As the body’s largest organ, the skin is home to millions of bacteria, most of which work to protect us against harmful pathogens.
Unfortunately, when the bad bacteria start outnumbering the good, our skin becomes unbalanced and we experience a variety of issues from breakouts to dryness.
Most of us turn to topical treatments to ease inflammation and soothe redness, but the underlying cause often goes unnoticed: a disruption to the skin’s microbiome.
We spoke to Biologi’s Education and Training Specialist Allison Ware on how to identify whether your skin’s microbiome is disrupted, how to repair it and how to avoid future flare-ups.
What is the skin microbiome?
Essentially, our microbiome is a collection of bacteria that dwells on our skin. According to Allison, “everyone’s skin has its very own little ecosystem that is covered with microorganisms which help to keep the skin balanced and healthy.”
“Skin microbiome is different in every person, however when there is an imbalance and [there are] too few beneficial bacteria and too many bad microorganisms, the ‘baddies’ can take over, which affects the all-important skin barrier.”
How does the skin microbiome help our skin?
The microbiome works to protect us in two ways. “[It] helps our immune cells to recognise the difference between good and bad microorganisms” and secondly, it works to “keep the bad microorganisms out.”
What does it mean if your skin microbiome is compromised or damaged?
“A skin with a defective skin barrier has ‘small cracks’ in the bricks and mortar foundation of the epidermis which allows microorganisms to penetrate the epidermis causing an inflammatory response,” says Allison.
Symptoms of this damage include dehydration, eczema, itchiness, flakiness, redness, and general irritation.
What can trigger an upset skin barrier?
Perhaps an easier question would be what doesn’t trigger an upset barrier. From ageing skin, medication, climate, genetics, stress, asthma,diet, to even the products we’re using, there is no shortage of irritants that can throw our microbiome out of whack.
3 important steps to healing or avoiding a disturbed skin barrier
Before diving into the steps required to heal a damaged microbiome, it’s essential to identify the cause. As triggers and reactions vary from person to person, Allison suggests that a process of “trial and error” may be necessary to identify the exact culprit.
After you’ve pinpointed the potential cause, you can take action to improve your skin by following Allison’s three steps.
1. Improve the barrier function
“The first step for any solution is to improve the barrier function of the skin.”
She recommends the Best in Beauty 2020 award winner: Biologi’s Bf Restore Face and Body Serum ($72, Adore Beauty). It’s tryptophan, ferulic acid and vitamin C-rich formula works to hydrate, heal and protect the skin from damaging free radicals.
2. Avoid harsh ingredients
This includes harsh scrubs or AHAs, as according to Allison, these may “impair already sensitised and sensitive skin.”
Plus, Allison reminds us to “ensure that [we] are cleansing without stripping and drying the barrier function of the skin.” While we want to minimise the harmful bacteria, it’s important to avoid clearing our skin of all the good stuff in the process.
3. Look internally
Healthy skin begins on the inside.
According to a study from the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, overgrowth of intestinal bacteria can lead to an inflammatory response that triggers rosacea.
Consuming fiber-rich foods boost the skin’s ability to fight off bad bacteria and retain moisture. How? By building good gut bacteria through fermentation.
Focus on foods that contain prebiotics such as legumes, oats, onions and soy milk. Additionally, probiotics like yogurt or kefir can boost the growth of beneficial bacteria on the skin.
Main image credit: @biologiserum
Have you ever experienced a damaged skin microbiome? How did you repair it?