‘Facelift’ the future of cosmetics? Study identifies pigmentation-related genes in Korean women

By Nurul Ain Razali contact

- Last updated on GMT

With the discovery of genes controlling melanin production, LG Household & Health plans to provide customised skincare for customers. © Getty Images
With the discovery of genes controlling melanin production, LG Household & Health plans to provide customised skincare for customers. © Getty Images

Related tags: pigmentation, Korean cosmetics, Melanin

A team of researchers has discovered genes involved with pigmentation in the skin of over 17,000 Korean women, with insights opening up new opportunities for customised products.

In their paper titled GWAS Identifies Multiple Genetic Loci for Skin Color in Korean Women​, published in the dermatological publication Journal of Investigative Dermatology​, results showed that two of the discovered genes are believed to be the world’s first discovered skin pigmentation-related genes and highly likely active on Korean skin.

The study was led by researcher Seo Jung Yeon for LG Household & Health Care (LG H&H) Future-Based Research Institute.

Based on the paper’s outcomes, LG H&H has now completed applications for four domestic patents and one international patent (PCT) to aid new product development.

“Human skin colour is largely determined by genetic factors,” ​the researchers said.

“Recent GWASs (genome-wide association studies) have reported several genetic variants associated with skin colour, mostly in European and African populations.

“In this study, we performed GWAS in 17,019 Korean women to identify genetic variants associated with facial skin colour and quantitatively measured using the CIELAB colour index.

“We identified variants in three, one, and six genomic loci associated with facial skin colour and replicated the association. This elucidates genetic variants of facial skin colour in a Korean female population.”

LG H&H said the study was a key achievement that could bring great progress in cosmetics development.

Existing whitening cosmetics usually function by suppressing or reducing melanin production caused by exposure to UV rays.

However, these products cannot control melanin production caused by human genes.

Furthermore, pigmentation levels vary with individuals.

Hence, the firm is planning to launch a total customised skincare solution for customers, from skin diagnosis to the provision of suitable cosmetics, armed with these novel findings.

Director of the research centre Kang Nae-gyu said: “Based on the results of this study, we aim to expand the research scope by targeting typical skin ageing symptoms, such as wrinkles and elasticity.

“By accelerating large-scale genetic-based digital research innovation using AI, we are aiming to develop a total anti-ageing solution that is segmented and tailored.”

Currently, the research team is also developing a diagnostic platform that can predict future pigmentation levels using customer genetic information.

Subsequently, they will be able to recommend skincare methods suited to each customer.

They are also developing several effective ingredients that can selectively control the functions of the discovered genes.

“Further functional characterisations of the investigated genes are warranted to explain their contribution to skin pigmentation-related traits further,” ​the researchers concluded.

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