What is the skin microbiome and why does it matter?
Did you know that scientists estimate that we are made up of 7 to 10 times more bacteria than we are human DNA cells? It's pretty cool. These bacteria live IN and ON almost every part of your body. These ecosystems made up of bacteria and other microorganisms are known as the microbiome.
Your skin is not only the biggest part of you, but it reflects exactly what’s happening on the inside.
Stretching to approximately 2 square meters - your skin provides many functions including protecting your body from the outside world and keeping what needs to be inside, inside. Your skin tells your story through your scars, tattoos and marks unique to you.
Keeping your skin microbiome in balance helps protect against breakouts, other skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis as well as premature ageing. A healthy skin barrier will help your skin heal faster and smarter.
An impaired skin microbiome can significantly impact your overall health, including your mental health and confidence.
Skin is complex - your microbiome is unique to you. What works for one person may not work for another. There may be factors outside your control such as your genetic disposition so go easy on yourself. However there are some simple things you can do to help your microbiome operate at its optimum for you.
Here are some simple steps you can take right now:
- Use a prebiotic skincare to help feed these good bacteria on your skin.
- Avoid skincare with surfactants, think foamy face washes. They will make your skin feel tights as they strip the skin barrier of essential sebum and lipids which are food for the bacterial ecosystem. When too much of your skin microbiome is stripped your skin will compensate by over producing sebum which can block pores and be a cause for spots.
- Wash you face morning and evening. Over washing can cause havoc with the delicate skin microbiome.
- Your skin may benefit from exfoliating - either from a liquid or a physical exfoliant but careful not to over exfoliate as this can damage your skin barrier.
- Keep your skincare routine simple. Your skin in smart - let it do what's it knows best.
- Try and avoid squeezing your spots as this damages the skin barrier causing further inflammation.
- Wear an SPF every day to work with your microbiome helping protect your skin from oxidative stress.
- Enjoy plenty of and a wide variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, low process foods, reduce your sugar and alcohol intake and keep yourself well hydrated.
- Physical activity resulting in sweat not only helps flush away toxins in the skin but also affects the pH (acidity) due to skin hydration levels and sebum secretion. Compounds found in sebum provide nutrients for good bacteria (and inhibit the growth of other potentially harmful bacteria) which affects the diversity of your microbiome.
- Managing your stress isn't easy and is a constant in most of our lives. Increased stress throws the hormone cortisol off-balance which impacts on sebum production; When too little sebum is produced it can lead to dry itchy skin. Conversely when excess sebum is produced this can lead to spots for people prone to acne.
- Only use antibiotics when you really need them. Their job is to kill bacteria - and they can't differentiate between the good and the bad. Killing the good bacteria leaves your skin vulnerable.
- Be consistent. It can take up to 3 months for skin to settle with a new routine - just as it does when eliminating possible trigger foods from your diet. Being patient will pay off.
It takes time to learn to listen to your skin so that you can understand what it really needs. As we have seen, your skin is intricately balanced with how you live, how you feel and your environment. Keep listening to your skin and checking in with your whole self. Small steps to better habits will help you achieve that radiant glow you deserve.
Look after yourself gorgeous