We all know about the good bacteria living in our gut and keeping us healthy. But did you know there is also a diverse ecosystem present on your skin? This community of microorganisms is called a microbiome – a jolly bunch of bacteria, fungi, mites and viruses that exist to provide protection against disease and inflammation. As long as their living conditions remain balanced, they’ll help maintain beautiful healthy skin. Let’s take a deeper look into how you can make that happen.
Why does a skin microbiome matter?
The skin is the body’s largest organ and serves as a barrier to our external environment. Our skin is our first line of defence against injury or disease but it’s actually the skin’s microbiome that catches all the nasties. It plays a huge role in wound healing, keeping inflammation in check, fighting off environmental toxins and even helping to prevent certain cancers.
A healthy skin microbiome is quite hostile towards bad bacteria, in other words cool and dry, with an acidic pH. Your sebum (the skin’s lubricant) is naturally antimicrobial. When your skin microbiome is healthy, it works with your immune system to respond to its needs, in the same way your gut health is responsible for your overall health.
So what is the problem then?
Modern life is the enemy of a healthy microbiota. Our skin microbiome can’t do its job properly any more because we live in a germ-phobic world of antibacterial soaps, overuse of antibiotics, preservatives and harsh chemicals. As we try to protect ourselves from germs, we are killing the good with the bad – all the important good bacteria, viruses and fungi that make up the microbiome.
Smarter choices protect our skin microbiome
We recommend that you use products that support your skin’s microbiome like our GF2 Skin Rejuvenation. Formulated with our medical-grade hypochlorous acid, it maintains skin's equilibrium by:
- Reducing inflammation, preventing certain bacteria from taking advantage of increased inflammation (like C. Acnes).
- Reducing excessive sebum production, making the sebaceous glands less attractive for the Malassezia yeast.
- Maintaining the skin’s barrier at the correct acidic pH.
Most importantly, it works as a smart disinfectant – removing all ‘bad’ microbes or pathogens (bacteria, yeast and viruses) whilst ignoring the good guys, helping to prevent an overrun of undesirable microorganisms.
5 ways to care for your skin microbiome
There are lots of things that affect your skin’s microbiota, from your sex, age and ethnicity to environmental factors (humidity, UV exposure or temperature) and behavioural factors (like cosmetic and soap use). Some things will be out of your control but here are our five tips for protecting these delicate communities of skin flora:
- Guard your skin pH closely
As we mentioned before, your skin’s microorganisms like an acidic environment so it’s best to keep the acidity level of the skin at around pH 5.0. Below that it is too acidic, above that, it’s too alkaline. If your skin’s pH is out of whack, it damages its barrier and the microorganisms living on it. Read our tips for choosing the right cleanser here.
- Go gently when you clean your skin
Skin bacteria are happiest at the temperature of your skin (25C) so don’t boil them with scalding hot water. Avoid scrubbing skin or rubbing it after cleansing as this could cause micro-abrasions, giving pathogens a foothold to disrupt your skin’s balance.
- Eat for a healthier gut
The same rules we apply to our gut – think probiotics – also apply to our skin. Live bacteria cultures are measured in colony-forming units (CFUs) and health experts recommend consuming approximately 1 billion to 10 billion CFUs per day. You can take supplements or eat probiotic-rich fermented foods like yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles and miso.
- Don’t forget your prebiotics
Prebiotics can be found in high-fibre foods which nourish the good bacteria and help it to grow. These include asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, oats, bananas and soybeans.
- Don’t stress out your skin
What is good for your body is good for your skin...and that goes for the bad things too. Try to avoid stress and harmful lifestyle factors like pollution, nicotine and too much alcohol for healthier microorganisms.
Want to understand more about your skin’s biodiversity? Read more about this fascinating and delicate ecosystem here.