What is the Skin Microbiome?
Before we get into all the details, let’s talk about the basics. What exactly is your skin’s microbiome?
Your skin’s microbiome is essentially the aggregate of all microbes living on or within your skin. It can help to think of our skin as an ecosystem. We actually have many living organisms that reside on our skin (and various other places in our body). This microenvironment on human skin contains many different colonies of living organisms, and actually has many beneficial effects on your skin health.
This is sometimes also referred to as skin microbiota, which essentially means the same thing, but is defined a little more specifically. Microbiome refers to any microorganism and their genes living in a specific environment, while microbiota refers directly to the microorganisms (usually by their type) in a specific environment. These terms are generally used interchangeably but it’s important to know the difference.
Your skin’s surface largely determines the colonization of these microorganisms – also referred to as skin flora. But it’s reciprocal as well, because your skin’s health is largely determined and influenced by the presence of these microorganisms, and understanding them can help us to understand various skin conditions and disorders which might be a result of the microenvironment which resides on or within human skin. These skin microorganisms can have neutral, beneficial, or hazardous effects, depending on what type of organisms they are, where they’re located, and other factors.
As you might imagine, this is all highly complex. We are talking about a micro ecosystem of things which all might have different effects on various aspects of your skin health and its condition. There could be many articles written about the complex science involved in understanding a skin’s microbiome, but you likely came to this article to learn information that is a bit more relevant to you.
Next up, we’ll examine one of the most useful ways to harness the knowledge of a skin’s microbiome – by improving it! Many skin care techniques, applications, and strategies nowadays are geared towards improving your skin’s microbiome, which can improve your skin health overall.
Tips to Improve Your Skin Microbiome
Now that we have examined what a skin’s microbiome or microbiota is (we know, it’s complicated), let’s look at how to improve it. Improving your skin’s microbiome can provide you many beneficial effects, both for your skin and overall health.Why Does Clean Skin Help Your Microbiome?
To understand how to improve your microbiome, we must first understand why healthy skin will lead to a healthy microbiome.
As we mentioned above, many microorganisms in your skin flora are actually quite beneficial. The reason for this is because many of these microorganisms actually fight against human skin irritants or harmful bacteria. A thriving microbiome can actually work as a skin’s initial line of defense against many impurities and germs, or anything else that might harm your skin or your health.
Therefore, to benefit from a healthy microbiota, we have to provide an environment that is suitable for it to thrive. Of course, understanding what leads to a thriving microbiome is a complicated task. There are so many variables which are influenced by your skin, the microorganisms themselves, the outside environment, and much more.
However, it can be simplified along a few key areas. In general, healthy skin is rather resistant to bad bacteria. The pH levels help to fight it, and your skin’s natural oils are antimicrobial. A healthy microbiome generally prefers this balanced acidic environment, and it allows the beneficial microorganisms to thrive.
Of course, these are all rather simplified explanations of an extremely complex process. But in general, healthier skin leads to a healthier microbiome, which is why it is so important to take proper care of your skin to promote this environment.
Here are some popular methods of improving a skin’s microbiome:
A popular method of improving a skin’s microbiome is through supplementation with probiotics. There is a large amount of emerging research which supports probiotic use for skin health.
Probiotics are essentially composed of good bacteria. This bacteria can help to support a healthy microbiota. Whether probiotics are ingested orally or topically, this research supports their effect on a healthy human skin microbiota.
There is also growing research that probiotics promote ceramide production in the skin and help with various skin conditions, including acne. This research also points to the fact that people with eczema tend to have lower levels of ceramides.
Overall, the research in this area is quite promising. The good bacteria found in probiotics seems to have beneficial effects in promoting a healthy microbiome, which also helps with a variety of skin conditions.
Clean Your Skin
Establishing an effective skincare routine is one of the most important steps you can take in promoting a healthy skin microbiome. Healthy skincare can keep your skin properly moisturized, keep the skin pH levels balanced, and have other beneficial results which help to create an environment for a thriving microbiome.
Effective skincare isn’t always so simple. People have a tendency to overuse cosmetic products, which can actually have a damaging effect on skin flora. Over-washing and over-scrubbing can actually wash out beneficial microorganisms, and can also dry out your skin, which provides a less than ideal environment for your microbiome to thrive.
Effective skincare is about exercising moderation, and finding what works for your particular skin type. Most people focus on gentle cleansers, wash with warm water, and take special effort not to scrub too hard.
Hydration is key to maintaining healthy, lubricated skin. Drinking lots of water keeps your skin from drying out. Dry skin presents a very difficult environment for a microbiome to thrive. By drinking a lot of water, your body will keep your skin moisturized naturally, which will allow it to cultivate a healthy microbiome.
Eating well also has a beneficial effect on your skin’s microbiome. Putting proper nutrients in your body allows the microorganisms throughout your body to cultivate more effectively. This includes focusing on fruits & vegetables, eating a lot of fiber, eliminating excess sugar, and cutting back on red meat.
A healthy diet does wonders for your overall health, and that includes your skin health.
Choose Proper Skincare Products
Many people might not know that the skincare products they use to help their skin may actually be harming it! Certain skincare products are so intense that they kill the good germs along with the bad ones. Examples include antibacterial soap, which will actually get rid of the good bacteria which composes a healthy microbiome. Additionally, certain skincare products contain harsh ingredients that work to dry out your skin.
In general, focus on picking skin care products that are free of irritants and harsh ingredients. Skin products that utilize harsh acids or chemicals can not only kill off elements of your microbiome, but damage the skin and create a less than ideal environment.
There is a strong link between exercise and a healthy microbiome. Adding exercise to your lifestyle enhances these beneficial effects, along with the other obvious benefits that exercise provides.
Sleep also has a proven link with a healthy microbiome. Sleep allows your body’s processes to recharge, which includes the ability to repair damaged tissue such as skin. Sleep is one of the most essential aspects to a healthy microbiome, but also to health overall.
The Bottom Line
A microbiome is a very complicated area of science. Human skin is a complex organ, and all the factors which go into cultivating healthy bacteria on your skin flora are an ever-changing system of interwoven parts. We might never fully understand exactly how to cultivate a healthy microbiome for everyone, but we do know the general factors which go into proper skin care and overall health.
As a general rule, just keep in mind that proper skin care tends to lead to a healthier microbiome. Proper washing and drying, proper cosmetic application, exercise and sleep, and supplementation of things such as probiotics can all go a long way in preventing skin issues like skin inflammation, and sustaining a healthy microbiome and overall normal skin.
You don’t have to understand the science behind a microbiome or microbiota to know how to properly take care of your skin. We thank you for turning to our guide, and we hope we have provided you with information to help you better understand this complex area of skin care.