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what is the skin microbiome

5-minute focus on: Skin microbiome

Our skin is precious. There’s also more to it than first meets the eye too.

The skin on our body and on our face is unique to us; we have our own unique fingerprints and we all have different skin combinations – i.e. some of us may have sensitive skin on our arms or parts of our faces, while some may have oily skin and catch the sun easier than others. In the meantime, others may have skin conditions, such as eczema, rosacea, psoriasis or acne, and so on…

All in all, everybody’s skin makeup is different, just as our eye colour, our hair colour and texture and facial features all differ.

But how often do we stop to think about this fact? To pause for a minute and think about what our skin, that outermost layer that protects us throughout our entire lives, is actually made up of?

It’s not something many of us think about every day, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth pondering for a minute or two. Thanks to the likes of Dr Michael Mosley and The Clever Guts Diet, most of us are aware of the microbiome that exists in the gut, but how many of us are clued up about our skin microbiome?

Skin microbiome is just an interesting subject as gut microbiome. Let’s delve a bit deeper and spend the next few minutes focusing on the skin’s microorganisms.

What is skin microbiome?

According to British Association of Dermatologists-accredited consultant dermatologist, Professor Carsten Flohr, skin microbiome is a community of organisms that live on the skin that includes bacteria, viruses and fungi.1 It’s this special ecosystem that’s responsible for ‘controlling’ our skin. For instance, how well it absorbs products and responds to certain ingredients. Just as there can be bad bacteria present in the gut, bad bacteria can also be found on our skin – reportedly 1,000 different bacterial and up to 80 different fungi species. This is where the crossover with skin and gut microbiome continues too, as some of the bacteria that’s in our gut, such as Staph, Strep, and Candida, can also be found on our skin.2

Before we move on, it’s also worth mentioning here that skin microbiome also goes by the name of ‘skin microbes’ or ‘skin flora.’

What does skin microbiome do?

Our skin microbiome, which we all have, is responsible for doing quite a bit actually. First and foremost, it’s responsible for protecting our skin and balancing out our skin’s natural PH value.

As well as protecting our skin, it ‘gives’ a lot to it too. For instance, by producing nutrients and lipids that help contribute to our skin’s overall health which, in turn, can make it look and feel healthier.3

What happens when our skin microbiome isn’t quite right?

This is essentially when our skin microbiome becomes out of balance. And when the microbial balance is off-kilter, it’s not as effective as it usually is.

As a result, this means it may not be able to protect the skin as much as it usually would. 

What can we do to look after our skin microbiome?

How can we protect something we can’t see and don’t really think about on a day-to-day basis? Do we even need to?

Absolutely! As we established a bit further up, the microbiome on our skin is responsible for a lot and so it’s important that we look out for it as best we can, which will enable it to continue to do its job well.

There are several things we can all do to give our skin microbiome the TLC it deserves. For instance, we can:4
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet and stay hydrated – there’s a link between our skin microbiome and immune system,5 therefore eating the right food and drinking enough fluids can help make sure our gut and skin bacteria stay happy
  • Steer clear of trigger foods – e.g. dairy, gluten or sugar
  • Take care of your gut microbiome too – one of the ways you can do this is by eating a microbiome diet and taking prebiotics and probiotics
  • Don’t be OTT with hand sanitising – this can actually unsettle your skin’s natural PH balance. Just like with washing our hair, it pays to not over wash your skin!
  • Try to stay calm – i.e. be as stress-free as possible, which may be easier said than done, but stress can negatively impact our bodies in so many ways, skin included
  • Stay active – regular exercise can help lower stress levels, as well as potentially help us to lose weight, sleep better and generally be more fit. It can even boost our gut health too.

A few final words about skin microbiome…

It may seem a bit odd, the thought of lots of little microorganisms all working away on the surface and within the layers of our skin to enable it to function better and remain healthy. But, from a top-level perspective, it’s exactly what’s happening every day, to us all.

Our skin microbiome is essentially our very own skin superhero, so make sure you take the time to consider yours and the impact your lifestyle and the way you treat it. For instance, the products you use could be affecting your skin hero, who’s there by your side, regardless of how we treat it and what we throw at it, inside and out.

Last updated: 15 June 2020