The Skin Microbiome

Did you know that along with our gut microbiome our skin has a microbiome of its own?  What role does it play in our wellbeing and beauty?

The microbiome

is the genetic material of all the microbes – bacteria, fungi, mites and viruses – that live on and inside the human body. These invisible little beings are completely natural and vital to the existence of life. However, a healthy microbiome is about maintaining an ideal environment for good and bad bacteria to coexist and work together and in a delicate balance. This healthy balance is 85% good bacteria and 15% bad bacteria, which is important to keep us healthy and balanced! 

“Whether gut, skin, or our entire human microbiome, we need to have symbiotic and commensal pathogen bacteria (along with fungi and viruses) cohabiting. It is the bodies natural function. If we remove all good stuff when trying to defeat the bad, are we setting ourselves up for a major outbreak or epidemic of something we are not expecting?”

– Skin & Muscle

Disruption of this delicate balance, along with changes in the skin microbiome can be reasons for skin diseases and imbalances. Furthermore, in such circumstances a holistic view of the whole body must be taken into account. Some studies have shown that gut bacteria can positively impact the response to the disturbed skin barrier (source: The Gut Microbiome as a Major Regulator of the Gut-Skin Axis function), and in Psychodermatology there is a strong correlation between problematic skin and our mind or happiness of our soul. The hormonal system also has an undeniable role in skin health, as well as the environment and skincare routine, including the products we use for it, have a more impressive impact than it might seem.

The skin microbiome

is our first line of defence against diseases, infection and pathogen attack. These diverse and most abundant bacteria, fungi and viruses that inhibit human skin are harmless or even beneficial. 

The microbiome often referred to in the skin world as our ‘acid mantle’ and it tends to have the pH level around 4-5.5 /5.9 (it means –  it is slightly acidic): the ideal environment to stop alkali-loving pathogens. As home to a diverse range of bacteria, our microbiome is utterly vital for long-term health and like our fingerprints is also completely unique.

Balance is key for the health of the microbiome and therefore of a beautiful skin. Changes in pH values, levels of hydration, weather conditions and the environment can all take effect on the bacteria living on our skin – leading to breakouts, adult acne, irritation, dryness and skin diseases.

Everything that we apply to our skin has the potential to change the balance of the microorganisms living on it, impacting the healthy skin pH and the skin barrier, whether for better or for worse.

My skin healing path

What does your skin condition tell you? 

Questioning and understanding the role and importance of the skin microbiome in its wellbeing was the exact changing point in my long journey of skin healing, while all my attention was previously focused mainly on the benefits of a healthy diet (which is really important!) and healthy lifestyle, but I was still with worst skin condition ever. This was the missing link for me: how do I help my skin following  the skincare routine at home and what products should I use daily? 

Before I realised that in fact the condition of my skin shows what it needs and what it lacks to become balanced and healthy again, there were some very important issues to think about:

  • What exactly causes a change in the balance of my unique skin microbiome? What daily skincare activities, frequency and products actually damage my skin barrier?
  • How can I help the skin microbiome to have the predominance of “good” bacteria back? 
  • What actions can help the skin to be the best and regain strength to regenerate?

This helped to realise that healthy skin is about a balanced skin microbiome, which works together with optimal skin pH or acid mantle and therefore ensures a resilient skin barrier. 

It was time to start simplifying the daily skincare routine as much as possible, using products as simple as possible and treating the skin as gently as possible!  It could be achieved by using ingredients that are: effective but very gentle, non synthetic, simple, unrefined as possible, organic, non-irritating. Ingredients that nature offer us can be the right way to go, and with the trust that skin can heal itself!

Especially if conventional cosmetics no longer work and are formulated using such synthetic, overly harmful ingredients you wish you have never used. 

Certainly, every skin has its own level of tolerance, but if one day your skin shows that suddenly something is wrong, it’s time to start looking deeper to your skin’s actual needs, not just following the suggestions for your skin type or madly follow the mindset of the beauty industry. Furthermore, it is time for a paradigm shift to focus on the healthy flora instead of fighting the bad one.

Beautiful skin is healthy skin

There is no doubt the skin is one of our most significant “accessories” and is very important for self-expression, as well as self-confidence in our society.

