Our Skin Microbiome is essential to the health of our skin, yet it has only been the last decade or so that it has been studied extensively.
For the longest time, “bacteria” on your skin was considered a bad thing. I was prescribed anti-biotic oral medication, anti-bacterial washes and anti-bacterial creams to “fight” the bacteria that caused my acne.
But, what if this broad-spectrum, anti-bacterial approach was doing more harm than good?
Fact is, you need your skin microbiome. Wiping it out with drugs, creams and “skincare” products disrupts a delicate balance.
You are a Walking Ecosystem!
What if I were to tell you that for every cell in your body, you have a bacterial buddy cell that helps keep you alive and well? Scientists estimate our microbiome weighs over two kilos, which is about twice the weight of our brain and just as important!
Our microbiome is the genetic material of all the microbes, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses that live on and inside our body. Remarkably, the number of genes in all your microbiome is 200 times the number of genes in your “human” genome.
Your microbiome is not separate to you. You are your microbiome, and your microbiome is you.
We are, quite literally, walking ecosystems.
What Your Microbiome Does…
Your microbiome begins in utero. From the moment you vaginally born, you are being populated with microflora. Skin to skin contact with your mother and human breastmilk also ensure you are establishing a microbiome that will protect you as you grow.
The fact is, we are still discovering how this microbiome protects us and the role it plays in our immune function.
But a study from 1989 gave us the first hint of the importance of the microbiome. An inverse correlation between hay fever and the number of older siblings was discovered in a study that sampled over 17000 children born in 1958. The conclusion was that some infectious agents protect us against a number of immune-related disorders, including allergies, type 1 diabetes and even multiple sclerosis.
The clean hypothesis was developing, as researchers discovered how being too clean could harm our microbiome. The public health measures used to control exposure to diseases like cholera, (including improved sanitation, garbage collection and water purity) also deprived us the opportunity to be colonised by the good bacteria that lived in the same environment as the bad.
A healthy, balanced microbiome ensures that our body is functioning at its best.
What Happens When Your Skin Microbiome is Out of Balance?
There is some new research that indicates that a microbiome imbalance contributes to eczema flare-ups.
Acne is caused by the overpopulation of Cutibacterium acnes bacteria, also known as Propionibacterium acnes. Unfortunately, acne is the most common skin condition, affecting up to 50 million Americans annually. It is estimated that 85 per cent of people between the ages of 12 and 24 experience at least minor acne.
A balanced skin microbiome protects from infection by crowding out the overgrowth of C. acnes. The skin microbiome prefers a relatively acidic environment (pH is around 5.0), which helps to inhibit the growth of other pathogens.
The microbiome and skin immune system “communicate”, dampening inflammation. When the microbiome is out of balance, the immune system releases various antimicrobial peptides such as cathelicidin restore balance. Our good bacterial microbiome can block and prevent the release of inflammatory compounds from the immune system.
Recent research indicates that during infancy, the skin microbiome is involved in creating “tolerance,” which researchers believe could reduce the incidence of autoimmune diseases later in life.
Antibiotic exposure that damages the skin microbiome in infancy may compromise the development of tolerance, allowing for the development of autoimmunity.
The microbiome also aids in wound healing, limits exposure to allergens and UV radiation, minimizes oxidative damage and keeps the skin hydrated.
How to Maintain a Healthy Skin Microbiome.
Maintain a whole food, healthy diet.
Maintaining a healthy skin microbiome may begin with your diet. A whole food diet that minimises the consumption of processed foods is the best for your gut, and your skin.
Review your skincare routine.
I know multiple products, double-cleansing and many-step-skincare routines have been in vogue for some time. But you might wish to experiment with a simpler skin-care routine. Cut back on the products high in preservatives, synthetics and fragrances.
Treat your skin gently.
Similarly, take a break from abrasives, steaming hot water, facial peels and sun-baking sessions.
Reduce the number of antibacterial products you use, including essential oils.
Those anti-bacterial products may seem like a godsend for those of us who suffer from acne. But, if you are feeling brave, take a break. Try my Luxurious Soluble Oil Cleanser instead.
Even essential oils have a strong, broad-spectrum antibacterial effect. Use them judiciously.
Regularly wash your clothes and linen and dry them in the sun.
Wash your bed linen at least once a week with fragrance-free detergent and dry in full sun if you can. Instead of fabric softener, I use white vinegar with a few drops of eucalyptus oil. You may wish to purchase extra pillowcases and wash them more frequently.
Wash your hands and resist the urge to touch your face.
I don’t even realise I do it, but I do. Especially when I’m nervous! But your hands and nails can be a funky source of all kinds of introduced bacteria, viruses and other nasties, so, keep them clean and away from your face.
Clean your mobile phone regularly.
Clean your phone screen with a 50% mix of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Spray the solution onto a clean cloth (don’t spray on to your phone screen directly!) and wipe until clean.
While it may be tempting to head for the sauna, the heat can actually be damaging to your skin. The best kind of sweating for your skin is via exercise. Wear clothes that breathe and if possible, shower as soon as your sweaty session is over.
Experiment with bioactive skincare ingredients.
You might be surprised to discover that many bioactive skincare ingredients are only as far away as your kitchen. My Apple Cider Vinegar, Neem and Tea Tree Spot Soother includes Apple Cider Vinegar which is alive with “good” bacteria.
Raw honey is bioactive, try my Kaolin, Chamomile and Honey Mask to soothe your skin. My Witch Hazel, Aloe and Rosewater Facial Spray contains no colours, preservatives or essential oils and is very gentle on your skin.
Cultured Coconut Yoghurt is packed with beneficial probiotics. It is a quick and moisturising mask for your skin!
If you are keen to try making your own natural skincare products, you simply must grab your free copy of my Guide to Creating Your Home Apothecary. It is free to download via my Subscriber Resource Library. If you arent already a subscriber, join today and receive your access password!
The first time I learned about my skin microbiome, I wanted to know more! It changed the way I regarded my skin and even myself.
I would love to hear from you, please leave a comment below.