. Struggling with breakouts or irritated skin can affect women’s happiness and self-esteem.

“In her late teens, Madison dealt with consistent acne that made her self-conscious and had a big impact on her mental health,” Beer’s KNOW Beauty bio reads. “Skincare was a trial and error journey. At first, her routine was nonexistent, and then when she started following too many online recommendations, it got worse.”

If you’re experiencing similar frustrations with your skin, don’t freak out. Any esthetician will be quick to tell you that if a product doesn’t seem to be working for you, the solution may be as simple as learning to apply it correctly.

Closing Thoughts

We can’t hide behind Instagram filters forever. As someone who had clear skin until breakouts began plaguing me in college and well into my career, I’m still figuring out how to treat my skin with the help of a licensed esthetician. I hate to admit that before finding her, I experimented (unsuccessfully!) with tea tree oil, toothpaste, and other home remedies for acne back in the day.

In addition, I’m glad beautiful women like Madison Beer and Vanessa Hudgens are being open that they’re not the picture-perfect versions of themselves all of the time. 

"No one looks like their Instagram profile all the time, no one lives the life they portray online. Everyone's trying to put their best foot forward. everyone's trying to impress each other," Beer wrote on Instagram earlier this year. "There's so much you don't see. The two hours of hair and makeup. The beauty light i'm sitting in front of, the 700 pictures that i took before i find one i'm satisfied with. I cover up my own insecurities to protect myself from the damage it would cause to see other people pointing them out over and over in the comments section.” [sic]

With acne and other skin issues, knowledge is power. I hope brands like KNOW Beauty can help clients gain that knowledge!

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