How Much Does Genetics Affect Our Skin?


Our bodies are affected in many different ways by genetics. Genes are made up of DNA and determine the characteristics of everything from hair and eye color, to the way we process and store nutrients, to our type of skin and how it reacts to the sun. Our bodies hold between 20,000 and 25,000 different genes, some of which will affect us negatively.

We all inherit two copies of each gene, one from each parent. Most genes are the same for everyone, but a small number (less than 1 percent) are slightly different between people and these small differences contribute to each person’s unique physical characteristics.

Because you receive your DNA through your family line, if your parents and their parents had skin problems such as freckles, acne or rosacea, you may have a greater chance of also experiencing those issues. However, the outcome can be regulated by proper skincare and many of these skin irregularities caused by your DNA can be lessened or eliminated.


Freckles show on the skin as small flat spots appearing slightly darker than the surrounding area. These darker areas are caused by the absorption of the sun’s UV (ultra-violet) rays which, through genetics, triggers an excess production of melanin, the pigment that regulates skin color. Freckles are harmless but are sometimes confused with more serious skin problems. Anyone who has one or more pigmented spots of which they are not certain should consult a doctor or dermatologist.

Freckles are rarely treated but several safe methods are available to help lighten or reduce their appearance. Not everyone's skin will improve with treatment, and freckles often recur with additional UV exposure. Bleaching or fading creams containing hydroquinone and kojic acid, combined with a retinoid over a period of months may lighten the appearance of freckles. Cryosurgery, laser treatments or chemical peels are quicker but more expensive options.

Freckle prevention is more effective than freckle removal: use sunscreens with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 50, wear a wide-brimmed hat and sun-protective clothing (shirts with long sleeves), and avoid exposure during the peak sun hours of 10 a.m. to 4 pm by seeking shade or staying indoors.

For more information on freckles, see the website


The formation of acne is set in motion when the lining of a pore in the skin begins to produce skin cells at a rate higher than normal. Dead skin cells then accumulate in the pore faster than the sebum (oil secreted by the sebaceous gland at the base of a pore) can push them to the surface. Then, the oily sebum gets trapped under dead skin, along with acne bacteria. The immune system manufactures an inflammation to kill the bacteria, but the bacteria release chemicals that resist.

There are two factors that initiate the production of acne: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic factors are genetics and hormones and we have no control over either one. Genetics play a significant role in acne formation as they can be responsible for the creation of defective oil glands and pore linings or the production of abnormal sebum. Hormones vary throughout life according to age and the differences in male and female development.

Extrinsic factors are a large and diverse category over which we have much more control. This category can include medications, external stress, and the type of skincare products used.

For more information on acne, see the website


Experts are not certain about what specifically causes rosacea, but they believe that it is due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors: family history, chronic sun exposure, and being fair-skinned and of eastern or northern European descent such as those from Ireland, Scotland or England.

Rosacea typically involves the central portion of the face, mainly the forehead, cheeks, the lower half of the nose, and the chin. Currently, it is believed that rosacea patients have a genetic inability to dampen facial inflammation caused by factors such as sunburn, flushing, and certain medications.

For more information on rosacea, see the website from the National Rosacea Society.

As you have seen, genetics form an important link in the make-up of our skin. The links above will provide you with more detailed information whether you are experiencing any of these issues, or are merely curious.