In this blog article, we decided to tackle a topic that is gaining some traction in the realm of skincare. If you are a fan of our Marapa Skincare and Yaphene Body Care lines you would notice such terminology as "Microbiome Friendly" or Microbiome Skincare". The term "Prebiotics" would also show up in our ingredients list.
You may have come across these terms before and are asking ... what do these words actually mean?
How do they benefit my skin, if at all?
The skin microbiome is an important part of your skin’s barrier and its health.
Before we get to the heart of this topic let's first drop explanations for the terms we will be using.
The microbiome is also known as skin flora or the microbiota. - As the largest organ of the human body our skin is home to trillions of microorganisms, like bacteria, fungi, and viruses that together compose the skin microbiota. They serve as a hostile physical barrier to prevent the invasion of harmful bacteria, germs, and other pathogens. "Similar to those in our gut, skin microorganisms have essential roles in the protection against invading pathogens, the education of our immune system, and the breakdown of natural products. As quoted by Nature.com
Probiotics are live bacteria that support the healthy bacteria in your body. They are the “good” strains of bacteria that directly add to the population of healthy microbes.
Prebiotics are much like probiotics with a slight difference. They are non-digestible compounds that feed and support healthy bacteria. They stimulate the growth and improve the balance of that healthy bacteria while keeping bad bacteria in check. Prebiotic is food for our microbiome; fibers that are all about enriching, stabilizing, and reinforcing the micro-ecosystem of the skin.
Microbiome and our Skin
In the last eight years or so, microbiome skincare has been gaining traction in the beauty industry. Current and future trends show that this will continue. In a recent article by Allure; Sheila Farhang, a board-certified dermatologist in Oro Valley, Arizona, goes as far as calling the microbiome — and the "bugs" that support it — "the future of dermatology and skincare."
Our skins microbiome is a part of the physical layer that helps to protect us from the outside world. Think of it as a shield or sorts - a complex eco-systems that interact with our environment. Recently I was researching microbiome friendly certification and came across this explanation; "If you look at the human body, each of us is like a planet in its own, which is home to trillions of "inhabitants". If you were to look at the human body through a microscope, you would discover deserts, river valleys, dangerous swamps, acid lakes, and humid jungles. The ecosystems on this planet, our bodies, are overwhelmingly diverse - as are their inhabitants. Among these inhabitants, microbes are the undefeated masters in their ability to adapt to a wide variety of habitats." I found this to be an apt description!
The make up of your skin microbiome
The microbiome works with other parts of your body:
- To fight infection
- Help your immune system work
- Heal wounds
- Control inflammation.
Interestingly, each of us has our own unique microbiome and it varies in different parts of our bodies. It can also be different for various skin types, such as normal or dry skin. The microbiome works with other parts of your body to fight infection, help your immune system work, heal wounds, and control inflammation.
Believed to establish at birth, whether you are born by vaginal birth or c-section affects development. Throughout the first year of life, our microbiome is colonized and becomes stable by age 3. Physiological properties determine different ecosystems in our bodies.
The Skin Microbiome and its Purpose
The microbiome helps to protect your skin. It is part of your skin’s natural barrier, helps to maintain it, and is mainly made up of bacteria. People tend to think of bacteria as something undesirable, however, there are bacteria that are helpful. It is therefore important for these types of bacteria to be dominant in your skin to maintain good skin health.
The various ecosystems of our skin are determined by UV light, pH, temperature, moisture, sebum content, and surface texture. As a result, the skin is divided into oily, dry, and moist areas. Depending on the different ecosystems, different microbial populations thrive in them. Some microorganisms thrive in moist areas, like your elbow creases or feet. As you age further change can occur.
The microbiome helps the pH balance of your skin, produces skin lipids and nutrients, helps to maintain hydration, and protects your skin from inflammation.
Do you know that a weakened skin barrier or a disturbed balance in your skin microbiome can lead to skin disease or even systemic diseases in the whole body? Whoa right!?! Technology has brought us quite a long way. As a result, today there are some known factors that affect the microbiome of the skin.
Some of these factors include:
- Puberty and its resulting release of hormones
- An unbalanced diet are some factors.
- Spending too much time indoors
- The prevalence of antibiotics
- Our increased use of sanitizing mechanisms such as hand sanitizers, and constantly washing our hands.
- Changes in the environment can also cause fluctuations in our skin microbiome.
Acne, rosacea, eczema, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, sensitive skin are just a few examples. These factors are also true for your scalp.
Why Microbiome Products
Maintaining a balanced microbiome that supports your skin barrier is a key part of having healthy skin. Thus it is important to choose skincare products that help to sustain this balance rather than interfering with it. At Sugar Town Organics you will hear us say often we prefer to work with your skin than against it and our formulas and products reflect this stance.
Microbiome skincare is formulated to include prebiotic, probiotic, and most recently postbiotic ingredients. Postbiotics are the results of probiotics consuming prebiotics. They work with the skin microbiome both feeding and bringing in good bacteria to ensure skin health. This also means using skincare products that are gentle to your skin and help it to maintain its PH balance. Marapa's Hibiscus Mist Toner, Chlorophyll Cleanser and Beautiful Skin Toner are three such products that we offer.
Choosing skincare products that contain ingredients that help to nurture the skin and the microbiome is essential to a glowing complexion.
There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that using probiotics in topical form may help prevent and treat skin conditions. These conditions include eczema, acne, dry skin, and UV-induced skin damage. Certain probiotics have been shown to boost the skin’s production of ceramides, or lipids. Lipids are fats that trap moisture in the skin and keep acne-causing bacteria levels in check. This is especially important for people with eczema who tend to have lower levels of ceramides, so replacing it can be very important.
Other skin conditions and ingredients can impair the skin's barrier function. These include rosacea and atopic dermatitis, acne medications like retinoids, and benzoyl peroxide.
What can you do
So what can you do beyond using gentle and balancing skincare to support skin microbiome and healthy skin in general:
- Don’t over-sanitize - You can upset the balance of your microbiome when you clean your skin too much. With the advent of covid19, one of the non-pharmaceutical measures tells us to use hand sanitizers quite often. While this may help to curb the spread of covid19, it leaves us with the issue of disrupting our skin microbiome leading to skin.
- Moisturize - This gives your skin barrier a boost. It's especially helpful for certain skin conditions, like eczema or psoriasis. Just make sure you stay away from harsh ingredients. A good option is our Cashmere Body Lotion. It is gentle enough for use on skin conditions as those mentioned above and contains prebiotics.
- Eat a balanced diet - we learn early in life that you are what you eat. Some research suggests that microbes in your gut also affect your skin. We are aware that our diets contribute to several health issues.
- Exercise - Who doesn't like a good bout of sweating? Not you? Exercise can affect your gut microbiome creating an overall health benefit from promoting healthy glowing skin to helping the body fight off certain diseases.
- Get out in nature - being outdoors can improve your health and well-being
There’s evidence that green spaces can help our microbiome and boost our mental and physical health. Gardening is a great activity that can keep you outdoors being active and connecting to the earth around you.
Whether we are speaking about our skin or our gut, we believe a healthy balanced microbiome equals healthy, balanced skin and body which leads to a healthy life.