The skin microbiome, or you may hear it referred to as skin flora, refers to the microorganisms which reside on the skin. The human body has 10 times more microorganisms than cells many of them living on the skin. Some of these microorganisms promote skin health by reinforcing the skin’s natural barrier against bad bacteria, balance pH levels, and may even protect against skin cancer. Keeping the skin microbiome in balance is just as important as keeping the microbiome in our gut balanced. There’s a lot of information out there regarding the gut microbiome, but we don’t hear much about the one that lives on the skin. Both are equally important, and both should be kept in balance.
What does the skin microbiome do?
- It communicates with our internal immune system to protect us against infection by crowding out overgrowth of pathogenic organisms on our first line of defense, the skin.
- It also has a line of communication to the gut microbiome. What affects your gut will ultimately affect your skin. This is the reason we suggest a change of diet for people suffering from acne.
- Controls inflammation by releasing antimicrobial peptides.
- Aids in wound healing.
- Limits our exposure to environmental aggressors like allergens.
- Keeps our skin moist and plump.
A healthy skin microbiome is an important part in keeping our body healthy. It’s important that we do our part to keep it healthy and balanced.
How do we keep our skin microbiome healthy and balanced?
First, think about what you put on your skin at all times. Harsh facial cleansers, antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers damage the skin’s natural bacterial ecosystem. The damage is reflected by skin conditions like acne, eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis. We have recently been told that everyone should use hand sanitizers consistently throughout their day to combat germs. Sadly, good intentioned advice is leading to millions having skin dysbiosis.
Skin dysbiosis – or imbalanced microbiome which is associated with psoriasis, eczema, acne poor wound healing, skin ulcers, dandruff, yeast and fungal infections, rosacea, and accelerated skin aging.
Washing for at least 20 seconds with regular non-antibacterial soap is all you need. If you are going to be away from soap and water or feel more secure using hand sanitizer make sure to use one that is buffered with aloe vera and moisturize regularly.
Second, think about what you put in your stomach. What influences your gut-microbiome also influences your skin. Scientists call this line of communication the gut-skin axis. We associate acne with diet, this works the same for inflammatory skin disorders including psoriasis, eczema, and premature aging. Eat healthy by focusing on colorful vegetables, proteins, and good fats. Stay away from processed foods and sugar. Stay hydrated! Also watch for trigger foods, you may notice eczema, acne or rosacea break outs after consuming dairy or gluten. Seeing this on your skin tells you that those foods are putting your gut microbiome out of balance and should limited.
Protecting the skin’s microbiome is the acid mantle which is a thin film on the surface of the skin. The acid mantle is composed of lipids from oil glands mixed with amino acids. Think of it as an invisible veil you didn’t know you were wearing. This slightly acidic veil protects the delicate balance of our microbiome and everything underneath.
When your acid mantle’s intact, moisture stays in, germs and pollution stay out. Your skin is healthy, soft and beautiful. Problem is, the acid mantle, is ALWAYS under attack. Dry air, harsh skin care products, harsh weather, over cleansing, hand sanitizer and over exfoliating are a few things that can leave cracks in the acid mantle. One tiny crack allows germs and bacteria in, and moisture to escape. Fortunately, protecting the acid mantle is not difficult and the same habits also keep balance in the skin’s microbiome. Limit the usage of hand sanitizer and go for soap with fewer preferably plant-based ingredients. Don’t over exfoliate the skin, and if you are in dry conditions add moisture to the air. Limit processed foods, drink plenty of water, and get plenty of rest. These simple habits allow the acid mantle and microbiome to thrive creating a healthy skin barrier.
One additional habit to be added to the mix is use of probiotics. Probiotics are microorganisms similar to the naturally occurring bacteria in the gut. In the gut probiotics stop inflammation aiding digestion, increase serotonin production, and assist the body’s ability to fight illness and infection. Applied topically probiotics do something similar by providing a protective barrier against bad bacteria, decreasing inflammation, and fighting environmental factors that cause skin to age.Slow down the use of hand sanitizer and simply wash for 20 seconds with soap and water. Eat foods that naturally boost the probiotics or good bacteria in the gut like yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, dark chocolate, brine cured olives, and miso. Those are just a few options without turning to a supplement, and use a quality skin care product that contains probiotics. Your gut-skin axis will be singing your praises and your skin will be beautiful, and you will suffer from fewer stomach issues.
- Evidence that Human Skin Microbiome Dysbiosis Promotes Atopic Dermatitis (nih.gov)
- Soap And Water 101: Why It’s Best For COVID-19 Coronavirus (And Everyday Practice) (forbes.com)
- Your skin is crawling with bacteria, and some of them might help fight cancer | Popular Science (popsci.com)