However, it is also our largest organ! Our skin is our line of defence. It protects every organ; basically, it is the outermost layer of our DNA. It acts as a primary barrier between the body and the environment. Its vital role is to prevent loss of water and other components of the body to the environment and protect the body from a variety of environmental insults such as mechanical impacts, different microorganisms, fungi, chemicals, allergens, etc. It ensures protection, temperature regulation, sensory reception, synthesis of vitamins, hormones, water balance and more. Its health is very important to perform so many essential functions in the body. Keeping it healthy should be a priority. Moreover, the role of the skin microbiome in skin health as a natural and essential component of it is undeniable.

Did you know that our body always strives for healing? So does the skin! It is constantly renewing and even moisturizing it self. Just imagine how cleverly it is designed!

The outermost layer of skin

is the epidermis. The barrier of epidermis is the stratum corneum. The wellbeing of this stratum corneum  is very important since its exact functions are: 

  1. to prevent excessive water loss through the epidermis and so to keep the skin hydrated; 
  2. to avoid permeating of the compounds from the environment (chemicals, bacteria, viruses, UV radiation, etc.) into the viable epidermal and dermal layers and thereby provoking an immune response.

Structure in the skin

The stratum corneum is covered and protected by a layer of lipids – sebum (natural oils), sweat and dead skin cells known as acid mantle or microbiome with certain pH which ensures the wellbeing of the skin barrier. In other words: Our acid mantle is a very fine and very vital film on the surface of our outermost layer (stratum corneum) on top of the outer layer (epidermis) of our skin. This is the skin’s natural way to protect itself from non-beneficial bacteria, invasion by foreign organisms, external irritants and substances, environmental pollutants, and moisture loss (TEWL), preserving skin moisture: Section through skin showing normal epidermis and skin surface structure resulting in water loss and dry, brittle, scaly skin

The pH of acidic skin surface

The acid mantle, if damaged, can lead to dehydration, too oily skin, acne, irritation or sensitivity, dermatitis, candida infections, etc.

This slightly acidic environment with the right skin pH (4 -5.5/5.9) creates a more hospitable environment for the beneficial microbiota which resides there while keeping pathogenic microbiota, bacterial and fungal infections from entering the body, and keeps bacteria from producing!

For example, if skin pH rises closer to 7.0 (more alkaline), it can’t kill bacteria as easily, which can lead to acne-causing bacteria to multiply rapidly in the skin. As the bacteria multiply, the skin can’t keep up with their growth, which leads to more and more breakouts. With a healthy acid mantle, your face will feel perfectly clean after washing, but it won’t take long for the acid mantle to build up back and your skin will feel soft and pliable. If after cleansing your face feels really tight, stretched, itchy, red or otherwise irritated, chances are high your acid mantle is damaged. 

When the acid mantle is damaged, it takes up to 2 -3 weeks to repair itself, assuming that no other damaging products are being used. It takes even more time with age. But it is also good news – the skin always strives for wholeness. However, the longer our skin pH is affected, the longer our skin is prone to exposure to environmental stressors and the growth of bad bacteria, which leads to different unhealthy conditions.

When we keep the acid mantle intact, it means all systems are functioning optimally with the immune system.

Proper maintenance and nourishment of the skin microbiome 

No matter what your skin type is, your skincare should make your skin feel comfortable and calm. Focusing on treating the skin condition not just picking products for a particular skin type is significant! Therefore, it is always worth to remembering that every ingredient counts!

Skin pH is affected by many factors, e.g. skin moisture, sweat, sebum, age, genetic predisposition and age. It can also be affected by the use of cosmetic products, of various kinds and ingredients in skincare products, such as too harsh surfactants, too harsh preservatives, synthetic ingredients, detergents, too alkaline and alcohol-containing products, as well as topical antibiotics, also some essential oils that are of inadequate quality and the amount used in the formula may be too irritating.

Our obsession with cleanliness and overuse of products  – too many cream, serum, spot treatments, etc. when using a product upon a product, and upon a product, as well as over-cleansing, over-exfoliating can do more harm than good for the skin pH and microbial balance.

