Your skin’s microbiome is not visible to the naked eye, but it’s there.
It’s a secret world that, in certain circumstances, you might want to pay closer attention to if you’re going to maintain the health of your skin.
As skincare brands join the party, I predict you’ll hear much more about microbiome skincare. But before you rush out and buy the next trend in skincare, let’s look at what’s going on in your skin, how to prevent disruptions in your skin’s ecosystem, and how to rebalance your skin’s microbiome when things go awry. And, importantly, is microbiome skincare a passing trend or a mainstay in your skincare routine?
What is the skin’s microbiome?
Colonies of harmless bacteria known as your microbiota are ever present on the surface of the skin; sometimes, it’s a swinging, never-to-be-forgotten party; other times, the guest list doesn’t gel, or worse, an uninvited guest crashes the party, and we all know how that ends.
So, before you throw your *keys in the fishbowl and leave the party with someone you might regret later, let’s look at what’s going on and how you can ensure your skin’s microbiome is the best party in town.
Dehydration, facial redness, and sensitivity are all signs of imbalance and acne breakouts; while often hormonally centred, the bacteria associated with acne is an unwanted guest and a total killjoy. Also, a microbiome that fails to flourish will have a slow wound-healing response, and the skin’s general health falls flat.
So, as you can see, it’s not a happy occasion when things get out of balance.
But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s explore your microbiome, both the external, found on your skin and the internal, found in your digestive tract.
Why is gut health so important?
You’ve undoubtedly heard about gut health; it’s frequently discussed across various health websites and for all the right reasons.
The thriving bacterial flora in your gut forms a complex ecosystem that ensures the smooth movement of your digestive tract. This intricate system extracts trace minerals and essential nutrients and metabolises dietary fibre to produce beneficial short-chain fatty acids for intestinal health.
Simultaneously, a healthy gut microbiome interacts with your immune system to promote properly functioning immune responses to pathogens and infections.
All this activity occurs during the journey through your long intestinal tract until the final exit. Ahem…
I know! A lot’s happening in your gut from last night’s burger to when the 7 a.m. alarm goes off the next day.
The good news is that your health and overall well-being are as chilled as a summer party with all the right vibes when you have a healthy internal ecosystem.
However, if disrupted, it can lead to various health issues ranging from digestive problems to mood disorders. And, yep, your skin can also show signs of trouble when there’s disharmony within your gut microbiome.
Skin conditions like rosacea, eczema, skin sensitivity and irritations can all be linked to poor gut health.
How do you keep your gut microbiome healthy and balanced?
If your diet resembles a party that no one turned up to (boring) or where there’s more processed food and sugar than a ’70s buffet spread, you may find your food choices might be messing with the healthy balance of your gut microbiome.
So, it’s helpful to keep things balanced and healthy. But I know what you’re thinking: something else to worry about, but keeping your gut happy doesn’t have to be complicated.
- A healthy and varied diet means lean protein, healthy fats and all the coloured vegetables. Hello, beetroot, capsicum and sweet potatoes.
- Avoid highly processed foods and sugar. An occasional binge won’t hurt, but every day and your gut microbiome will soon become a very dull and very, very boring place!
- Add fermented foods like sauerkraut or yoghurt sans sugar.
- A probiotic supplement might be necessary if you’ve been on antibiotics to fight a bacterial infection.
Of course, if you have a serious underlying health issue, like diabetes, don’t try and muddle through alone; seek out the advice of a health professional.
If you suspect that your gut health is affecting your skin or if you have persistent skin issues, it’s advisable to consult with a dermatologist or healthcare provider for proper evaluation and guidance. They can help determine the most appropriate treatment or interventions based on your skin condition and overall health.
Your skin’s microbiota happiness scale.
Beyond the gut, our skin hosts a diverse microbiota, which is referred to as the skin microbiome. This intricate ecosystem of microorganisms acts as a natural barrier, protecting the skin from pathogens and environmental stressors.
It also plays a vital role in maintaining the skin’s overall balance and health. Just as imbalances in the gut microbiome can significantly affect our health, disruptions in the skin’s microbiome can lead to various skin issues, making it essential to understand the factors that can cause such imbalances and how they can impact skin health.
The skin’s microbiome consists of a complex community of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, and maintaining a healthy balance is crucial for overall skin health.
Just like your gut, antibiotics, stress, hormonal disruptions and chronic skin conditions can throw the microbiota out of balance; often, we cause an unnecessary imbalance with our well-intentioned skin care practices.
Well-intentioned skincare practices that lead to disaster.
Are, yes, the adage, they meant well. Skincare brands the world over could be held accountable for guiding you towards poor skin health.
Whether they meant well is up for debate, and I’m sorry to say this, but sometimes it’s all about the sale. After all, the skincare industry is a multi-billion dollar industry.
But it’s not all bad, and while throwing out the party gatecrashers might be wise, there are excellent brands that will provide you with the foundations required for skin health.
