The National Institute of Health concludes that hundreds of trillions of microorganisms within the average human lives, including bacteria, fungi, and archaea, collectively known as our “microbiome.”
The human microbiome's importance is becoming increasingly clear, as it has been repeatedly shown to play a vital role in synthesizing vitamins and amino acids, generating important metabolites, protecting against pathogens, and utilizing non-human biochemical pathways, and contributing to the immune system.
However, at what point should you have your microbiome tested? Is this information simply good to know, or should symptoms present themselves that require this testing in the first place? In this article, we take a look at what the human microbiome is and whether you should have your microbiome tested.
What is the Human Microbiome?
According to the National Centre For Biotechnology Information, “the human microbiome consists of the 10-100 trillion symbiotic microbial cells harbored by each person, primarily bacteria in the gut; the human microbiome consists of the genes these cells harbor”.
What does this mean? Our bodies share a relationship with trillions of microbes (tiny living things found all around us and are too small to be seen by the naked eye), including bacteria, fungi, mites, and viruses.
Together, they make up the microbiome, which lives in particular areas of the body, most notably the skin and gut. While these microbes do not cause harm under normal conditions, they can directly influence the body’s normal function and disease processes.
What is the Connection Between Your Gut and Your Skin Microbiome?
The US National Library of Medicine explains that “the gut and skin, densely vascularized and richly innervated organs with crucial immune and neuroendocrine roles, are uniquely related in purpose and function.”
This means that the gut and the skin are suspected of having a multi-functional relationship, connected by neurological and immunological responses to changes in the microbiota.
In short, the microbes that live in your gut can heavily encourage or reduce inflammation in the skin, potentially causing dermatitis. And although the relationship between the two is not yet completely clear, there are distinct differences in the gut microbiome between people with and without atopic dermatitis.
A Balanced Microbiome is Crucial to Your Skin’s Health
When the skin's protective barrier is compromised and the microbiome becomes unbalanced, it can make skin vulnerable to various issues, more predominantly being acute dermatitis. We all know that the skin is our body’s largest organ and is home to millions of fungi, bacteria, and viruses that make up the microbiota. As with your gut microbiome, the skin microbiome is in charge of keeping you healthy, safe, and free from harmful bacteria.
Healthy adults can generally keep their skin microbiomes stable over time, regardless of environmental fluctuations, pollution, sun damage, and minor scrapes to the skin surface. Having said this, several factors may contribute to the barrier becoming compromised and losing its natural balance.
What Factors Affect the Gut Microbiome?
Did you know that the gut microbiome changes over the first three years of life before finally forming a relatively stable composition? However, the way your gut microbiome settles can vary greatly from person to person, depending on several possible factors. Factors that influence the gut microbiome include:
- Whether born by vaginal delivery or C-section
- Whether or not they were breastfed
- Environmental microbes
- Sun damage
- Irritating skin products
- The use of medications, such as antibiotics
The Gut Microbiome and Acne
Is there a connection between the gut microbiome and acne? While there have been no conclusive studies claiming that the gut microbiome and acne are directly correlated, some factors contribute to acne that originates from the gut microbiome.
These include the fact that psychological stress and/or diet may result in systemic inflammation, contributing to the production of acne. There may also be connections between the gut microbiome and rosacea, psoriasis, and wound healing.
How To Improve Skin Microbiome
To a certain extent, it can be easy to improve your skin’s microbiome on your own. While you certainly cannot change certain factors such as your genetic makeup, your age, and how your mother gave birth to you, you can take measures to protect yourself from external factors such as sunburn, avoiding certain toxins caused by your environment, and of course, your diet. However, it’s truly impossible to rule them out completely, which is where skincare comes in.
Using products that can balance your skin’s microbiome allows the bad and good bacteria on your skin to keep each other in check, working together to create postbiotics. Postbiotics are essentially the endgame goal of all your skin and gut health efforts.
In the case of your skin, these postbiotics include peptides, proteins, amino acids, enzymes, hyaluronic acid, lactic acid, ceramides, antioxidants, and other substances that are vitally important for healthy skin.
What Results Will I See and Feel From Improving My Skin’s Microbiome?
Several results will immediately be apparent from improving your skin’s microbiome, which should be your number one indicator that you have successfully done so. Skin will be better able to protect itself against environmental stressors, which should help prevent some of these skin ailments from coming back. Improving your skin’s microbiome will result in:
- Optimized and maintained hydration levels
- Previously sensitized and reddened skin becomes more stable, clearer and calmer
- Skin issues begin to diminish as your skin restores a healthy pH balance
Products to Consider
Looking for skin products that are specifically designed to restore your skin microbiome? We recommend the AO+ Restorative Mist by Mother Dirt.
This product is the first of its kind to use truly live and active probiotics to repair the damage caused by traditional skincare, aiding in restoring your skin’s microbiome. Made with our patented live and active Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria (AOB), this revolutionary ingredient delivers incredible results and will continue to boost your biome the more you use it.
The result? Radiant, smooth, balanced skin. This product works equally well on all skin types and can restore balance to problematic, dry, oily, and/or sensitive skin.
How the Wrong Products Can Affect Your Skin’s Microbiome
As stated above, you can most certainly contribute to improving or making your skin’s microbiome worse. Your skin’s microbiome is compromised by way of two factors: what you put on your skin and what you put in your body. This is why using the wrong products can most definitely affect your skin’s microbiome.
If you’re addicted to making your skin feel as “clean as possible,” you could actually be damaging your skin microbiome as a result. Products such as traditional foaming cleansers are designed to remove dirt and microbes to the very best of their ability. However, these products are usually not pH balanced and are quite harsh on your skin.
Our skin microbiome prefers a pH of about 5, while these types of harsh cleansers can have a pH of up to 10 - especially if you’re using plain old hand soap on your face. As a result of using these types of products, we may be damaging our microflora and setting the stage for increased risk for skin issues.
Who Should Get a Gut Microbiome Test?
It’s important to make clear that it’s not necessary for everyone to get a microbiome test. Patients diagnosed with skin diseases (such as eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis) are top candidates for gut microbiome testing. The digestive tract and the skin share a common border, and how we eat has a huge influence on how our skin performs.
Best At-Home Microbiome Testing
Looking for the best gut microbiome testing companies that allow you to take your test at home? There are several options available for microbiome testing at home, including the following companies:
These kits will generally ask you to supply a stool sample (yes, you are required to supply a stool sample by mail!), although some will ask you to supply a blood sample instead.
The only way to truly know your own gut bacteria levels and how it may be affecting your skin is to take a gut microbiome test. If you’re suffering from dermatitis, knowing whether your gut is directly affecting your skin can make all the difference in determining the best course of action for your skin.
Once your dermatologist knows that your gut microbiomes are affecting your skin, you'll be able to have a better understanding of which steps to take to improve both your skin’s health and your overall health in general.
Whether or not you have acute dermatitis, using products that contribute to balancing your skin’s pH level is still incredibly important to its overall health. Not only will improving your microbiomes reveal younger, more radiant-looking skin, but it is also essential to your skin’s long-term health.