Skin Microbiome 101
We are never truly alone in the universe, and I don’t mean metaphorically or spiritually—I’m talking bugs. Since birth, we have hosted trillions of microorganisms on the real estate of our skin. In fact, we are in the most co-dependent, symbiotic, obsessed-over-each-other relationship with these microorganisms.
While the gut microbiome is a familiar topic, many are still surprised to learn that the skin has its own microbiata.
Our skin microbiata is a complex ecosystem comprised of bacteria, fungi, viruses and archaea whose purpose is immense—they run microbial interference between us and the outside world, they train our immune system to recognize friend and foe bacteria, they block pathogens, tamps down inflammation, builds up our skin barrier, helps block UV radiation and keep the balance of power in check so that no one species can dominate. Our beneficial bacteria also release chemical compounds, vitamins and amino acids that act as our body’s built-in, highly intelligent skincare. Given that our microbiome does so much for us, you think we would give it a little love and recognition.
But, sadly so much of what we inflict on ourselves—often in the pursuit of beauty—as well as our environment, damages this ancient intelligence. Even the very act of aging offends our microbiome and makes it less diverse. Our skin grows more alkaline with age and the microbiome needs a slightly acidic surface to thrive.
There are obvious tell-tale signs that let us know when our microbial balance is out of whack and crying for therapy—adult acne, dermatitis, dry skin, eczema being just some of them. But then there are the less obvious ones such as accelerated aging, sun damage, melasma, dullness and loss of vibrancy—that we often attribute to other things but are sometimes a direct result of microbiome damage.
Some of the most common culprits that contribute to microbiome damage:
-Layering too many products on the body. Too much chemical interference confuses and alters the microbiome. A minimalist approach to skincare is advised so the microbiome can take the driver’s seat.
- Harsh preservatives. Studies show that many common preservatives found in skincare products disturbs the biodiversity on the skin—and biodiversity is the key to balance and skin health.
-Alkaline products: Young, healthy skin is slightly acidic yet most cleansers and products are actually formulated alkaline which removes the skin’s microbiome. When skin is young, the microbiome can replenish within hours, but as we age, this protective biofilm can sometimes take weeks to repair. In that time, skin is left exposed to bacterial takeover, aging, sun damage, collagen degradation, etc.
-Stress: the gut, brain and skin all communicate through a microbial language called the gut-brain-skin axis. It is why when you feel stressed, you can suffer stomach issues or skin breakouts.
-Poor diets lacking in prebiotics and probiotics (from food sources, not pills). Again, the gut and the skin communicate so a lack of food (prebiotics) for your gut bacteria and probiotic rich food (pills do nothing, but more on that later) enrich your gut flora with valuable postbiotics.
-Urban living: A lack of contact with the earth, plants, soil, etc. and the increasingly sterilized modern world leaves little chance for the microbiome to diversify.
-Too frequent or too aggressive exfoliation. The best practice for exfoliation is to use a mild chemical exfoliant vs a physical scrub since mechanical scrubbing has more potential to remove the microbiome. With either method, limit use to once or twice per week.
-Antibiotics (unless necessary). When antibiotics are used topically or internally, they wipe out the entire microbiome indiscriminately. Antibiotics doesn’t select for pathogens only. So, the body must start from scratch to rebuild the ecosystem.
With knowledge, there is power. Editrix designed an entire system for skin microbiome rehabilitation so that the ancient intelligence of your own skin is allowed to regain its strength. It is in our brand DNA to view skincare through the lens of the microbial ecosystem so that we are healing and protecting, not beating our skin into submission.