Getting to know your Skin Microbiome
Healthy skin isn’t squeaky clean. Healthy skin is home to trillions of friendly bacteria and microbes.
Stop trying to achieve healthy and beautiful skin with harsh cleansers and chemicals.
Your skin is covered in bacteria and other ‘bugs’, collectively known as your skin microbiome. Most of these bugs are good and help your skin to stay healthy and balanced. When your skin microbiome is knocked out of balance with medications, stress, harsh soaps and cleansers, your skin’s immune system swings towards inflammation resulting in red, irritated, sensitive and reactive skin. Skincare and personal care products are a common source of skin microbiome disrupting chemicals.
Microbiome is the new buzzword in beauty, natural health and even allopathic medicine. It’s a hot research topic and for good reason. But just what the heck is a microbiome? And how do you even say it?
Micro = extremely small
Biome (bi ome) = a large naturally occurring community of flora and fauna occupying a major habitat, e.g. forest or tundra. Parents with Minecraft playing kids will know all about differing biomes!
A microbiome is really just a fancy way of saying “an extremely small ecosystem of critters” – in the case of the human body it’s referring to the communities of microbes that live in your gut, on your skin, mouth, nose, urinary and reproductive tract. We live in an intimate symbiotic relationship with these microbes. Researchers are linking the microbes that live in your gut in with everything from skin problems through to depression and even the size of your waistline. Research into the skin microbiome is only just getting started, it’s an exciting field of research that will hopefully increase awareness of some of the questionable chemicals used extensively in skincare, cosmetics, shampoo, conditioner and body wash.
Your skin is an amazing ecosystem that's home to trillions of bacteria, fungi, mites and viruses. Your skin microbiome is a dynamic and diverse community of microbes that live upon your skin surface and deep in hair follicles and oil secreting glands. These microbes have a direct connection to the health and balance of your skin.
Microbes on your skin are constantly talking to your skin’s immune system. All day they’re chattering away to each other, in fact the bacteria that form your skin microbiome actually train your immune system. The bacteria on your skin can keep your skin’s immune system calm and chilled out, or, make it super cranky and reactive (say hello to inflamed, red, irritable, sensitive and reactive skin).
From a microbes point of view, living on your skin is like living in an inhospitable desert. There isn’t much food for them, but they have evolved to survive despite the sparse nutrients available to them.
What do the bacteria on my skin eat?
It sounds gross, but you need to know what the microbes that live on your skin feed on. If you can ensure they’re well fed and happy, they’re less likely to aggravate and irritate your skins immune system.
The microbes on your skin need different food to the bacteria in your gut microbiome. Microbes that live on your skin feast on dead skin cells, oil produced in the skin (sebum) and chemicals secreted by skin cells. The chemicals that your skin cells secrete are influenced by the microbes that live in your gut microbiome, this is a large part of how the gut – skin connection is forged.
Symptoms of an unbalanced skin microbiome
How do you know your skin microbiome is out of balance and needs some TLC? An unbalanced skin microbiome results in inflammation, infection and a damaged skin barrier. A damaged skin barrier means that your skin can’t hold moisture, it all leaks out into the environment resulting in dry and dehydrated skin that looks and feels old and tired.
Red flags that your skin microbiome needs some TLC include:
- Reactive and sensitive skin
- Red, irritated and inflamed skin
- Skin prone to rashes including dermatitis, eczema, rosacea and perioral dermatitis
- Prematurely aged skin
- Acne prone skin
- Dry skin
- Dehydrated skin
Less is more
Your skin microbiome is damaged and irritated when you layer on multiple products filled with chemical ingredients. For beautiful, healthy and calm skin, simplify your routine and choose products with as few ingredients as possible.
Choose skincare products that support a healthy microbiome and avoid those that contain ingredients or chemicals that disrupt your skin’s microbial balance.
Skincare ingredients that support a healthy skin microbiome include
- Skin probiotics
- Liquid waxes such as squalane (from olives) and Jojoba which mimic lipid components of sebum
- Raw honey
- Minimally processed beeswax
- Antioxidant rich organic plant oils
Avoid these for a healthier skin microbiome
Your skin microbiome can be thrown out of balance by medications like antibiotics and steroid creams. Stress is also a culprit – so when stress levels are high (and who’s aren’t right now?) make sure that you get at least a few early nights a week and prioritise eating healthy foods to minimise the impact upon your immune system and skin. A good multivitamin with skin friendly antioxidants can also help to keep the balance during times of stress.
By far the biggest culprits responsible for a damaged skin microbiome and skin barrier are common ingredients in many skincare products. This includes the over use or inappropriate use of powerful active ingredients like retinol and vitamin C. Don’t layer active ingredients, especially if you have sensitive or problem skin – less really is more. Give your skin a break from actives a few nights per week.
Avoid products with the following ingredients:
- Scrubs, microbeads or other ‘gritty’ exfoliants
- Alcohol: SD alcohol, denatured alcohol, ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Foaming cleansers that leave your skin feeling tight and squeaky clean
- Preservatives (essential ingredients in skincare that combines water and oil based ingredients together as water allows for the grow of fungi and bacteria. Many skin types handle these chemicals without apparent problem, but they can be problematic for sensitive, allergic and dry skin).
Certain chemicals in skincare have been shown to persist on the skin for weeks once you’ve stopped using them. Your skin cells also have a turnover time of around 4 weeks, so be patient. If you’re taking steps to create a healthier skin microbiome by switching to simpler and more natural skincare products, it helps to know the normal time frame of skin maintenance and repair happens over weeks rather than days.
Look beyond the products that you apply directly to your face. Microbiome disrupting chemicals applied to other places on the body can also affect the skin on your face – think body washes, shampoos, conditioners and even anti perspirants/deodorants.
Minimalist Microbiome Friendly Skincare Made in Noosa, Australia
Nubeean Noosa’s range of Healthy Skin[care] products are all formulated with 5 ingredients or less. Suitable for all skin types, recommended for sensitive, reactive, dry, dehydrated, irritated and sun damaged skin.