Your skin has a microbiome too!
There has been a lot of talk lately about the important role that our gut microbiome plays in our overall health. But our bodies have multiple bacterial colonies, and one is right on the surface of your skin!
What is the skin microbiome?
Our skin has trillions of microscopic organisms crawling right on its surface. Its mostly bacteria, but also contains fungi and viruses. It sounds gross, but this skin microbiome is actually an essential part of your overall health.
The skin microbiome is sometimes called the skin flora. There are at least 1,000 types of bacteria and as many as 80 fungi species. Some of these are also part of your gut microbiome.
Your skin microbiome changes depending on the skin on your body. For example, the bacteria in your armpit is different than that bacteria on your forearm, because it is a different environment. Our skin microbiome also changes as we age. It also varies with gender. The more diverse our microbiome is, the healthier our skin.
What does the skin microbiome do?
As unappealing as it sounds to have trillions of organisms on our skin, they play a very important role.
Protects us from and fights infection
Some bacteria act like a natural antibiotic. They crowd out the overgrowth of organisms that could cause disease. These microbes prefer an acidic environment, with a pH around 5.0. It helps the bacteria thrive and the pathogens to die off.
Benefits the immune system
Our skin microbiome communicates with our immune system. The microbes on your skin alert your immune system that viruses and harmful bacteria are present. When pathogens break through the barrier of your skin, the balance is thrown off and skin disease or even systemic disease can result. These skin diseases include:
Helps heal wounds and control inflammation
Because the skin microbiome talks to your immune system, it can communicate that repair needs to be done so that the body protects itself while it heals. If your skin’s microbiome isn’t in balance, the immune system works as a backup to help even things out. There are times, of course, when bacteria and our immune system slow healing. Diseases such as diabetes can cause diabetic foot ulcers. The role of microorganisms and diabetes has been extensively studied and estimates show that over 50% of these ulcers are infected.
Protects us from environmental factors
Our microbiome also responds to the world around us by working to limit exposure to allergens, minimizing oxidative damage, and by keeping our skin moist and supple. What’s more is that research shows that our microbiome works to protect us from UV rays. It can’t prevent skin cancer, but we now know that our microbiome is trying to protect us.
How can we protect the skin microbiome?
Having a healthy skin microbiome is important for your overall health, but what can you do to keep it in the best shape possible?
Don’t over clean your skin
Of course we want to be clean and sanitary. But if you clean your skin too much, you can throw off your microbiome. Soap is alkaline and your skin should be acidic. If possible, look for more acidic products with a pH closer to 5.0. Hand sanitizers containing aloe can add a buffer to your skin while still cleaning it.
Exercise and eat a balanced diet
Moving and eating right seem to benefit almost everything related to our health. Both exercise and a healthy diet have a positive affect on your gut microbiome, your immune system, and your skin microbiome. Your skin really likes fiber!
The outdoor environment is teaming with both good and bad bacteria. Making time in nature has a positive affect on your skin microbiome, your whole body and your mind. Of course, you should be using sunscreen!
Quality skincare products
Moisturizer helps your skin barrier by adding a layer or protection. It also helps conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. Cost doesn’t matter, but quality does. Opt for products with a short list of simple ingredients. Aloe, jojoba oil, squalene oil, and shea butter have been shown as very beneficial for our skin microbiome.
Avoid products with SD alcohol, denatured alcohol, ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. There are beneficial alcohols such as cetyl, stearyl and cetearyl alcohol. Those alcohols are emollients.
Look for products that use pre, pro, and post-biotics. These ingredients help with maintenance of your skin microbiome. Beneficial ingredients that are derived from fermentation, such as bacterial lysates and filtrates are helpful because they nourish the skin and the microbiome.
Treat skin & health conditions
If you’ve ever dealt with acne or eczema, you know that the longer you let it go, the harder it is to treat. Talk to your doctor because they can possibly prescribe something to treat skin conditions. Your doctor may also suggest certain supplements or probiotics.
Embrace your skin microbiome
The fact that we have bacteria on our skin doesn’t sound pleasant or sanitary, but it is. If you protect it, your skin will glow and your whole body will thank you with better health overall!