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The Secret Revealed: We Asked a Scientist How Genes Affect Our Appearance


Jana Krajco

5-minute read

Is the fate of our skin, hair and physical condition in our hands, or have the cards already been dealt and we have to depend on “good genes”? If you’ve asked yourself the same question at some point, you’re not alone. And so we went to see Barbora Procházková, PhD, who played an important role in the development of Chromozoom genetic testing.

In the Friends TV series, one of the main characters, Rachel, was afraid that her daughter would inherit her original nose. To what degree are such fears justified?

Genetics certainly plays an important role in determining physical characteristics, including the shape of your nose. However, it is important to realize that appearance is a combination of genes from both parents and can be affected by many different genes. So it is possible that a child will inherit some characteristics of their nose from their mother, but they can also inherit features from their father, or a combination of both, which can lead to a completely different nose shape.

As far as the appearance of our skin, hair or overall physical fitness goes, is it possible to express the role played by genes, for example as a percentage? 

It is hard to specify a precise percentage because appearance is multi-factorial, i.e., it’s affected by many genes, as well as their interaction with the external environment. 

And is it possible to say to what degree we can influence the condition of our skin, hair or physical fitness ourselves?

Lifestyle, personal care, nutrition and exposure to the sun, chemicals and toxic substances all contribute to a significant degree. That means that, even though we have certain genetic predispositions, we can affect how these predispositions manifest through our habits. For example, genetics can predispose you to being overweight, but lifestyle and nutrition are key factors in the actual development of this.

In your view, are there some areas where genes play a greater role than elsewhere?

Genes play a major role in determining your body type, skin typehair colour and basic facial features. Nevertheless, our environment and lifestyle have a huge impact on these areas too. 

Help your genes with high-quality anti-ageing care

The topic of wrinkles is often debated in relation to our genes. When I look at my mother, who has very few wrinkles, how reassured can I feel? 

There’s a reason why they say that when choosing a partner you should look at their parents, so you know what to expect in the future… If your mother has few wrinkles, it is likely that you have good genetic predispositions. However, I must once again repeat that genetics is not the only factor affecting the development of wrinkles. Even if you have good genes, preventive care is important.

Men often worry about going prematurely bald or grey. If genes haven’t exactly dealt us a good hand in this respect, can we do anything about it at all? 

Yes, there are ways to fight premature greying or hair loss, even though these problems are partially dependent on genetics. There are medical treatments and food supplements, but changes in lifestyle and hair care can also provide good prevention. Or they can slow these problems down. Dermatologists and trichologists can also offer a personalized solution – and the earlier you start to address the problem, the better, ideally before it develops.

Tools for preventing hair loss

That means that we need not predict our genetic predispositions only by looking at our relatives, but that science can also help us. How, specifically? 

Scientific progress and genetic testing can help reveal predispositions to certain problems, which makes it possible to take preventive measures or begin treatment in time. 

But won’t this information affect us too much, to the degree that we’ll be anxious about what we’ve got in store?

It does of course depend on the individual, on our nature, and on how we’re able to come to terms with this kind of information. This question is particularly relevant in the case of testing for predispositions to diseases that we cannot prevent or even treat. I think that kind of information does more harm than good and could have a massive impact on your mental well-being. 

So it really is a very individual matter. It’s probably good to think it over before undergoing testing…

Some people want to know “how much time they have left” and then use that time effectively. Others could have a nervous breakdown in the face of that information. That’s why we should really consider this kind of testing carefully and not take how this information might affect us lightly.

So now it’s clear – we cannot use genes as an excuse nor can we rely on them. Everything is (to a significant degree) in our hands. So, what do you think? Has this convinced you to make changes in your lifestyle or personal care routine?