“A healthy microbiome just may be the secret to amazing looking skin. Here’s what you need to know.”
If you haven’t yet heard the term “skin microbiome,” mark our words, you will soon. It’s the latest and greatest concept that has dermatologists, scientists, and skincare junkies alike buzzing…and for good reason. Ahead, the lowdown on what it is, why it’s so important, and what you can do to help keep it healthy.
In a word, bacteria, baby! “A microbiome itself is defined as an ecosystem of bacteria in a living organism,” explains Jeff Rosevear, founding scientist and Head of Product Development for Skinsei. You may have heard of the importance of bacteria discussed in relation to your gut and gut health, and for skin, it’s the same concept. Your skin’s microbiome is made up of all of the bacteria living on the surface of your skin; how that bacteria behaves and interacts plays a very large role in how your skin looks and feels. And there’s a LOT of bacteria, both on your skin, and your entire body—somewhere between 80 and 90 percent of your DNA is actually made up of bacteria, says Rosevear. We get it, it sounds totally icky and disgusting to think that your skin is crawling with microscopic bugs, but it’s not anything to be alarmed about. “The word bacteria has a negative connotation, but for the most part, these bacteria aren’t doing bad things,” points out Rosevear. In fact, these little guys are responsible for keeping your complexion looking—and feeling—good and healthy (more on that in a few lines).
When people first started talking about the skin microbiome, it was largely in the context of a war between good bacteria and bad bacteria, though that thinking is now starting to shift a bit. “It’s not so much that the bad guys are bad, but more so that they can start to have a negative impact if there is too much of them, or if they’re getting into the wrong places,” explains Rosevear. Take one of the most commonly talked about skin bacteria, p.acnes. Yes, this is the bacteria responsible for causing acne, but that only happens when it gets into pores clogged with oil, feeds off of that oil, and starts to reproduce. Now, suddenly there’s too much of it and you have an issue.
To that point, when it comes to a healthy skin microbiome, it’s not a matter of the good guys overtaking the bad guys, Game of Thrones style, but more about balance. “All the bacteria work together and there’s a natural system of checks and balances in play,” explains Rosevear. “For example, one kind of bacteria may feed off of what another bacteria excretes.” It’s a fairly complicated and interwoven system that you don’t want to disrupt.
In a nutshell, anything and everything that comes in contact with the skin can have an impact. We’re talking the weather, pets, the products you use, you name it. “When the microbiome is strong and healthy, it’s resilient and adaptive, and can deal with these changes,” says Rosevear. “But if it’s unbalanced or disrupted, that’s when you can start to see changes in the skin,” he adds. Though, to a certain extent, it is admittedly a little bit of a chicken or egg situation, because all of those external factors are what can cause the disruption and imbalance in the first place.
Unless you’re somehow able to examine your complexion under a microscope (good luck with that), it’s obviously impossible to tell what is going on with all of these itty-bitty bugs. Generally speaking, if your skin is looking and feeling good, you likely can thank your healthy and balanced microbiome. On the flip side, there are a few main conditions associated with an imbalanced microbiome, acne being one of the biggest and well-studied ones (per our previous example of p.acnes), along with eczema and atopic dermatitis. That being said, even something like dry skin can indicate that something is going on with the microbiome. All of that bacteria acts as the first line of defense for protecting your skin barrier, the outermost layer of the skin that’s responsible for keeping your natural moisture in and any potential irritants out. All of this brings us to our major takeaway: A healthy skin microbiome is one of the most important and crucial parts for skin that looks and feels good.
Since, EVERYTHING affects it, it can be challenging, but topical products are a good place to start. More and more skincare lines are focusing on helping to maintain a healthy microbiome and promoting a balanced bacteria situation by using probiotics and prebiotics in their products. (Yes, as in the kind you find in yogurt or pills; both can help keep your microbiome in a balanced state.) Take Skinsei, for example. While every product in the line obviously has different types of active ingredients and serves different purposes, everything has been specially formulated with the ultimate end goal of maintaining a healthy skin microbiome. Couple that with the fact that all of your personal skincare needs are taken into account—along with all of the external factors (think weather, pollution, and more) that impact the microbiome—and you’ve got yourself one foolproof way to keep all those good-for-you bacteria in a healthy state and doing their thing so that your skin looks as good as it possibly can.
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