Microbiome is a word that has become well known in recent years, thanks to the greater understanding of the different yeasts, parasites and bacteria that live on and in the human body.
It was most often used to refer to the diverse network of microorganisms that maintained a healthy balance in the gut. Now, it’s also recognised as being present in the mouth, on the skin and in other important parts of the human body.
Your skin’s microbiome is the collective name for the ecosystem of tiny microorganisms that live on and beneath the surface of your skin. It’s made up of a diverse range of different organisms playing different roles, including:
The different organisms present previously led scientists to believe that they could be potentially harmful. However, it’s now understood that maintaining the right balance can be hugely beneficial to your skin. A balanced and well-tended to skin microbiome is effectively an invisible barrier that protects your skin from disease and supports a healthy immune system.
Previously, it was thought that the skin microbiome lived only on the skin’s surface. However, research has found that it goes much deeper – into sweat and hair glands, having an even greater impact on the health of your skin. Studies have also found that it interacts with other (immune) cells in your body, working together to maintain a beneficial balance.
Each person’s microbiome is unique, much like their fingerprints or DNA. As such, there’s no one correct, or healthy make-up to have. It’s important to understand that the different mixes of organisms that exist on your skin are vastly different, even across other parts of your body. This means that your microbiome differs from your head, right down to your toes.
For example, several varieties of microbe, like Corynebacterium, thrive in areas where you’re more likely to sweat, such as your forehead or under your arms. Others, such as Proteobacteria, are more suited to smoother, drier skin, like the inside of your forearm. Some, like Staphylococcus, tend to congregate in areas of higher humidity and pH, such as the elbow and knee crease and the soles of your feet.
With this in mind, it’s important to remember that an effective skincare routine will need to be varied to make sure the microbiome is well balanced across a range of different ecosystems on your skin.
The health of your skin is linked to the diversity of your microbiome. Having the right microbes on and beneath the surface of your skin is important, but the presence of too many or too few can lead to an imbalance that negatively impacts the health of your skin.
These microbes work together to protect against harmful germs that you may encounter in the environment – by producing compounds to help fight off the harmful germs and by alerting your skin’s immune system to defend the skin to prevent skin issues and infections. Each individual organism also has unique strengths and weaknesses, so the broader the spectrum present, the better for your overall health.
A balanced community of microorganisms that are working together can keep your skin protected and healthy. A diverse microbiome also helps to improve your skin’s appearance. A healthy complexion free of blemishes, acne and dry patches is one sign that the microbes on your skin are thriving and properly balanced.
External factors such as environment (climate, pollution) and lifestyle (occupation, hygiene) can influence/have an impact on your microbiome’s natural balance. This can weaken the skin barrier, making your skin feel dry, sensitive and itchy.
While a strong balance in your skin’s microbiome can be beneficial to the health and the appearance of your skin, imbalances can result in irritation and dryness and has been associated with the development of skin conditions.
This is partly because your skin acts as a natural barrier between your body and the external environment. It helps prevent ingress of any harmful microbes that can cause infection and illness. Whenever this balance is off, you’re at increased risk of developing a skin condition as your skin barrier is compromised, so less effective at fending off harmful bacteria.
An unhealthy and imbalanced microbiome has been linked to a wide range of related skin conditions, including:
To effectively nurture diversity and bring about a beneficial balance in your skin’s natural ecosystem, it’s important to know what can affect the microbiome. Here are just a few of the factors that can come into play:
On top of this, there are also several external factors to be aware of, including:
While you can’t affect many of these directly, developing a strong and effective skincare routine means being aware of what is having an impact and taking those factors into account when choosing products or routines.
Improving and maintaining the balance of your skin’s microbiome is vital to ensuring your skin is healthy. Nurturing your skin is key to this and there are several simple ways to do this and ensure you keep your skin looking its radiant best. Here are just a few top tips:
Drinking plenty of water helps keep your skin healthy. Your skin cells are made up partly of water, so dehydration can negatively affect your microbiome balance. Try to drink the recommended eight glasses of water every day to replenish your cells and rehydrate yourself.
Over-cleaning your skin can be just as bad as not cleaning it enough. Using hand-sanitisers and soaps with an alkaline pH too frequently can deplete and damage your skin microbiome, as it washes away natural oils and alters the normal skin pH at which the skin microbiome thrives. Be smart by allowing natural oils to build up and wash using products which are formulated to gently cleanse the skin without drying.
Get out and exercise
Your skin microbiome is affected by your environment and your interactions with nature, as well as how much you exercise. Take more walks in the countryside, hit the gym or join a class to nurture a healthy microbiome. Working up a sweat can contribute to the overall diversity of your skin microbiome and to positive overall health and wellbeing.
Moisturise your skin daily
Keeping your skin hydrated with prebiotics is the key to a healthy microbiome. It not only keeps dry and sensitive skin hydrated and smooth, but also helps to keep the skin microbiome in perfect balance. Add it to your morning routine or apply any time when your skin feels sensitive. *In vitro test
Achieving a healthy skin microbiome is important for healthy skin. Look after the trillions of microorganisms present on your body to help your skin look after you.