Killing much-needed bacteria off the skin hurts our healthy microbiome, which in turn creates problems, and provides places for bad bacteria to grow and germs to spread, which leads further to skin barrier disruptions with a bouquet of skin wellness problems. Don’t wash out the “good” bacteria in an effort to get rid of the “bad” bacteria. Let your body care for itself and be its own armor. After all, a healthy and functioning microbiome is a crucial element for maintaining healthy skin. So:

  • In skin cleansing

It is very important not to strip the skin of its natural oils! That’s is why it is important to avoid such ingredients as:

  • sodium lauryl sulfate
  • sodium laureth sulfate
  • phthalates
  • parabens
  • synthetic colouring agents 
  • artificial fragrance
  • others too harsh elements for skin.

Also for the facial cleansing, cleansers that are used must be gentle enough. If you tolerate the botanical oils, the oil cleansing method is a really great way to go, as they are an excellent choice to preserve the skin pH and avoid stripping natural oils from your skin.

One of the most basic principles of chemistry is that “like dissolves like.” The best way to dissolve a non-polar solvent like sebum/oil, is by using another non-polar solvent similar in composition: other oils. So, oil dissolves oil. By using the right ones, you can cleanse your pores of dirt and bacteria naturally, gently and effectively, while replacing the dirty oil with beneficial ones extracted from natural botanicals, vegetables, fruits, and seeds that heal, protect and nourish our skin. This method is suitable even for oily skin. You just need to find the most appropriate, pore- unclogging botanical oil or botanical oil blend for your unique skin! 

  • Skins hydration / toner use 

Skin needs water. This is critical internally and important externally as well. But sometimes something as simple as washing your face with clean water which has the pH level of 7 is enough to disrupt the skin’s delicate pH balance and interfere with its natural defence system. Instead, for the face it is better to use non-alcohol based hydrosols (also known as hydrolats), flower waters or pure distillates which all should be in the same pH range as skin, or to use beautifully formulated organic, gentle facial mists of the right pH level!  

Using products with humectants (water binding agents) may also be very beneficial for the proper skin moisture level.

  • Exfoliation

Overusing and using too strong exfoliants disrupt the skin barrier and natural level of pH, cause micro-tears or dry out the skin. As a result, the skin will require more time to repair itself. Our acid mantle can weaken and leave us more vulnerable to different skin issues. For example, grounded wholegrain oats or oatmeal is a really gentle but effective exfoliator that you can use at home, which is sufficient for the skin health. Further more, for dry skin there is no need to exfoliate it more than once per week, for oily skin – not more than 2-3 times per week. 

Simplifying the skincare routine, sometimes giving the skin a break from cosmetics and skincare products, and using only a few gentle, simple, biologically clean products that support the skin pH and the microbiome, and avoiding products containing synthetic chemicals created in laboratories and different kinds of strong irritants and surfactants will definitely give long-lasting results and increase the skin’s ability to regenerate itself!

Conclusions

Everything that we apply to our skin has the potential to change its natural pH level and the balance of the microorganisms living on it, thus impacting the skin health for better or worse. 

Be aware, what does your skin condition tell you? 

Why would we want to kill off all the microorganisms that are assisting, nourishing and feeding our skin all the benefits it needs?

The microbiome needs to be regularly nourished and supported from both inside and outside. Some really great ways to nurture it include using non-toxic daily beauty, body and home cleaning products, which preserve beneficial bacteria on the skin. Just this change alone will not only have a major positive impact on our skin microbiome but also on our general wellbeing.

Our skin is self-sufficient and does not need much from outside. Just look after its barrier functions and microbiome balance, and let the skin do the rest by itself. It knows of how to take care of itself. With just a bit of assistance and with our trust in nature it can really thrive, balance and rejuvenatie itself!

All Almavera Natural Skincare products and recommended skincare routine steps are focused on nourishing and supporting the skin microbiome, preserving beneficial bacteria on the skin as well as restoring and maintaining the health of the skin barrier. 

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The information on this web site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent diseases; it is intended for educational purposes only. It is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by a physician or other medical professional. None of the statements on this site are a recommendations as to how to treat any particular disease or health-related condition. If you suspect you have a disease or health-related condition of any kind, you should contact your health care professional immediately. Almavera Natural Skincare shares research and natural solutions from traditional use to scientific data to improve the condition, health and beauty of various skin conditions, based on thousands of years of herbal traditions and knowledge. Knowledge of plants and their holistic effect on the skin is constantly being supplemented by various professional training courses, herbal books and research of scientific studies, and personal experience. 

Please read all product packaging carefully and consult with a healthcare professional before if needed. We encourage you to test all products for possible reactions before using them.

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