Did you know the trillions of bacteria living on your skin play a vital role in your overall well-being?
Human skin is the largest organ covering and protecting your body. And it is the residence of a huge population of invisible microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, and viruses. These form an ecosystem of skin microflora or microbiome that influence and benefit your health in many ways.
Wondering how? Read on to know.
What Is The Skin Microbiome?
The skin microbiome or microflora refers to those microorganisms that reside on your skin. Skin microbiota is another name for them. Your skin is the habitat of more than 1,000 different species of bacteria and about 80 different types of fungi, forming its microbiome .
The number of residing microorganisms is too huge — the total microorganism cell count in and on the human body is almost the same as the number of human cells. After the gut, maximum microbes reside on your skin. The upper part of your epidermis, along with hair follicles, is the habitat of bacteria such as:
Besides bacteria and fungi, there are many viruses and mites that also live on the skin of normal healthy people.
Why Is The Skin Microbiome Important?
1. Helps Your Immune System To Work Better
Initially, the thought was that microbiome existed only on the skin's upper surface. But, current researchers have found that microbes exist in the subcutaneous fat layer  and play an essential role in alerting the immune system about harmful bacteria and viruses.
Your skin microbiome act as a kind of warning flare. They also influence the cell responses to UV light. Though the whole work process is not yet discovered, it is already proven that communication between the microbiome and the immune system occurs at the subcutaneous fat layer.
2. Protects Your Body From Infections
A healthy skin microbiome keeps your skin acidic (pH is around 5.0), which inhibits the growth of pathogens. They act as a natural antibiotic and stop the growth of many harmful germs. Like the gut microbiome , the skin microbiome also protects your body against infections.
3. Tempers Inflammation
Your skin microbiome can signal your immune system to activate or de-activate. It can help to heal and control the harmful inflammations.
Studies suggest that without the skin microbiome, your immune system can release various antimicrobial peptides such as cathelicidin to balance out different factors. And, this may trigger inflammatory response. Your skin's good bacteria can control the release of inflammatory compounds from the immune system.
4. Helps To Heal Wounds
The microbiome of your skin helps in wound healing by limiting its exposure to allergens, keeping it moist, and minimizing oxidative damage. A recent study shows that beneficial bacterium like Staphylococcus epidermidis can protect your skin from harmful UV rays.
Where Does Skin Microbiome Reside?
Microorganisms are present all over the skin surface, residing deep in the hair follicles and glands . Depending on the residing site and type of skin, the species may vary a lot. You can categorize the microbiome residing sites on the skin as follows:
1. Dry Body Sites
These sites are comparatively dry, such as forearms, hands, legs, and feet. Dry sites contain the most diverse microbiota due to high exposure to the external environment.
2. Moist Body Sites
The moist body sites of the skin, such as elbow creases, beneath the breasts, armpits, in-between the toes, etc., contain different types of bacteria.
3. Sebaceous Sites
Your head, neck, and trunk are sebaceous body sites that contain sebaceous glands secreting sebum, an oily substance. Sebum allows cutibacteria to thrive well. Besides bacteria, Demodex mites (Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis) and some fungi also congregate in these oily areas.
How To Improve Skin Microbiome?
Some simple steps to support and improve your skin microbiome include the following:
1. Be Careful About Using Sanitizer And Antibacterial Soap
It is good to clean your skin. But over-cleaning using sanitizer or antibacterial soap can upset the balance of your microbiome.
Sanitizer or antibacterial soaps cannot distinguish between beneficial and harmful microorganisms, leading to the elimination of both. This may destroy your skin's natural flora. Hence, you need to opt for mild cleansers for your skin and do not over use.
2. Eat A Balanced Diet
Some studies have shown that the microorganisms in your gut also affect your skin. So, having a lot of plant-based foods or prebiotics (indigestible carbs like fiber) can be a great option as good bacteria thrive on them.
Did You Know?
