It might be hard to believe, but your skin is home to trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and even viruses, organized in diverse communities across your body. Though these tiny organisms go about their daily cycles largely undetected by their host (you), they deserve more credit than they probably get because they can have huge impacts on your health and appearance!
AUG 24, 2021
These invisible creatures are known as the "Skin Microbiome". Their presence is crucial for keeping your largest organ, your skin, healthy. In fact, without a healthy and diverse community of tiny organisms, your skin's ability to protect you could be greatly compromised.
You may wonder, "how do such tiny creatures impact my skin in such a large way?" and that's the purpose of this article. Today, we will explore the Skin Microbiome and present all you need to know about how it impacts your health and what you can do to promote a healthy skin ecosystem.
01 What is The Skin Microbiome, and Why Is It Important?
As previously mentioned, a host of microorganisms, roughly 39 trillion, live on the body's surface, resulting in what the pros call "The Skin Flora" or "Human Microbiome.", Although these tiny critters are composed of microscopic mites, bacteria, fungi, and viruses, they typically pose zero threat to humans and can even offer a unique advantage.
OneFact Have you ever noticed that mosquitos bite people at very different rates? It turns out that the differences in the microbes on our skin are responsible for this phenomenon, as they release chemicals that attract or deter mosquitos! This advantage is protection, as their primary evolutionary purpose is to create a barrier against pathogens that can deteriorate the skin and your overall health.
This impressive colony of microorganisms is sustained by the water, sebum (oil), and salt that your skin releases to keep itself cool and lubricated. However, it's important to note that the communities of microorganisms found on each part of your skin are unique, like different neighborhoods in a large city.
For instance, the identity and diversity of microorganisms on your face are vastly different from the ones on your armpit, as factors like skin thickness, temperature, pH, and hair follicle density determine the variation.
02 How The Skin Microbiome Affects The Body
As previously mentioned, the Skin Microbiome is an ecosystem consisting of bacteria on the skin's surface. These bacteria help guard the body against harmful pathogens that can damage the skin or deteriorate your overall health. Therefore, having a healthy skin microbiome is essential for staying healthy.
In fact, according to Queensland Health, complications with skin microbiome can be a major contributing factor to skin conditions, such as acne, rashes, eczema, dandruff, and dermatitis.
How To Support and Restore Your Skin Microbiome
As your first defense mechanism against pathogens and your largest organ, skin directly affects your wellbeing. Therefore your skin microbiome deserves the same care and attention you give to other aspects of your health. When it comes to your Microbiome, whether it's the Microbiome in your gut or your skin, fundamentally, your role is to provide a happy home for the good bacteria to thrive by fostering the growth of healthy bacteria and ingesting nutritious foods.
An easy way to do this is by focusing on meals that contain prebiotics (food ingredient that promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestines) like leeks, garlic, soy milk, pats, onions, and legumes, as well as probiotics like kefir, kombucha, and yogurt.
A healthy combination of these products will stimulate beneficial skin bacteria as they contain essential compounds responsible for influencing and improving the body's microbial diversity, stability, and composition.
Skin Microbiome Vs. Gut Microbiome
Besides the trillions of microorganisms living on your skin, the body possesses another collection of microscopic life called the Gut Microbiome. Naturally, both microbiotas are composed of both commensal microbes (good bacteria, providing essential nutrients) and pathogenic microbes (bad bacteria that can cause diseases), which play a vital role in the body's relative immunity to diseases.
While external factors largely influence your Skin Microbiome, studies reveal that various personal factors affect the Gut Microbiome, like psychological disorders, lifestyle habits, and diet. Some of the best ways to support and restore this section of your immune system are to consume prebiotic and probiotic foods, limit your intake of artificial sweeteners, and take antibiotics only when necessary.
It's also important to note that Gut Microbiome influences the Skin Microbiome; for example, short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) from fiber fermentation positively affect the development of specific skin microbes. These microbes affect the immune defense and regulate skin inflammation, meaning a poor Gut Microbiome degrades the skin's protection.
Ultimately, both the Skin and Gut Microbiome are invaluable and work hand-in-hand to provide sufficient protection for the body.
Best Practices To Maintain A Healthy Skin Microbiome
The constituents of your Skin Microbiome can sometimes be out of your control. Still, there are specific actions that you can take to either improve, support, or deteriorate this delicate ecosystem.
For example, studies reveal the microbiomes of babies born through vaginal birth contain more gut bacteria than those with Caesarean section due to the child interacting with the mother's bacteria during birth. This factor has been shown to greatly influence a child's development as it aids their battle against pathogens. In fact, babies born via Caesarean section were found to have a higher propensity to develop asthma, allergies, and obesity - the development of which could be partly counteracted by retroactively introducing them to vaginal bacteria after birth.
