Skin Microbiome 101: Why You Should Embrace Good Bacteria
Did you know there are thousands of microorganisms that live on and within your skin’s surface? Did you know these microorganisms mostly consist of bacteria? Did you know bacteria can actually be good for your skin? You see, the skin is the largest organ in the human body. And because it’s such a vital organ, it’s important to educate yourself on the best ways to treat and care for it. And that starts with protecting something called your skin microbiome.
This may be an unfamiliar term to you, but your skin microbiome is actually one of the most important factors that influence the appearance of your skin. If you want a healthy, youthful appearance, this is the place to start.
Now, there is a ton of information out there, so trying to understand your skin microbiome can get a little confusing. So, we’re here to break it down for you. Here’s everything you need to know about your skin microbiome and how you can treat it for healthier, brighter, younger-looking skin.
What is Your Skin Microbiome?
If you’ve heard of your “gut microbiome” before, then you probably know where this is headed. Made up of trillions of bacterial organisms, your gut microbiome regulates your digestive system, boosts your immune system, and can even restore energy. (Basically, it’s a critical function that can determine your overall health and wellbeing.)
Your skin microbiome acts in a very similar manner.
Like your gut microbiome, your skin microbiome also works to improve your health — but it does so in your skin. The term simply refers to the thousands of microorganisms that live on or within the surface of your skin’s outermost layer (the epidermis). Made up of so many different types of bacteria — including fungi, viruses, and mites — your microbiome determines the health and appearance of your skin.
While hearing that you have living bacteria in your skin may sound a little scary, the microorganisms actually carry many benefits. We usually associate the word “bacteria” with something “bad” — and while there are some bacteria in your skin microbiome that are “bad” and linked to signs of aging — your skin microbiome contains many “good” bacteria as well. And good bacteria are essential for maintaining a balanced, healthy-looking complexion.
In fact, healthier bacteria found in your microbiome can act as a barrier to protect you from everyday irritants. It can even help fight off signs of aging and keep skin inflammation in check. However, when these bacteria aren’t given the care they need to thrive, your skin microbiome may become unbalanced.
It’s important to note that your skin microbiome looks different on your face than, say, on your armpits. Body temperature, skin thickness, and pH balance all affect the condition of your skin. And depending on the area you’re looking at, your skin microbiome contains its own unique combination of (mostly good) bacteria.
What Causes an Unbalanced Skin Microbiome?
As we know, there are many factors that can affect the appearance of your skin, and this goes for your microbiome, too. Daily irritants, sun exposure, some skin care products, and makeup can all cause damage — making your skin more vulnerable to dryness, loss of firmness, and the appearance of wrinkles. An unbalanced skin microbiome can also cause skin conditions like Eczema, Psoriasis, and Rosacea.
For example, when you use products like antibacterial soap and face scrubs on your skin, you’re likely eliminating all bacteria (even the healthy stuff). And while erasing bacteria may sound like a good thing, these harsh products can strip your skin and leave you with an unbalanced microbiome.
So, it’s important to eliminate any products in your routine that may be getting rid of the healthier bacteria and find options that encourage it instead. After all, “good” bacteria in your skin microbiome can fight off the “bad” bacteria that contribute to visible signs of aging and instead plump skin for a more youthful look.
How Do I Know If I Have a Healthy Skin Microbiome?
While there isn’t a test or product that can effectively determine if you have a healthy skin microbiome, there are some visible clues that hint at its condition. If you’re someone who experiences rough skin texture, dullness, redness, dryness, or fine lines and wrinkles that just won’t budge, chances are it’s the direct result of an unbalanced skin microbiome.
So, no matter which part of your body you’re looking at, your skin microbiome — and the bacteria that make it up — needs to be nurtured. If not properly cared for, signs of aging like wrinkles, sagging, and dryness can become more noticeable. But once you understand the importance of a healthy microbiome, you can begin to treat these effects.
To do so, you must target the healthy bacteria found in your microbiome and treat your skin with the care it deserves. Otherwise, you might be left with a more textured, older appearance.
How Can I Balance my Skin Microbiome?
As we get older, the amount of “good” bacteria found in your microbiome begins to shrink, making your skin more vulnerable to outside elements. As mentioned before, there are many factors that can affect your skin’s appearance. But the key to maintaining balanced, healthy-looking skin is to nourish your skin microbiome.
Keeping your skin microbiome happy and healthy can rejuvenate your skin, leaving you with a smoother, firmer, more supple appearance. (It can even help you maintain a gorgeous, youthful glow, too!)
Because your skin microbiome plays such a huge role in your skin’s health and appearance, it’s essential that you take the proper steps to keep it balanced. Luckily, we’ve gathered several ways you can ensure a healthier complexion.
Here are 3 Steps you can Take to Encourage a Healthy Skin Microbiome at Home:
Regularly Cleanse & Moisturize Your Skin
While this may seem obvious, the first step you should take to ensure your skin microbiome is balanced is to use cleansers and moisturizers that are gentle yet effective on the skin. Using these skin care products during both your morning and nighttime routine is essential to promoting healthy bacteria and, in turn, a healthy skin microbiome.
You may already use a gentle cleanser and moisturizer, but here’s a little reminder on how and why you should always use these essential products:
- Cleansers work to remove any impurities that stick to your skin, including excess oil, sweat, and other external aggressors. Using a cleanser in the morning will give your skin the refresh it needs after a good night of sleep. (It also works as the perfect prep for the other steps in your skin care routine). And using a nightly cleanser will work in a similar way — clearing away any leftover makeup and traces of dirt from the day to leave you with clean, soft skin.
Pro tip: when searching for a cleanser, you should avoid products that include potentially harmful or harsh ingredients and instead go for a pH-balanced formula that uses nourishing and hydrating ingredients to rejuvenate skin.
