When you look in the mirror, do you see the same person looking back at you every day?
If so, we're sorry to break it to you: You're wrong.
Every inch of your body, inside and out, is covered by various microbiomes. These microbiomes fluctuate daily, based on factors such as diet, weather, stress level, topicals, even how frequently you touch your face. For that reason, no one is quite the same person going to sleep as they were waking up.
What is a Microbiome?
A microbiome is a community of microorganisms that live together–both the good, helpful microbes and the bad, harmful ones. This diverse community includes not only bacteria but viruses, parasites and fungi as well. A healthy, balanced microbiome can be conceptualized as a bustling city center: the more diverse the population, the healthier the community.
Multiple microbiomes exist inside and outside the human body (we have a different microbiome for our gut, the inside of our mouth and the surface of our skin, to name a few!) These microbiomes are incredibly varied. The microbiota in your mouth and on your hands can vary wildly from person to person—even on the same person at different times!
What does this have to do with skincare?
Everything that you rely on skincare products for, your skin’s microbiome has a hand in.
When in balance, these microbes are essential for the health of your skin: providing protection against infection and disease, helping to balance oil levels, maintaining a strong and resilient skin barrier, as well as keeping you moisturized, exfoliated, protected, and pH-balanced. An unbalanced Microbiome, where good bacteria have been overrun by the bad, can result in acne, inflammation, increased sensitivity, and accelerated aging.
The microbiome can sustain damage through pollution, medication and, ironically, skincare. That’s right–too many harsh topicals, layering of products and incompatible ingredients can throw your delicate balance into dysbiosis, doing more harm than good.
How can you support your skin’s microbiome?
Despite the buzz a few years ago, the skincare world has realized that there is yet to be an effective way to harness probiotics in skincare products. Whether it’s due to a lack of product stability, difficulties in storage or incompatible probiotic strains, the concept is promising, but the execution still needs some ironing out.
Until then, microbiome-friendly skincare takes a more supportive role. Here are a few steps that you can take to keep your very own microbial community happy:
Aim for products that are not going to disrupt your balance and are formulated to reflect the natural PH of your skin–typically, skin prefers to be at around 5.5pH.
Streamline your skincare. We cannot stress this enough, the days of 10-step routines are behind us along with the havoc they can wreak on our delicate skin. Remember that less is more when it comes to skincare, and opt for gentle, multifunctional products that are free from harsh, damaging actives.
Look for skincare products that contain prebiotic elements, such as oats! Prebiotics provide nourishment to the healthy bacteria present on the skin. As well as being soothing and anti-inflammatory, oats are an excellent source of prebiotic fibre, both when taken internally and when incorporated into skincare.
Finally, remember that the microbiome is constantly changing. As your age and lifestyle change, so too should your skincare routine. Nurturing healthy skin flora can help prevent signs of premature aging such as wrinkles, dark spots and dry skin, as well as, according to some schools of thought, maintaining our skin’s ability to protect us from UV radiation.
It’s all about finding a balance that works for you and your lifestyle. Taking care of your skin microbiome can help to ensure that your skin stays healthy and beautiful for years to come!