May 26, 2022

Breaking Down the Skin Microbiome

You may have noticed the rise in skin care products promising to deliver prebiotics to our skin, in order to repair and protect our skin’s microbiome. But how effective are they really?

Dr Armour explains.

“There are new moisturising creams designed to treat eczema, and contain “prebiotics” to help balance or feed the skin’s microbiome. In the future, it may be possible to add more beneficial bacteria to topical skin applications. However, we’re not quite there. At the moment, the only probiotic which will actually stay alive in a non-refrigerated cream is Lactobacillus. Hence, it is present in numerous facial skincare products. While this is really clever, Lactobacillus is not a predominant species on healthy human facial skin. We also don’t know what dose of probiotics would be necessary to have a positive effect, or for how long probiotics might survive on the skin to exert their benefits. So, whilst probiotic skincare is a really promising field, we have a long way to go in terms of research and development.”

WHY IS THE SKIN MICROBIOME IMPORTANT?

Just as we see in the gut, our skin’s microbiota have essential roles in protection against invading micro-organisms, wound healing and the control of inflammation.

When the skin barrier is impaired, or when the balance between healthy and unhealthy microbes (dysbiosis) occurs, skin disease and even systemic diseases can result.

A healthy skin microbiome is that in which the “good” microbes are able to keep the “bad,” or potentially disease -causing microbes in check.

SO HOW DO WE LOOK AFTER THE GOOD BUGS?

1- Apply moisturiser to protect the skin barrier. 

A healthy skin barrier is crucial to maintain the balance between healthy and potentially disease-causing microbes. Regularly moisturising is especially important in skin conditions such as eczema, rosacea and psoriasis. A nourishing, fragrance free moisturising cream is ideal, and doesn’t need to be expensive.

2- Avoid over-sanitising.

This is a tricky one in our current world. For our general health, we need to hand sanitise or hand wash in social and work situations currently due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But, that aside, you can disturb the balance of your skin’s microbiome by excessive skin cleansing. This is especially so with anti-bacterial products. So, stick to health department guidelines in terms of hand hygiene. But, make sure that you moisturise your hands frequently to protect the skin barrier.

3- Maintain a balanced diet

We’re used to hearing about this to optimise our health in general, and it’s true. Some studies suggests that the health of our gut microbiome can affect our skin’s microbiota. The mechanisms at play are unclear currently. However, it makes sense to add plenty of plant-based foods to your diet.

Plants contain prebiotics (indigestible carbohydrates) that good gut bacteria thrive on. Avoiding too many refined sugars and processed foods is also likely to be good for your skin’s microbiome. We need to learn more about this. Some researchers suggest that the link seen between a high glycaemic index and acne, may be due to shifts in the balance of our skin’s microbiome.

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