To keep your body healthy, happy, and thriving, we recommend incorporating the essential tips below into your daily routine. These include:
- Nourish Your Body Correctly
Proper nutrition is essential to maintaining a healthy microbiome ecosystem throughout your body. Experts recommend ingesting a diet rich in healthy fat (like avocados), fiber, vegetables, and proteins as they help your gut bacteria, resulting in a better Skin Microbiome.
Additionally, it's important to stay hydrated and keep your fluids flowing correctly, as hydration affects factors concerning your skin microbiome, including sweat, sebum production, and skin elasticity. Therefore, it's best to drink 64 ounces of water daily or enough water to avoid getting thirsty all together.
- Consume Probiotics
Probiotics can have a profound effect on the body's Microbiome as research reveals their ability to restore the Gut Microbiome's composition, resulting in better disease resistance.
Foods containing probiotics include yogurt, Sauerkraut, Kefir, Kimchi, Tempeh, Mido, pickles, kombucha, and traditional buttermilk. Additionally, kombucha is known to be a good source of probiotics along with other health-promoting ingredients such as antioxidants, polyphenols, and acetic acid, which are known to support cellular repair mechanisms and fight off bad bacteria.
Probiotics can also be found in capsule form, with a recommended daily dosage of 10-20 billion CFU for adults, as much of the bacteria introduced via probiotics can be degraded in the stomach.
- Bathe Correctly
Bathing regularly is essential for keeping good hygiene, but overdoing it is equally problematic. You can bathe incorrectly by over scrubbing or washing your body with harsh chemicals that strip your skin of its moisture, resulting in friction that produces micro-tears and compromises your Skin Microbiome.
Additionally, after bathing, ensure you dry your skin gently by patting the skin instead of rubbing the towel violently. This simple yet effective habit will help keep the bacteria on your skin intact as well.
- Choose Beauty Products Wisely
Choosing beauty products with the right ingredients is key to maintaining a healthy skin microbiome. Unfortunately, while some beauty products may claim to protect your skin, it’s important to make a habit of checking the ingredients list for harmful chemicals that can disrupt your delicate skin ecosystem.
Experts recommend avoiding antibacterial soaps, as most kill both the harmful and beneficial microbes on your skin, leaving the body vulnerable. Additionally, soaps are mostly alkaline, which will affect the skin's acidic nature, making you more exposed to alkaline-loving pathogens.
Therefore, the best option is to avoid products that contain ingredients that affect your Microbiome, such as:
- Triclosan: Triclosan is an antibacterial compound commonly found in deodorant, facial cleansers, shampoo and toothpaste. In addition, continuous exposure through absorption often results in skin irritation, like eczema, and increased allergic reactions.
- Triclocarban Benzalkonium Chloride: Commonly found in cosmetics, wet wipes, hand and surface sanitizers, Triclocarban Benzalkonium Chloride excessive exposure presents side effects such as redness, swelling, blisters, and more.
- Benzethonium chloride: Also known as thiamine, Benzethonium chloride is an antibacterial agent commonly found in household cleaning items. While it is an effective deterrent, its antibacterial content is detrimental to your skin.
- Chloroxylenol: Chloroxylenol is found in antibacterial soaps, wound-cleansing applications, and household antiseptics, and similar to other products on this list, excessive exposure can damage your skin microbiome.
- Sodium hydroxide: Also known as caustic soda, Sodium hydroxide is a prevalent ingredient in cleaners and soaps, but it's overly acidic nature is sufficient to upset your skin Microbiome's ecosystem.
- Avoid Synthetic Fabrics
Most synthetic fabrics, especially tight ones that hug the skin, can affect your Microbiome negatively. For example, if you wear fabrics that transfer heat poorly, you can cause an imbalance in the ecosystem as temperature greatly affects your skin Flora.
Additionally, you can produce more sebum and sweat than necessary when wearing synthetic fabrics, resulting in further imbalance and degradation of this essential protective layer. Your best option is natural fibers like cotton for a safer and healthier body.
- The Skin Microbiome is a critical component of the human body, and maintaining its diverse composition is essential to living in good health.
- Practices like eating a healthy diet, limiting your exposure to harmful chemicals, avoiding antibiotics whenever necessary, and generally taking measures to ensure your delicate Microbiome is not compromised is recommended.
- A deteriorated or unbalanced Skin Microbiome directly affects one's health as harmful pathogens are less restricted from entering the body due to the weakened barrier.
*Note: If you feel your skin biome is too unbalanced, you may need extra help from a professional to provide more information on restoring your Skin Microbiome.
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