We typically think of skin only as it relates to beauty — but it’s actually essential to our overall health, too. After all, it’s the largest organ in the body and the primary interface between us and pretty much everything outside of us.
Our skin is also home to a vast array of microbes, and research is just now beginning to piece together the vital role they play in our health.
Microbiome: What is it?
The microbiome is a term that refers to the collection of microorganisms in a particular environment, such as in the body or on the skin. Microbiomes are specialized and vary according to factors like pH and moisture in the host. These microorganisms, often referred to as bugs or flora, perform essential roles; from aiding the absorption of certain nutrients to providing immunity and even balancing mental health. Learning to nourish and live in harmony with the bugs in our microbiome is a critical component to maintaining healthy skin.
Skin and the microbiome
Most people think the helpful bacteria that reside in our bodies are mainly in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. However, our skin is also covered with them. The skin supports a delicate ecosystem of microorganisms, including yeast and bacteria.
In fact, one square inch of skin holds up to 500 million microorganisms. As much as it may disturb us to think of our skin as being covered with tiny bugs, we should be happy to have them on board. They provide immunity and protect our skin from unwanted harmful bacteria and other invading pathogens.
There are several different microbiome locations throughout the body, and recent research suggests they are all connected and communicate with each other.
As most nutritionists and skin care professionals are aware, gut health is often reflected in the skin.
When gut flora is out of balance, people experience allergies, acne, rashes and increased symptoms of rosacea and psoriasis, all signs of underlying inflammation.
Similarly, when the skin is stripped of its healthy flora through aggressive treatments or the use of harsh chemicals, the same manifestations result.
The microbiome runs deep
Once upon a time, we thought that our microbiome only existed on the surface of the skin and that the deeper dermal layers were sterile. We now know that’s not true. Scientists identified bacteria colonies all the way down to the subcutaneous fat layer! While more research is needed, it appears that it’s here that the most intimate communication between the microbiome and our immune system takes place.
From what we can tell, a healthy skin microbiome protects against infection in much the same way a good gut microbiome does, by crowding out the overgrowth of pathogenic organisms.
How to nurture and keep your skin microbiome healthy
You’re probably familiar with the idea that excess cleanliness and loads of antibiotics and other medications can damage the gut microbiome and could increase the risk of allergy and autoimmunity, among other issues. This is called the “hygiene hypothesis,” and there’s a lot of research to support this important concept.
Ditto for the skin microbiome. Excess use of antimicrobial hand sanitizers, soaps and skincare products loaded with harmful chemicals and/or synthetics ingredients (microbiome does NOT recognize synthetic ingredients) contribute to skin dysbiosis.
An imbalanced microbiome, or skin dysbiosis, is associated with many diseases, including psoriasis, allergies, eczema, contact dermatitis, acne, poor wound healing, skin ulcers, dandruff, yeast and fungal infections, rosacea, and accelerated skin aging.
Plus, anything damaging to your gut microbiome or immune system will likely also influence happening to the skin.
The skin microbiome prefers a relatively acidic environment (pH around 5.0), which also inhibits the growth of pathogens.
The skin microbiome also aids in wound healing, limits exposure to allergens and UV radiation, minimizes oxidative damage and keeps the skin plump and moist.
Keep the critters happy with skincare that is 100% of natural origin, Certified Organic, researched and developed by established experts in the field of biologically active natural cosmetics.
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