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P&G, 23andMe Uncover Genetic Ties to Sensitive Skin

Contact Author Rachel Grabenhofer
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Beyond self-reports of sensitive skin syndrome and related compromised skin conditions, the underlying factors of this affliction have been largely unknown—until now. Procter & Gamble (P&G) and 23andMe research has uncovered genetic associations to the syndrome.

Their work, published in Cosmetics, utilized genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in 23,426 unrelated participants of European ancestry from the 23andMe database. These subjects were assessed for self-declared sensitive skin and other skin conditions and diseases using an online questionnaire. Respondents were divided into non-sensitive skin and sensitive skin groups; the former serving as controls.

In sensitive skin individuals, three significant points in the genome (foci) and seven suggestive foci were identified. Of the three most significant, all have been associated with pigmentation and two have been associated with acne. 

See related: Sensitive Skin and Skin Barrier

More specifically, the strongest association was found with the interferon regulatory factor 4 (IRF4) locus on chromosome 6. Others included a missense variant in the melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) gene, and variant rs35407 in the SLC45A2 gene encoding for a protein identified with melanocytes. The seven additional suggested associations also relate to skin pigmentation, and one to hair loss.

Furthermore, 50% of participants with sensitive skin also reported acne and rosacea. The authors noted associations between sensitive skin and known foci related to pigmentation were expected. However, it was not expected to not see associations with the inflammatory nature of acne and rosacea.

For more information, see the full study.

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