The microbiome and skincare
What is the microbiome?
The microbiome is the collection of microorganisms that call your body home. These microbes are a collection of bacteria, viruses, and fungi, but the majority of your microbiome is made up of bacteria. These bacteria reside everywhere from our gut to our skin, and you have about ten times more bacterial cells than human cells! This might sound a little terrifying, but it’s actually both necessary and beneficial for our health. The bacteria in our bodies break down our food, provide us with vitamins and lipids and nutrients, and train our immune systems.
How does it affect your skin?
Many people are familiar with the gut microbiome, and the benefits probiotics (beneficial bacteria) have for our health. However, few people know that our skin also has a microbiome, which is known as our skin flora. Like how probiotics are essential for gut health, the bacteria that cover the skin are necessary for our skin’s health. Skin conditions like acne and eczema occur when the skin microbiome becomes unbalanced, and harmful bacteria outgrow the beneficial skin bacteria.
Our skin health, though, is not only dependent on the health of our skin microbiome, but also the health of our gut microbiome. A healthy gut microbiome is vital for proper digestion and immune system function. When the gut becomes unbalanced from stress, anxiety, and a low-fiber diet, this can increase inflammation, skin oiliness, and acne severity. Low zinc levels are also commonly seen in acne sufferers. Studies have shown zinc reduces inflammation and works as a natural antibiotic without the fear of developing resistance, unlike conventional antibiotics. Supplementing an acne regiment with zinc has been shown to reduce total pimple counts by almost 50%.
What to look for in microbiome-friendly products?
More and more microbiome-friendly products are available on the market each year, but with that said, they are still hard to find! Research suggests that western habits of being “overly clean” and having a diet filled with processed foods have threatened the health of our microbiomes. Also, the use of harsh soaps and surfactants harms our microflora. This leads to a loss of skin barrier function, irritation, redness, and dryness. Before you go and throw away all of your soap, though, it’s important to note that not all soaps are harmful, and cleansers are necessary for our health as a community! Here are some ingredients to watch out for when choosing your microbiome-friendly skincare products.
Surfactants are molecules that have a water-loving (hydrophilic) end and also a water-hating (hydrophobic) end. These properties make them ideal for binding to the dirt, toxins, and excess oils on our skin then quickly washing away with water. When looking for a cleanser, choose a gentle formulation with mild surfactants that are sulfate-free. Also, look for additional ingredients that hydrate the skin and support skin barrier health like Aloe vera, amino acids, and vitamins.
pH neutral formulas
Standard soaps are at a high pH level around a pH of 8-12, but the pH of your skin is slightly acidic around a pH of 5. When choosing a cleanser and skincare products, look for formulas that are pH balanced at a pH that our skin naturally functions. This will help to reduce irritation and support the health of your skin flora.
Prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics
So, what exactly are probiotics, prebiotics, and postbiotics? Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that are already living inside and outside our bodies doing amazing things for our health. Prebiotics are the food for our probiotics to help strengthen them. Prebiotics are generally different sugars and carbohydrates that probiotics metabolize to use as energy. The bacteria in our flora produce and secrete various compounds, including vitamins, enzymes, amino acids, short-chain fatty acids, signaling compounds, and other organic acids. We call all of these postbiotics, and they are responsible for many of the health benefits we receive from probiotics. Since probiotics are difficult to formulate for delivery onto the skin, Dermala’s SE Microbiome Complex is a combination of prebiotics and postbiotics from a friendly skin bacterium that can interfere with the growth of the acne-causing bacteria, P. acnes. This allows us to deliver the benefits of these friendly skin bacteria without using the actual bacteria itself.
We hope we helped you navigate the new and exciting world of your microbiome and skincare! The next time you shop around for various skincare products, try to consider the health of your best friends and forever-roommates – your skin flora!