What does it mean to have a healthy skin microbiome?
Before answering, it might be wise to jump into what exactly the skin microbiome is and what defines a healthy skin microbiome. The skin microbiome is an organic ecosystem made up of trillions of good and bad bacteria that sit on the surface of your skin and protects you from external factors. For your skin microbiome to be healthy, it is essential for the bacteria on the skin to be in harmony and balance. No single bacteria should dominate any other. It’s the disbalance in bacteria that causes skin conditions such as eczema, rosacea, acne, sensitivity, pigmentation, etc. There are however steps you can take to ensure that you are helping your skin microbiome in performing its main purpose.
#1 Gentle cleansing
Try to use a gentle cleanser, especially on the face where the skin is more exposed to the elements and has a tendency to be more sensitive. Avoid heavily antibacterial formulations, as those can disrupt the good bacteria along with the potentially harmful bacteria, leaving your skin barrier unprotected. Steer clear of ingredients such as alcohol, triclosan, and classic soaps that are overtly stripping.
#2 Avoid Hot Water
Using extremely hot water on your face can dry it out as well as burn your skin, negatively impacting the healthy bacteria that live on your skin and work hard to protect you. Ensure that you use lukewarm or cooler water when putting into contact with your face.
#3 Avoid Scrubbing
Don’t over-scrub with physical exfoliators as this can strip your skin removing more than dead skin cells, but cause sensitivity, and soreness and make your skin red. In some situations, it can also cause inflammation and acne. If you want to exfoliate your skin, you can opt to use a chemical exfoliator that will do the job without being excessively harsh. An excellent chemical exfoliating ingredient for the skin microbiome is lactic acid (a postbiotic). It is gentle and can encourage your skin to rebalance.
#4 Add Prebiotics & Postbiotics to your Skincare Regime
The best thing you can do to maintain a healthier skin microbiome is to use ingredients that will feed the healthy bacteria in your skin and encourage it to fight against potentially harmful bacteria. For this reason, aim to introduce ingredients such as Fructooligosaccharides, Trehalose, Sorbitol & Lactobacillus ferment to your routine.
#5 Moisturize Your Skin
Harmful bacteria thrive in a dry environment, which is why it is crucial to give your skin the hydration boost it needs to foster a healthy and balanced environment. Never forego your moisturizer. Try to look for moisturizers with ceramides as its an extremely hydrating ingredient and can help retain moisture in your skin.
#6 Use Products with Shorter Ingredient Lists
When picking your skincare products, aim for ones with shorter ingredient lists. Keeping it simple with a few really good ingredients is better than overwhelming your skin with a long list of ingredients that likely have perfumes and unnecessary preservatives that will kill bacteria instead of nurturing them. In fact, avoid products that have no expiration date, as those most likely have truly harsh preservative systems in place.
#7 Eat High Fiber Foods: They Are Full of Prebiotics.
Moving away from skincare products, it is equally important to eat foods that are rich in prebiotics as these feed the good bacteria to grow within the gut, which in turn fosters a healthier skin microbiome. Think of it as skincare from within. You can eat high-fiber foods such as oats, almonds, cooked beans, and lentils to achieve this.
#8 Eat Probiotic-Rich Foods Daily
Just as you should feed your microbiome prebiotics, you can also choose to add probiotic-rich foods into your diet. This refers to foods that have live organisms that are meant to support your microbiome. Foods like yogurt, kefir, tempeh, kimchi, miso, pickles, and kombucha are all good choices of probiotic foods.
Skin Microbiota: an organic ecosystem made up of trillions of good and bad bacteria that sit on the surface of your skin.
Skin Microbiome: refers to the collection of the genome from all the microorganisms that sit on the surface of your skin.
Bacteria: bacteria are single-cell organisms that live everywhere on earth, including on the surface of the skin.
Microorganisms: microscopic organisms that are found all around us and even inside our bodies. Also known as microbes, microorganisms include a massive range of organisms such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
Prebiotic: Prebiotics act as food for the microorganisms on the skin and the rest of the body. Prebiotics help to allow good bacteria to grow and thrive.
Probiotic: Probiotics are living microorganisms that confer benefits to the host when applied to the body.
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Lee, H.J., Jeong, S.E., Lee, S., Kim, S., Han, H. and Jeon, C.O. (2017). Effects of cosmetics on the skin microbiome of facial cheeks with different hydration levels. MicrobiologyOpen, [online] 7(2), p.e00557. doi:10.1002/mbo3.557.