Your Skin Microbiome: What It Is—and Why It’s Important
In recent years, the skin microbiome has gained recognition for its vital role in health and immunity. While research is still underway to delineate all of the various ways in which the skin microbiome plays a part in well-being, one thing is clear: Given that the skin is the body’s largest organ, a thriving skin microbiome is integral for supporting skin health and whole-body wellness. Ahead, we’re delving into the basics of the skin microbiome and how to best preserve and maintain this complex, ever-evolving ecosystem.
What is the skin microbiome?
The skin microbiome is a living collection of microbes—such as bacteria, fungi and viruses— that inhabit the surface of the skin. These microbes can vary widely in composition depending upon their location on the skin, as well as things like genetic makeup, diet and lifestyle choices. Despite these differences, two similarities endure: They tend to thrive in acidic environments—the skin’s optimal pH level is around 5.5—and they collectively number about 1.5 trillion in total. And while the notion of billions of unseen-visitors may be unsettling, they’re not just friendly: they’re hardworking, essential elements of skin health.
What does the skin microbiome do?
It’s an answer that is being refined and expanded upon daily through advances in science and medicine, but we know that the skin microbiome functions in several important ways. For one, it helps to maintain the skin’s acidic pH balance, inhibiting the growth of “bad” bacteria. Bad bacteria thrives in more alkaline environments and can cause a host of skin issues, including eczema and acne. Furthermore, the skin microbiome creates a physical barrier against foreign pathogens, playing a key role in immunity.
This relationship is certainly more than skin-deep, too: emerging research around the immune system and the skin microbiome reveals that the two systems actually communicate with each other, engaging in “cross-talk” to both inhibit and manage inflammation. The dynamic between microbes and the immune system is still being explored, but has tremendous implications for immunity.
How can you support a healthy skin microbiome?
One of the most dazzling aspects of the skin microbiome is that it is utterly unique to the individual—much like a fingerprint, no two are alike. Yet a common aspect of all health skin microbiomes is a flourishing diversity of microbes. We can support—or hinder—the growth of skin-supporting healthy bacteria through simple, thoughtful decisions. For example, products with synthetic preservatives—meant to ward off “bad” bacteria—can also kill off the good bacteria and fungi that encompass our microbiome, dismantling this living ecosystem in the process.
Similarly, formulas with harsh detergent soaps can alter the pH level of the skin, thus making it less habitable for friendly flora. In fact, one study shows that the majority of conventional soaps have a pH level of between 9-10—far above the optimal skin pH balance of 5-5.5. Furthermore, existing healthy bacteria can be supported with products that contain either prebiotics (fertilizer for bacteria) or probiotics (live bacterial elements). As such, seeking out personal care products that preserve the skin microbiome is a simple first line of defense to caring for skin flora.
A healthy skin microbiome with Ingredients®
Ingredients® skin essentials were developed with the skin microbiome in mind using only organic, plant-based ingredients to infuse the skin with supportive vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, probiotics and antioxidants—the essential building blocks of health. In lieu of artificial preservatives, we utilize plant probiotics (lactobacillus ferment), which are powerful agents that preserve a formula differently than synthetic preservatives. Unlike the former, they do not kill bacteria and fungi; rather, they hinder the growth of bacteria and suppress the development of the bad bacteria and fungi in a given formula. In working this way, they help to both maintain and fortify the pH integrity of the skin microbiome. Free from synthetic additives and detergents, all of our formulas are intentionally developed for human skin—and for the friendly inhabitants that call skin their home, too.
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