- Moisturizers, on the other hand, are just as crucial as cleansers. Using a face moisturizer in the morning and at night is essential to supporting your skin’s barrier. Not only do they keep your complexion hydrated, but good moisturizers also help revive and balance your complexion’s appearance (which is essential for promoting a healthy skin microbiome!).
Pro tip: if you’re searching for a new moisturizer, you should opt for a hydrating gel formula that nourishes the skin from the inside out. This will not only help your skin microbiome remain balanced but can boost elasticity and reduce fine lines, too.
Research shows that using a gentle cleanser followed by a nourishing moisturizer can create the perfect environment for good bacteria to thrive. Not only that, but these products will keep your skin clean, soft, and hydrated at all times. Cleansing and moisturizing your face will also promote an overall balance — resulting in a healthier skin microbiome and reducing the appearance of aging, dull skin.
One last pro tip: when you’re looking for cleansers and moisturizers to balance your skin microbiome, you should always use products that use clean, simplified formulas. Some key ingredients to look out for in your new skin care products are Leaf Extract, Hyaluronic Acid, and other naturally sourced additives.
Maintain a Healthy Diet & Stay Hydrated
I’m sure you’ve heard the importance of maintaining a healthy diet again and again, but I promise it’s for a good reason! Adding healthy foods to your diet is crucial to keeping your skin microbiome at its best. While the gut microbiome I mentioned before is separate from your skin microbiome, the two are actually interconnected. This means when you encourage good gut health, you almost directly nurture your skin health, too.
So, to promote a healthy skin microbiome, you should maintain a healthy diet. Adding vegetables, nuts, protein-rich foods, oats, and vitamin C-rich foods (like avocados) can all give your skin a nice boost. And if you want to keep your skin looking and feeling its best, you should also avoid over-consuming foods that increase inflammation, like dairy or gluten.
Along with keeping a healthy diet, you should also make sure you’re staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water. You may already know the benefits of keeping your body hydrated, but here’s a short reminder: overall, drinking plenty of water will prevent dehydration, increase your energy levels, and keep your digestive system in check.
As for your skin, drinking at least 8 glasses of water per day has been known to:
- Help you maintain healthy bacteria in your microbiome for a more balanced complexion
- Improve elasticity for a plumper, more supple look
- And reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles — leaving you with smoother, younger-looking skin
One extra step you can take to ensure you’re maintaining a healthy diet (and a healthy microbiome) is by taking probiotic supplements. Overall, probiotics have many general benefits, like:
- Helping your body digest food
- Boosting your immune system
- Reducing inflammation and allergies
- And preventing harmful bacteria from developing in your gut
But probiotics not only encourage gut health — they help balance skin and improve its overall appearance, too. In fact, some of their most impressive benefits are what probiotics can do for your skin microbiome. Probiotics contain live, healthy bacteria and can help fight off skin aging and balance your skin’s pH. (Probiotics are basically a total game-changer!)
Needless to say, making some changes to your diet, drinking water, and taking probiotics are sure-fire ways to increase the health of your skin microbiome. And all three paired together will improve your overall health and likely leave you with supple, younger-looking skin.
Before adding supplements or making any changes to your diet, we recommend consulting your physician to find the best options for you and your health. Seeing a dietician or a nutritionist can also be helpful when deciding what foods you should add to your diet for a healthy skin microbiome.
Use Topical Skin Care Products
The third and final step to maintaining a healthy skin microbiome is to use skin care products that work to keep skin hydrated, even-toned, and balanced. Using skin care topicals like a serum or a renewing night mask will not only keep your microbiome nourished but will improve the overall look of your skin, too.
While there are skin care products for almost every little thing, topicals made for your skin microbiome are a little harder to come by. So, you must find something that balances the bacteria in the microbiome while still restoring and hydrating skin. (Read on to learn more!)
Now, microbiome-targeted skin care products you find online might still contain ingredients that strip away “good” bacteria. So, when you’re looking for something new, you should go for a product that uses more natural ingredients to support your skin’s barrier. Two key ingredients that have been known to improve your skin microbiome are Orobanche Rapum Extract and Kombucha Ferment.
Orobanche Rapum Extract is a game-changing ingredient that’s made with prebiotics and probiotics. It targets your skin’s base layer to plump, smooth, and “reset” your complexion’s appearance. Known for its age-reducing properties, Orobanche Rapum Extract helps decrease the number of harmful bacteria found in your skin microbiome to give you a more balanced, smoother look. (Not to mention, it’s also amazing for reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles!)
On the other hand, Kombucha Ferment (yes, similar to the probiotic-rich drink) keeps your skin microbiome in tip-top shape. Also made with prebiotics and probiotics, it supports the look of skin firmness and elasticity and provides even more balancing properties. It’s also been known to enhance skin tone and texture for a more radiant appearance.
Needless to say, using a renewing night mask that contains both of these ingredients will leave you with a balanced, healthy skin microbiome.
Pro tip: when paired with a good cleanser, moisturizer, and a healthy diet, topical skin care products that are specifically designed to promote a healthy microbiome will leave you with smoother, younger-looking skin in no time.
When you start treating your skin microbiome with the care it deserves, you become better equipped to target other areas of the skin. Because your skin microbiome determines how your complexion appears, keeping it balanced is essential to maintaining a healthy look. When left untreated, your skin microbiome may cause your skin to appear duller, older, or textured.
So, be gentle, patient, and gracious to your skin (and always remember not all bacteria are bad and should be washed away). Because once your skin microbiome is balanced, you’ll be even closer to getting the youthful appearance you deserve.
What steps do you already take to promote a healthy complexion? Share with us in the comments below!