Unhealthy Skin be Gone – By Understanding Skin Microbiome and Skin Barrier
Achieving healthy skin is so important, yet many people struggle with unhealthy skin. Understanding the skin microbiome and skin barrier is the secret to overcoming unhealthy skin and achieving a healthy, vibrant complexion. Here’s a quick guide on the skin microbiome and the skin barrier, what they are, how they are different, and how taking care of them is the most important step in achieving healthy skin and preventing unhealthy skin.
The skin microbiome refers to the trillions of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, that live on the skin’s surface. The skin microbiome plays a crucial role in skin health by crowding out harmful microbes, regulating the immune system, and producing substances that nourish skin cells. An imbalance in the skin microbiome, known as dysbiosis, is associated with inflammatory skin conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis. Supporting a healthy, diverse skin microbiome is essential for overcoming unhealthy skin.
The skin barrier refers to the outermost layer of skin, known as the stratum corneum, which acts like a wall to keep moisture in and irritants out. Disruptions in the skin barrier allow moisture loss and open the door for microbes, allergens, and chemicals to enter the skin. This can trigger inflammation and lead to unhealthy skin conditions like dryness, irritation, and sensitivity. Proper skin barrier function is the frontline defense against unhealthy skin.
While the skin microbiome and skin barrier are distinct, they interact and rely on each other. Caring for both is the ultimate recipe for achieving healthy, vibrant skin and avoiding unhealthy skin problems.
|Story at a Glance
The Skin Microbiome:
The Skin Barrier:
Tips for Supporting Both:
Understanding Skin Microbiome
The skin microbiome plays a crucial role in maintaining skin health.
The skin microbiome refers to the community of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses, that live on the surface of our skin. There are estimated to be over 1,000 species of microbes that call our skin home.
The skin microbiome starts forming at birth and continues to mature and diversify over the first years of life. Our genetics, immune system, age, hygiene practices, and environment all influence the makeup of our unique skin microbiome.
Research has shown that the skin microbiome plays many beneficial roles. Friendly microbes on the skin help train the immune system to protect against pathogenic bacteria by producing antimicrobial substances that inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria, regulate skin pH, and even produce nutrients that support skin cell function.
An in-balance skin microbiome is associated with clear, problem-free, healthy skin. When the microbiome becomes disrupted or imbalanced, it can lead to issues like acne, eczema, and infections, with all the problems associated with unhealthy skin.
Factors that can throw off the skin microbiome include over-washing, use of harsh soaps and chemicals, poor diet, stress, and antibiotics. Probiotics, prebiotics, emollients, and avoiding excessive washing/sanitizing can help maintain a healthy, balanced state.
Bad Skin Microbiome Equal Unhealthy Skin:
- Skin microbiome can influence various skin conditions, such as acne and eczema.
- Maintaining a healthy microbiome can support skin health.
Improve Skin Microbiome Both Internally Through Nutrition and Externally Through Topical Products:
Examples of prebiotics and probiotics that can help maintain a healthy skin microbiome:
- Oats – Contain beta-glucan that feeds good bacteria
- Apples – Pectin provides food for microbes
- Onions – Inulin fiber promotes microbiome diversity
- Legumes – Rich in Galacto-Oligosaccharides, a prebiotic
- Honey – Contains oligosaccharides that boost skin flora
- Lactobacillus strains – Found in yogurt, helps balance microbes
- Bifidobacterium – Improves skin immune function and barrier
- Streptococcus thermophilus – Common in fermented dairy, balances moisture
- Bacillus Coagulans – Produces nutrients beneficial for skin
Support a Healthy Skin Microbiome By Implementing These Tips –
- Eat a diet high in a diverse range of fruits, vegetables, fermented foods, and fiber to promote a flourishing gut microbiome.
- Consider taking probiotic supplements specifically formulated for skin health. Look for strains like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Eating yogurt with live cultures.
- Avoid unnecessary antibiotic use, which can kill off beneficial bacteria on the skin. Take probiotics alongside antibiotics.
- Use antimicrobial ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, and tea tree oil sparingly to avoid overly disrupting the microbiome.
- Look for skin care products containing probiotic extracts and ferments, which may help rebalance the microbial population.
- Exfoliating with lactic acid from fermented milk.
- Applying honey or aloe topically.
