How important is the microbiome for healthy skin?
There is an important aspect that contributes to skin problems and the way the skin ages and that is the microbiome. Thousands of different types of microorganisms live in us and on us and perform all kinds of different functions for us. The microbiome – formerly called the skin flora – consists of trillions of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that together can weigh up to two kilograms.
When a child passes through the birth canal during birth, the mother receives her microbiome. However, the microbiome has deteriorated in quality and diversity in recent generations. It is in fact very damaged by the use of antibiotics, air pollution, soap and by a diet that supports harmful microorganisms – such as fungi. Because of this many people have a disturbed microbiome. A disturbance gives more chance of allergies, skin problems, asthma, and gluten sensitivity. Another problem is that antibiotic use has created resistant bacteria that have a negative impact on public health worldwide.
Research shows strong links between the health of the microbiome and overall health. For example, when good bacteria (internal and external) are used, improvement of skin problems is more the rule than the exception. A dermatologist who does a lot of research into this is Dr. Whitney Bowe. In April 2018 she published the book: The Beauty of Dirty Skin. A title that indicates that we live too clean.
The microbiome is just as essential to us as an organ. We have a symbiosis – the long-term coexistence of two or more organisms of different species – with these micro-organisms. Not only in our intestines but also in and on our skin, in the lungs, in the vagina and in the mouth. The deeper skin layers appear to be non-sterile. Microorganisms live deep in the skin up to the subcutis – the subcutaneous connective tissue – where they affect cellular processes. For example, harmful microorganisms stimulate inflammatory processes in the skin. You see this with skin problems such as psoriasis, rosacea, eczema, and acne. But healthy microorganisms inhibit these inflammatory processes and they soothe the skin. You can see that worldwide there is a lot of attention for the microbiome and for the development of new cosmetic products around this theme.
Probiotics can certainly be part of your beauty routine. They get more and more attention in the beauty industry, and they deserve that attention! However, there is still much to discover about how we can best use good bacteria.