When you hear the words “good bacteria” and probiotics your gut health probably springs to mind. But much like your gut, your skin has a microbiome too, however it is something often forgotten about, or not known of at all resulting in it being neglected. But what exactly is a microbiome? Is it really that important? And how should you be managing yours? Don’t worry, we are here to help.
What is your skin's microbiome?
The skin microbiome has a community of organisms that live on your skin, this includes a number of bacteria, viruses and fungi, all of which are known as skin flora. They all work together to create an ecosystem that ensures the skin’s function and health are in full working order, such as the skin’s ability to absorb skincare products as well as it's general appearance. The complexity of the microbiome is amazing to think about, billions of types of bacteria and countless strains of them all working harmoniously, most of the time.
The job of the microbiome is no walk in the park, as the skin itself is quite a hostile place with its natural pH levels being acidic making it great for fighting away bad bacteria, but with the natural production of sebum (the oil in your skin) making it very antimicrobial.
Luckily for us, our skin is bilingual with various parts being able to talk to each other, the skin’s bacteria are able to communicate with the skin’s immune system, which then talks to the bacteria found in your gut, keeping this line of communication between the different aspects of the skin and body keeps the balance and makes for full functioning, happy microbiome.
What does skin microbiome do?
These meniscal organisms are working round the clock to protect the skin from daily aggressors, such as UV rays, bad bacteria and free radicals, to name a few. The skin has a collection of unfriendly organisms that the microbiome has to tackle whilst managing the pH levels. Whilst it is battling against all that it is also working at delivering skin nutrients and essentials skin lipids, as well as contributing to the skin’s protective barrier to keep your skin healthy and balanced.
You must admit that sounds like a super important job.
Why is your microbiome important?
The microbiome is important to ensure your skin is looked after and able to function correctly throughout the day. With environmental aggressors, such as pollution and UV rays relentlessly targeting our faces day in and day out. We unknowingly rely more on the skin microbiome to heal any damage caused. By damage, what I mean is the skin looking dry, dull and lacklustre with signs of premature ageing, such as fine lines and wrinkles becoming noticeable. This is why we need to take the time to nurture and protect it as much as possible. If the skin flora is unable to build a protective barrier for the skin you will find that some skin conditions, such as eczema and dermatitis begin to occur with patches of dry, itchy and uncomfortable areas on the body which are aggravated with all the daily stresses previously mentioned.
There are some easy ways to help restore the skin microbiome, which we will cover now.
How can I restore my skin microbiome?
Skin flora prefers to be in the acidic environment the body naturally provides, with a connection between your skin’s immunity and general day to day appearance and functionality making it more at risk to pathogens that will start to grow resulting in the skin being left vulnerable. The skin microbiome can be damaged in many ways:
- Harsh skincare products
- Environmental factors
- Incorrect and overuse of antibiotics
There are a few ways to help restore and maintain skin microbiome;
Having a good skincare routine will keep the skin looking and feeling great, just remember you can have too much of a good thing and over-cleansing the skin with harsh cleansers or using a scrub too often or too heavy-handedly can strip the skin of healthy microbes which leads the way to unhealthy pathogens to start spreading across the skin, which is a problem. Even drying the skin can cause damage so ensure you gently pat the skin dry instead of vigorous rubbing with a towel.
Choose your products wisely
There are many products out there that are not microbiome-friendly, antibacterial soaps are a huge culprit of destroying the skin microbiome. You will also find that many moisturisers contain ingredients that also contribute to any skin problems. Use a gentle, fragrance-free formula that contains hyaluronic acid to help lock in water and hydrate the skin keeping the protective barrier full and help the microbiome to keep on top of all its various skin-saving jobs.
Opting for products that are gentle on the skin and contain probiotics will help a great deal. We have a blog post dedicated to this topic and you can find out more about the skin benefits of probiotics and why they are good for the skin.
Don’t be scared of the bacteria
I won’t blame you if the thought of bacteria on your skin is filling you with slight panic. For years now we have been told to focus on ridding ourselves of bacteria which leads to the skin being stripped of everything valuable to its general health. Embrace the microbiome and encourage the good bacteria to stick around with nourishing ingredients and good skincare routine.
Maintain a healthy diet
Keeping your diet rich in vegetables, protein and good fats will result in a healthy gut which ultimately leads to a healthy skin microbiome. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day as dehydration is the number one killer for skin microbiome.
How can I protect my skin’s microbiome?
By following the steps covered in the previous section you will be able to protect the skin’s microbiome. Working these steps into your daily routine it will become a natural habit in no time, here are a few extra precautions to take when protecting the skin flora:
- Using a daily SPF of 30 and above every day, even on an overcast day
- Remove your makeup every evening before bed
- Use skin care products designed for your skin type to stop any irritation and reaction
- Focus of finding some products that contain nourishing ingredients, such as probiotics that will help protect the bacteria on the skin
There you have some more information on the skin microbiome, its remarkable to think that something containing hundreds of thousands of different strains of bacteria that plays such an important role in the health of your skin is unknown to a majority of us, apart from you now obviously as you are much more glued up, now go spread the word that bacteria is not so bad after all!