Your skin is the largest organ of your body. It helps regulate body temperature, produces Vitamin D, locks in moisture, senses pain, and touch. Your skin is teeming with trillions of microorganisms, like bacteria, fungi, and viruses. These microscopic colonies are known as the skin microbiome, an important part of the skin’s ecosystem. Each person’s microbiome is unique, much like a fingerprint or DNA. A balanced community of microorganisms that work synergistically is essential to healthy skin.
Your skin microbiome :
- Keeps pathogens out and protects against infections
- Reinforces and repairs the natural skin barrier
- Fights skin infections and inflammation
- Keep skin moisturized, hydrated and radiant
While a strong balance in your skin’s microbiome can be beneficial to the health and the appearance of your skin, imbalances can result in irritation, dryness and the development of skin conditions. So, what causes an imbalance? Let us have a look at the various factors affecting the skin microbiome.
Factors affecting skin microbiome
Everything that you touch, apply on the skin, breathe in, eat or drink including psychological stress and medications have a significant impact on skin microbiome.
Chemicals in soaps, moisturizers, creams, cosmetics, detergents can harm the skin barrier function and contribute to rashes, itching, or eczema. The harmful chemical may harm the outer skin layer affecting its immune responses.
The harmful UV radiation from sun, environmental pollutants, air quality as well as humidity can alter the skin barrier functions and create an imbalance between the existing microbiome contributing to skin diseases.
Frequent use of hand sanitizers during this pandemic has become a ritual. However, overuse of sanitizer can cause damage to the topmost layer of your skin, robbing skin of its moisture. Excessive exposure to alcohols in sanitizers can also trigger skin irritation and can become a hotbed for other harmful bacteria and viruses to enter your body through damaged skin.
- Hormonal changes in body
Several hormones not only maintain body functions but also affect the skin. Imbalance in sex hormones including oestrogen, testosterone, and progesterone, stress hormones such as cortisol and thyroid hormones can affect skin microbiome contributing to skin conditions such as acne.
Do you know the Gut-Skin connection? What you eat affects your gut microflora that in turn is responsible for the change in skin microbiome.
Consequences of microbiome imbalance
An imbalance in skin microbiome results in:
- Itchy skin rash with flaking/ dandruff- It primarily affects the scalp, causing inflammation and enhancing growth of the fungi.
- Acne- Hormonal imbalance sets the skin microbiome off balance causing acne.
- Eczema, Psoriasis- It occurs due to over colonization of a particular bacteria that causes skin inflammation.
- Infection- The damage to the skin barrier is an invitation to harmful bacteria to enter the body that in turn can cause several infections such as bacterial skin infections, wound infections.
How can I have a healthy skin microbiome?
- Avoid frequent use of antibacterial soaps or sanitizers.
- Hydration- Drink plenty of water to keep skin hydrated and use moisturizers or emollients to avoid skin problems like eczema, and psoriasis. Stay away from harsh chemicals like parabens and SLS.
- Healthy gut- Consume prebiotics and probiotics for healthy gut as it assures healthy skin.
- Eat balanced diet- Eating healthy, fiber-rich foods builds good gut bacteria which in turn boosts the skin's ability to fight off bad bacteria and retain moisture.
- Sunrays- Avoid too much exposure to UV radiation as it can potentially affect the composition of the skin microbiome and interrupt with the balance of your delicate skin structure, this can contribute to inflammation.
- Exercise regularly which helps regulate hormones, reduces stress which has a positive impact on gut health and keeps you glowing naturally.
Maintain harmony in the skin ecosystem and the microbiome will take good care of your skin!
About Eugene He
Eugene is the founder of Invity, a clinical naturopath and a nutraceutical formulator. He has spent the past twenty years educating and writing about nutrition, phytotherapy and general wellness. His work has been featured in Forbes, Yahoo, Tatler, CEW, Allure and many other publications around the world.
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