We have just discovered how valuable microbes are in skin health and why a balanced skin microbiome is important. However, the concerning news is that we are losing these critical microbes on our skin.
On a planet level, due to human activities, biodiversity (the number of species) is rapidly decreasing. The same decrease is occurring on our skin due to the lifestyle choices we make every day.
Studies reveal that Americans have lost approximately 35% of the microbial biodiversity in their skin. This is disturbing and probably holds true for all developed nations.
There is strong evidence to suggest that disrupted microbial communities result in an increase in a wide number of skin and health concerns. We have seen a tripling in eczema rates over the past three decades. This may also explain why acne is not seen in hunter-gatherer communities that have exceptionally high microbial diversity on their skins.
The need for probiotic support is more essential now than ever before.
Our misguided quest for “healthy” practices is disrupting our microbial communities …
SANITATION: Sterile environments and a lack of contact with nature diminish the opportunity for you to cultivate a diverse and healthy microbial mix. Let kids play in the dirt and don’t use anti-microbial soaps and sanitisers unless it’s really necessary.
CHLORINATED WATER: Most household water is treated with chlorine to kill all microbial life. This is not necessarily a bad thing as contaminated water can lead to disaster but it does spell trouble for your skin’s microbiome as chlorine may disrupt your microbial balance.
ANTIBIOTICS alter your microbiome permanently. Antibiotics destroy bacteria (including the good ones). A recent study showed that after a single course of antibiotics, the skin’s microbiome does not return to its original state for at least 3 years. Antibiotics should be avoided if possible.
CAESAREAN SECTION: Children born by C-section have a very different microbiome from those born naturally; they bypass the normal seeding of their skin microbiome as the baby passes through the vaginal canal and are far more prone to eczema and allergies.
HUMAN INTERACTION introduces us to new microbes along with the opportunity to extend our microbial diversity. Humans that are in close contact share microbes constantly.
COSMETICS can be detrimental to your skin’s microbiome. Preservatives kill microbes in the product to prevent spoilage. They can also kill microbes on your skin and impact your microbiome.
SOAPS: Soap bars increase skin pH creating an unfavourable environment for your good microbes; in this state, your skin remains compromised as it fights to re-establish the correct pH.
With our bodies relying so heavily on our microbiome to maintain health and balance, it is clear that changes in the natural microbiome can lead to undesirable results. It is imperative to retain normal microbial levels by limiting exposure to the factors mentioned above.
Humans have evolved to be in constant and intimate contact with nature. We are supposed to be digging in soil and harvesting plants for a large part of every day and this would mean that we would be integrating with the soil microbes and the plant microbiomes that we touch. Most of us now spend the bulk of our day indoors, isolated from nature and we are in constant contact with microbes that are mostly of human origin. This absence of normal microbial “chatter” on skin can cause a heightened immune response that leads to chronic inflammation and, hence, very sensitive skin. Bringing nature’s microbes back to skin in the form of live probiotics can help to offset the impact of our urban lifestyles.
There are many lifestyle practices that are good for your microbiome and these include:
- Nature therapy – being in nature as often as possible with activities such as hiking, swimming in natural waters and sitting outdoors
- Gardening or digging in healthy soil
- Taking an oral probiotic daily with billions of cfu/ml
- Eating fermented foods such as Kefir, Kimchi and Sourdough bread
- Rewilding your skin with topical application of probiotics
- Ensuring your skincare includes prebiotic ingredients
The information we have shared in this module is the basic overview of the skin microbiome. We are certain that new research on the subject will continue over the next few years and add more detailed information.