Skin health is determined by a healthy microbiome and proper cell turnover to form a robust skin barrier which protects your skin from moisture loss, pathogens and the onslaught of environmental extremes.
Who are the party gatecrashers disrupting your skin’s microbiome?
- Harsh Cleansers and Soaps: Using strong or antibacterial cleansers and soaps can strip the skin of its natural oils and disrupt the microbiome. These products may kill off beneficial bacteria on the skin’s surface while trying to disrupt the bacterial infections associated with acne. So, while an antibacterial cleanser might be okay for a short time to get bacteria under control, long-term use may throw out the balance of your skin’s microbiome, exacerbating acne conditions.
- Overcleansing: Excessive cleansing and scrubbing of the skin can disturb the natural protective oils and microorganisms on the skin’s surface, potentially leading to imbalances. If you’re trying to reduce oil flow, over-cleansing will have the opposite effect, activating oil glands to push more oil to ease a dehydrated surface.
- Environmental Factors: Exposure to environmental pollutants, UV radiation, and other stressors can disrupt the skin’s microbiome and contribute to skin issues.
Solutions for a healthy skin microbiome.
So what should you do? First, change your attitude to how you cleanse and exfoliate your skin.
- How you cleanse your skin: Switch to mild cleansers, preferably cleansing oils and mild, milky lotions. Your skin should never feel squeaky clean or stripped.
- Change how you exfoliate: Avoid over-exfoliating your skin with abrasive scrubs; opt for gentle cream or serum-based exfoliants.
If you’ve been using harsh cleansers and exfoliants, you may have unintentionally stripped your skin, which can weaken your skin’s barrier function and disrupt your skin’s microbiome balance. Likewise, abrasive scrubs are a disaster for your skin’s barrier function and microbiome.
- Nourish your microbes: By including a prebiotic and probiotic microbiome skincare product, you’ll create a diverse environment and feed the microbes already present on the skin so they thrive.
- Skin nutrition: If our eyes are the window to our souls, our skin can be the first clue to what’s going on with your nutritional health and your internal and external ecosystems.
Maintaining a healthy balance in the skin’s microbiome is essential for skin health. It can help prevent acne, eczema, and other infections and keep the skin hydrated.
So, if you’ve done all the things to protect your skin’s ecosystem, but it still seems like you have a skin microbiome as boring as the last vol-au-vent on the party buffet, or specific bad bacteria are becoming dominant, as is the case with the acne bacterium known as propionibacterium acnes, then microbiome skincare also referred to as pre or probiotic skincare, could be something to consider adding to your daily routine and specific skincare ingredients will assist in feeding your skin’s microbiome.
A healthy skin microbiome is important for maintaining overall skin health. Several skincare ingredients can help balance and nourish the skin’s microbiome. These ingredients promote the growth of beneficial bacteria while inhibiting the growth of harmful ones.
Here are some of the key ingredients:
⭐️ Prebiotics and Probiotics: Prebiotics, such as inulin, fructooligosaccharides, and galactooligosaccharides, promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, while probiotics, including Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, introduce live bacteria to the skin to support a balanced microbiome.
⭐️ Ceramides: Essential for maintaining the skin’s barrier and preventing moisture loss, thus preserving a healthy microbiome. Most good quality moisturisers will contain ceramides.
⭐️ Postbiotics: Ingredients like niacinamide (vitamin B3) promote the production of postbiotics, which have a calming effect on the skin.
⭐️ Salicylic Acid: This acid can clear excess sebum and dead skin cells without significant harm to beneficial bacteria, making it suitable for some skin types. Choose well-formulated salicylic acid serums for oily and acne skin conditions.
⭐️ Natural Oils: Oils like jojoba, argan, and rosehip oil nourish the microbiome without causing an imbalance. Plant oils are great when incorporated into cleansing or facial oils for all skin types.
If your skin is already in a healthy condition, you may not need to look for specific microbiome skin care; however, if you’re skin is not responding to your current skincare routine, then the best place to start is with a skin diagnosis to decide whether you need microbiome skin care.
While microbiome skincare usually has a combination of ingredients to improve your overall skin health and hydration, your diet and gut health are very important, and while topical microbiome skincare is an excellent idea, no one skincare formula will fix it. Your skin and gut health are interrelated, and treating one without the other is counterproductive.
So, let’s start this party with a varied diet, fermented foods and a gentle skincare routine to keep your skin healthy and balanced. If you have a skincare routine and are unsure if it’s performing or has the ingredients to keep your microbiome balanced, email me here.
See you next time,
*A key party gained notoriety in the Ang Lee film,The Ice Storm. Whether it was an urban myth or an actual occurrence, I do not know; anyway, it dates back to the 1970s. At the end of the night, the “man of the house” (sorry, it was the 70s) would place his keys in a bowl, and the women at the party would one by one pluck out a set of random keys and go home with whomever’s keys they drew for an “amorous adventure”.