A balanced diet containing good fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and colorful vegetables with clean water can be beneficial to the skin microbiome. Also, try to avoid processed foods and extra sugar.
3. Regular Workout
Physical activities make you sweat, which is a fortifying prebiotic for your skin microbiome. Exercise is also good for your overall health. It can influence your gut microbiome in a good way, which is also beneficial for your skin microbes.
4. Spend Time With Nature
There is evidence that open-air and green spaces can help your microbiome flourish and boost your mental and physical health.
5. Quit smoking
Smoking is always bad and harmful for your body. Studies show that smoking can cause inflammation and disturb your skin microbiome.
How To Use Microbiome In Skincare?
Research studies have shown that the skin microbiome can play a crucial role in beauty concepts. Predominantly, there are four approaches to skin microbiome for beauty:
- Removing bacteria
- Prebiotic—feeding “good” bacteria
- Probiotic—adding “good” bacteria
- Postbiotic—adding by-products of bacteria
Prebiotics are derived from non-digestible compounds in fiber-rich foods. Prebiotics stimulate the growth of healthy, probiotic bacteria. That means prebiotics help your existing good gut bacteria to grow, instead of adding new bacteria into the system.
Probiotics alter the microbiome of your gut by adding more good bacteria to reduce the effect of bad bacteria. When your gut becomes happy and healthy, the skin's microbiome also flourishes.
Probiotics are live bacteria that can influence the microflora of the body. You can intake probiotics as a supplement or probiotic-rich food, like curd in your daily meals.
Postbiotics are metabolic by-products of probiotic bacteria and are usually found in fermented foods, like kimchi or miso soup.
How To Choose Microbiome Skincare?
As your skin microbiome consists mainly of beneficial bacteria, strong antibacterial products such as harsh chemicals, soaps, alcohol-based cosmetics, etc., can often cause harm to your natural microflora. Along with harmful microbes, the good bacteria needed to preserve your skin barrier are also removed by these products.
If you want to keep your skin microflora healthy and high-functioning, it's essential to minimize the use of clarifying skincare products or sanitizer. Those chemicals can remove the natural oils and moisture from your skin, worsening the skin condition temporarily.
Instead of choosing harsh chemical-based products, you can go for gentle products, herbal products, or products made for sensitive skin, that are good for the skin microbiome.
How To Contour Microbiome Skin Care?
Instead of adding new products to your skincare regime, you first need to assess your skin’s current condition, your diet, and lifestyle habits that can affect your gut-skin axis. Accordingly, the products for your daily skincare routine along with makeup cosmetics need to be chosen. In some cases, people overdo skincare, and the actual solutions can be much simpler.
If you concentrate on perfect cleaning and overdo it, then it can strip out good bacteria, natural moisture, and oil from your skin. Then you need to apply moisturizer to rehydrate your skin—this is an unnecessary process.
What you need is to have a better understanding of your skin’s natural condition, your environmental condition, and the internal factors that have an impact on its microbiome. This knowledge will help you have a skin care routine that supports a balanced skin ecosystem.
You can make your skin microbiome healthy and take good care of your skin through simple steps like eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, regular workout, and essential skincare regime as per your skin's needs.
Years of studies have already shown how essential your skin microbiome is for your overall health. It helps you keep your skin fresh and attractive while protecting your body from infections and UV damage. You need to be mindful of harsh chemical-containing products and keep your skin hydrated to ensure the welfare of your skin microflora.
1. The skin microbiome, Published on 2013 Jan 3,
2. Coagulase negative staphylococci, published in October 2017,
3. The microbiome extends to subepidermal compartments of normal skin, 2013 Jul 1
4. Natural skin surface pH is on average below 5, which is beneficial for its resident flora, Published on 2006 Oct,
5. Skin microbiota: a source of disease or defence?, Published on 2009 Sep 18
6. Living in Your Skin: Microbes, Molecules, and Mechanisms, published on Mar 17 2021,
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