Who knew that life existed on and underneath the surface of your skin? Maybe a small part of you was aware of the presence of bacteria which play an important role in the balance of your skin.
But have you ever really thought about it in great detail? Probably not. And while that’s perfectly acceptable, there’s been a lot of recent press about looking after your skin’s complex ecosystem of microorganisms, so it’s important to know what’s going on if you want to do the best by your skin.
Here’s everything you need to know about your skin’s clever little but oh-so-important microbiome … You'll need a cuppa to-the-ready for this!
What Is The Skin’s Microbiome?
No matter how healthy and vibrant your skin is, when it comes to setting up home, it’s not the most welcoming of environments. Naturally acidic and lacking in nutrients, your skin is, frankly, a pretty harsh place to live.
Yet despite all this, it’s home to trillions of bacteria as well as fungi, viruses and even (dare we say it!) tiny mites that thrive together within the hair follicles, pores and various layers of your skin.
This clever and diverse community is what’s known as your skin’s microbiome and it’s a crucial part of your skin’s barrier function, working hard to protect your skin and body from unwanted pathogens that may otherwise cause harm.
Just like everything else about you, your microbiome is completely unique. It depends on your genes, the environment in which you live, your age, diet, lifestyle habits and so on.
It also varies across your body due to the variation in thickness, texture and oiliness of your skin. It’s an extremely complex ecosystem and the more strains of bacteria that coexist on your skin, the better.
So, Why Is Your Microbiome So Important?
The main function of your skin’s microbiome is to work with your skin’s barrier to stop bad bacteria from harming your skin and body. By creating this harmonious colony of microorganisms, your skin effectively maintains the ideal environment to help keep unwanted invaders away. It’s all about good fighting evil.
Of course, life is never that simple and your microbiome is rarely perfect. Sure, a super healthy microbiome and strong barrier will keep moisture in and potential irritants out, protecting your skin from dryness, dehydration, inflammation and infection.
But when one strain of bacteria gets out of kilter, this is when problems occur and you end up with what’s known as a ‘leaky’ barrier. Sounds grim, but this is what it means ...
Any kind of disruption in the natural harmony of your microbiome (thanks to factors like harsh cleansing, hormonal imbalances and a poor diet) can result in an increase in moisture getting out and pathogens getting in.
The microbiome for an eczema sufferer, for example, is often lacking in certain strains of good bacteria, causing an imbalance in the microbiome, weaknesses in the skin’s barrier and therefore exacerbating dryness and itchiness.
5 Ways To Look After Your Skin’s Microbiome
Now you know just how important your skin’s microbiome is, how can you ensure you keep it healthy and balanced? Well, obviously your natural predisposition can’t be altered, but there are plenty of ways to care for what nature gave you.
Below, five of the best ways to treat your skin’s microbiome with love and respect ...
1. Don’t Over-Treat Your Skin
While it’s tempting to overload your skin with every lotion, potion, scrub and serum you can get your hands on, this exposes your skin to hundreds of ingredients your microbiome might not be too keen on.
Often, in skincare, less is more, so if your skin is feeling overwhelmed, pare back your routine to the real basics – Crystal Cleanser and Organic Tinted Moisturiser with SPF 25 – then add only the treatments your skin really needs.
If your skin is feeling particularly dry, you’ll love our nourishing, super moisturising Organic Age-Defying Facial Oil. Or perhaps you’re concerned about lines and wrinkles? Then think about incorporating Pre-Eminent Beauty Serum into your routine.
Just don’t think a piled-high, 10-layer routine is guaranteed to do your skin any good. Often, it won’t.
2. Avoid Harsh Cleansers
Of course, good hygiene is important, but cleansing with strong surfactants will strip away your natural oils and upset your skin’s naturally low pH balance. This changes the environment in which your microbiome thrives, thus sending it into a frenzy and allowing bad bacteria to take over from all the good stuff.
Cue irritation, breakouts, dryness, the works! The word to always bear in mind when cleansing your skin is ‘gentle.’
And this goes for body and hand cleansers just as much as your face products. Common irritants to avoid include synthetic fragrances, parabens, harsh sulphates and certain alcohols.
Good news: Crystal Cleanser is pH-balanced and paraben- and sulphate-free, making it perfect for maintaining a healthy, thriving microbiome.
3. Focus On Moisturisation
When your microbiome is unbalanced and your barrier function compromised, your skin will not retain moisture to the best of its abilities. This means it’s going to need your help with super hydrating and moisturising ingredients from your skincare routine.
And yes, these are different: hydrating ingredients like aloe, glycerin and hyaluronic acid help replace lost moisture, while moisturising ingredients like botanical oils and shea butter seal moisture in. So now you know!
Always moisturise after cleansing with a gentle formulation like Imperial Moisturiser which contains healing vitamin E and hyaluronic acid. You could also try Organic Hydration Gel which is particularly great for dry, sensitive skin, acne and eczema.
4. Eat Your Way To A Healthier Microbiome
When it comes to your diet, there’s much research to suggest that what you eat can go a long way to a healthier complexion. This could, in part, be due to your gut’s microbiome (a similar ecosystem of microorganisms) and how it works together with that of your skin.
Fill up your gut with processed foods, sugar, salt and unhealthy fats and the health of your entire body (including your skin) will suffer. On the other hand, your skin’s microbiome will thrive when your body is nourished from within.
So, the answer is simple: eat plenty of fresh vegetables, fibre, protein and healthy fats. Plant-based foods, in particular, are extremely beneficial to your gut as they contain prebiotics which good bacteria loves.
5. Help Create A Balanced Body With A Biotic Supplement
With the belief that the gut and skin’s microbiome are very closely linked, you could also consider taking a pre and probiotic supplement to promote good bacteria and consequently fight off the bad guys. But before you do, here are some important points to note ...
Prebiotics are nutrients that feed bacteria in your gut, while probiotics are living strains of bacteria that help increase the population of good bacteria. There are many supplements containing a blend of both pre and post-biotics but always look for ‘live’ bacteria and at least a billion CFUs which refers to colony-forming units or more simply put, the number of active microorganisms inside.
Of course, different bacteria benefit different health conditions, so always ask your GP for recommendations if you’re looking to treat something specific. Lactobacillus Acidophilus, for example, is known to help reduce acne, while Bifidobacterium Lactis is thought to be a very promising choice for eczema sufferers.
Many experts believe your skin is like a mirror to your gut and that imbalances inside your tummy often manifest themselves as issues with your skin.
However, it’s worth remembering, research into the skin’s microbiome and how it links to your gut is limited, so try not to expect miracles from any kind of biotic supplement. By all means try one, but think of it as an extension to a balanced diet and gentle cleansing and moisturising routine.