The skin microbiome (AKA the skin flora) refers to the trillions of microbes that live on our skin. These microscopic organisms come in a thousand different strains of bacteria and up to 80 different types of fungi. Think of it like a diverse rainforest. The more species of bugs you have living together, the healthier the skin. It sounds strange, but these tiny bugs are vital for our overall wellbeing.
The microbiome is like the control center for the skin. It decides what gets in and what stays out. When the microbiome is balanced, the skin barrier can function optimally.
It locks in moisture so skin stays hydrated. It keeps irritants and pathogens (toxins) out, which protects against inflammation and infection. It makes the texture and tone of skin more even so that complexion appears plump, smooth and ultimately more youthful and radiant.
A balanced microbiome means there’s enough good bacteria to keep away the bad bacteria that can cause so many of those pesky skin problems. When strains of bacteria in the microbiome are not coexisting as they should, an imbalance occurs. This is called dysbiosis. If even one strain gets overgrown and starts crowding out the other critters, problems begin occur.
Imbalances in the microbiome can be little things we don’t like about our skin, such as excess oil or dryness, to much bigger issues. Some signs of an imbalanced microbiome include acne, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis. The skin barrier is damaged or not functioning properly enough to keep these skin conditions at bay. It can also show up as skin sensitivity, uneven tone and can even speed up the signs of aging.
The microbiome can be compromised in two basic ways: by what you put on your skin and what you’re putting in your body. Let's break down some of the most common causes of dysbiosis and how to fix them.
Issue #1: Your using the wrong products
Overdoing it with the soap or the antibacterial stuff may actually be doing more harm than good. By constantly trying to wash away dirt, you’re also removing the friendly bacteria.
Solution: Skip the sanitizer every once in a while and stay away from soaps and detergents with harsh chemicals.
Issue #2: You're too much of a skincare junkie
There's no shaming skincare junkies here. However, trying too many different products, whether it’s switching around too much or having a 20-step routine, can also do more harm than good. Applying so many different products can damage the skin barrier. That’s because active ingredients work by changing the behavior or the skin, thus throwing that precious rainforest out of whack.
Solution: find 3-4 products that work for you and stick with it! Bonus points for using products that contain probiotics, AKA your microbiome’s cheerleaders.
Issue #3: Your gut microbiome is out whack
The gut-skin connection is a very real thing. Research has shown that anything that’s damaging your gut is also going to take a toll on your skin. Sugar, alcohol, dairy and gluten can all wreak havoc on your face.
Solution: Clean eating and you might talk to your doctor about taking an oral probiotic supplement. We’re not saying to skip pizza and wine night (we want an invite!). Just that moderation can be key to minimizing breakouts and puffiness.
Issue #4: An Indoor or Sedentary Lifestyle
Studies have shown that urban environments can limit the diversity of microbes we walk around with. Apparently farm kids have way healthier microbiomes than city folk. That’s because they’re out there in the dirt with all kinds of friendly bacteria that our skin actually loves.
Solution: Get outside! Exposure to nature is not only good for the soul, it’s great for the skin barrier. The microbes that live in greenery literally leap onto your skin, contributing to the diversity of your personal rainforest.
Same goes for pets, as if we needed another reason to be dog lovers. Having dogs in the house is great for building your army of good bacteria and thus boosting immunity.
The microbiome is the life force of the skin. It’s a very powerful yet delicate thing. An imbalance of the microbiome leads to all the skin issues we hate to see today. While everyone’s microbiome is unique to them, the steps to symbiosis (balance) are relatively the same.
A healthy lifestyle for what goes on inside and healthy beauty products to take care of what goes on the outside. Taking steps to balance the skin barrier results in a happy, healthy, radiant complexion.