There is a growing trend for skincare that cares for the microbiome ... so what is it all about?
As with the digestive system, the skin has its own community of microbiota known as the skin microbiome - your very own skin eco-system. Your microbiome is individual to you and you alone and changes throughout your lifetime according to age, diet, environment and lifestyle. We know that maintaining balance in the gut flora contributes to overall wellness, including skin health, but can the use of topically applied microbiome skin care really help?
Using products formulated with microbiome-focused ingredients topically can go a long way to improving your complexion. Probiotics, for example, are collections of good bacteria that encourage the production of more good bacteria on the skin's surface, while prebiotics are the nutrients that these good bacteria feed on. Hence, is helpful to use gentle cleansers and barrier-respecting formulas for subsequant skincare products to prevent damaging your skin’s entire bacterial eco-system. Look for products that are also pH balanced. The skin functions best with a slightly acidic pH; something around 4.5-5.5 is best, so avoid skin care that is too alkaline, especially if you have acne-prone skin.
There are, however, a number of other factors that can cause the bacteria to develop which are bad (in some cases, very bad) for the skin. Lifestyle choices, such as poor diet and stress, exposure to high levels of pollution, illness, over cleansing the skin and using products that aren’t pH balanced can all cause the levels of good bacteria to drop, leaving the skin barrier open to attack. However, be aware of being too clean as we actually benefit from having exposure to a level of dirt which helps to encourage more natural defences in the body and on the skin. Using too many anti-bacterial products such as soaps and strong acne treatments can also cause problems, as these make the skin uninhabitable for all bacteria, not just the bad ones.
At the end of the day, however, there is still a need for more research to learn more about the specific strains of microorganisms that inhabit the human skin and gut. When more is known about the microbiomes of the gut and skin, we should be able to recommend the proper probiotics to help control inflammation and flare-ups on the skin as well as those suitable for maintaining healthy, balanced skin.