- Avoid excessive washing and scrubbing, which can wipe away beneficial microbes.
- Apply prebiotic ingredients like sugars, plant fibers, and yeast extracts to “feed” good microbes.
- Try oils like Squalane, Jojoba, and Olive, which have antimicrobial and microbiome-friendly properties.
Understanding Skin Barrier
The skin barrier refers to the outermost layer of skin cells and intercellular space that provides a physical and chemical fence to protect inner tissues. This protective barrier is composed mainly of dead, flattened skin cells called corneocytes that are embedded in a matrix of lipids (fats). The brick-and-mortar structure traps moisture while keeping irritants and allergens out. Skin barrier integrity is essential for good health.
The primary function of the skin barrier is to serve as a physical and chemical barrier to protect the body from external factors such as pollutants, allergens, microbes, and UV radiation. It helps to prevent water loss and maintain skin hydration.
A healthy skin barrier is essential for retaining moisture, preventing infections, and maintaining overall skin health. When the barrier is damaged or weakened, water loss increases, leading to dryness, cracking, and irritation. A faulty barrier also allows easier entry for germs, allergens, and chemicals that can cause inflammation and infection. Those with certain skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis often have impaired skin barriers.
Impact on Skin Health:
The skin barrier can be disrupted by things like harsh soaps, over-washing, environmental factors (low humidity, cold weather), and even natural aging. Supporting skin barrier health involves avoiding irritants/allergens, using gentle cleansers, moisturizing, taking shorter showers, and applying skin-strengthening ingredients like ceramides, fatty acids, niacinamide, and natural oils.
A weakened skin barrier can lead to more severe skin conditions and unhealthy skin beyond dryness and irritation. A disrupted barrier increases the penetration of allergens, chemicals, and microbes that can trigger inflammation and infections. This can result in conditions like:
- Eczema/dermatitis flare-ups
- Accelerated aging of skin
- Increased sensitivity
- Rosacea outbreaks
- Acne breakouts
- Fungal/yeast overgrowth
Improve Your Skin Barrier Health Doing These –
- Eat foods rich in healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish. These provide the building blocks for the lipid layers that make up the barrier.
- Ensure you get enough vitamins A, C, and E from fruits, vegetables, eggs, and nuts. These antioxidants fight free radical damage that can degrade the barrier.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Proper hydration helps skin cells function optimally.
- Consider a probiotic supplement to support overall skin health from within.
- Use gentle, fragrance-free cleansers that won’t strip the skin. Avoid harsh soaps and scrubs.
- Apply products containing ceramides, cholesterol, fatty acids, shea butter, and oils which reinforce the lipid barrier.
- Moisturize daily with rich, creamy moisturizers that provide occlusion and hydration.
- Look for products with niacinamide, which has been shown to improve barrier function.
- Avoid over-washing. Take brief, lukewarm showers/baths when possible.
The skin microbiome and skin barrier are integral in maintaining healthy, problem-free skin. The microbiome refers to the community of microbes living on the skin’s surface that helps train immunity, balance pH, and produce nutrients. The barrier is the outer layer of skin that locks in moisture and keeps out external threats.
While independent elements, we now know the microbiome and barrier closely communicate with each other. Imbalances in one can degrade the health of the other, creating unhealthy skin. Supporting healthy populations of microbes and a strong, intact barrier are key strategies for achieving clear, comfortable skin.
Since we’ve covered the basics of the microbiome and skin barrier, it’s important to understand how they interact and influence one another. Far from operating independently, these two aspects of skin physiology communicate and work together to maintain cutaneous homeostasis.
The state of the skin microbiome impacts the strength and function of the skin barrier and vice versa. For example, when the microbiome is thrown off balance, the inflammation can disrupt lipid production and degrade the barrier. On the flip side, a weakened barrier provides an entry point for pathogens to invade and alter the microbial population.
Additionally, beneficial microbes produce metabolites and antimicrobial peptides that support skin barrier function. And a healthy, intact barrier promotes the growth of “good” microbes. It’s a two-way street – the microbiome and barrier are interdependent. Supporting the health of one aspect helps promote the health of the other.
Following a holistic skincare approach to heal unhealthy skin can help maintain both a flourishing microbiome and a strong barrier to happy, healthy skin!
Though we still have more to learn, research continues to uncover the fascinating interconnectedness of our body’s largest organ.