If you have European or Asian ancestry there’s a good chance you have Neanderthals in your family tree. These prehistoric hunters interbred with modern humans during the Ice Age, leaving today’s Europeans with a genome that’s 1-4% Neanderthal.
Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology believes these genetic fragments may be responsible for some critical aspects of our skin biology:
For example, almost 80% of Eurasians have Neanderthal versions of the genes that create keratin filaments, says Pääbo. Keratin is a protein used to strengthen our skin, hair and nails. We may have inherited so much because it could have helped toughen our skin as we adapted to the colder European environment. It might also have helped us control how much moisture we lose through sweat.
Science is just starting to get to grips with all the factors that affect your skin. Whether it’s your Neanderthal genes, your skin microbiome or the way it reacts to the sun’s rays, researchers are using research to formulate new ideas on personalized skin care.