Guess what? You have over 1,000 different types of microorganisms living on your skin including bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The bigger news: your skin loves them! This layer of living microorganisms is called the skin microbiome (also known as the skin flora) and it is a very important layer of protection for the skin.
So, what is the skin microbiome?
The skin is the largest organ of the body and it is our body’s armor against bad bacteria and viruses that can cause illnesses and disease. Living on top of the skin are various microbes that are too small to be seen by the naked eye.
This is the skin microbiome and it combats and balances out the harmful microorganisms that can actually do damage to our skin. The good microbes in your skin microbiome have evolved and adapted over long periods according to the conditions of your skin’s environment. These organisms are sustained by the salt, oil, and hydration from the skin. Different factors can affect the presence of these helpful microorganisms. They can be body temperature, the skin’s pH levels, thickness, and overall texture.
Why do I want these on my skin?
Firstly, the variety of microbes on your skin is not the same on all parts of the body. Your face skin microbiome is different from that of your underarms, your legs, etc. The face, back, and chest have a higher density of oil glands so they attract organisms that depend on lipids or fats from sebum. Areas like the armpits hold a lot of moisture so it hosts a different set of microbes.Now, you might be alarmed by the thought of having these organisms on your skin by now - put down the magnifying glass. You won’t see them even with that. These teeny tiny microbes are very important for your skin health. They help balance the hormones, chemicals, and vitamin production within your body to promote a good immune system and a healthy metabolism. And when your skin is at its healthiest, that is when it looks best. Skin conditions like eczema, acne, and rosacea have been linked to an unbalanced skin flora. The missing varieties of microorganisms affect the level of protection of the skin against harmful elements. The effects of having an unhealthy skin flora can manifest in the form of skin dryness, overproduction of sebum, breakouts, rashes, and redness. Sadly, things like over washing, unhealthy diets, and other lifestyle activities can impact the skin microbiome badly. For example, washing with strong soaps and using abrasive scrubs can ruin the balance of our skin flora. The more you keep stripping away the surface barrier of your skin, the harder it becomes for the microbiome to recover. It is important for you to allow your skin flora to thrive so that your skin can maintain a good layer of protection. Here are some tips to strengthen your skin microbiome:
1. Don’t Overwash
As mentioned earlier, strong soaps and excessive scrubbing can strip away the helpful flora on your skin. On top of that, over scrubbing can cause micro-tears on the skin and that's something you definitely don't want to end up doing. Just stick to mild cleansers with a good pH level so you can prevent ruining the balance in your skin microbiome.
2. Avoid Harsh Skincare Products
Your skincare routine may be doing you more harm than good. Just like with soaps, products that contain strong antibiotics and alcohol can kill even the helpful organisms that make up your skin flora. Stick to mild products as much as you can with your skin regimen.
3. Wear Garments Made of Natural Fibers
Textiles made of synthetic fibers can affect your skin’s temperature and the way it produces sweat and sebum. Any changes in the conditions surrounding your skin’s surface can either make or break your skin microbiome.
4. Hydrate and Have a Healthy Diet
When you are dehydrated, your skin microbiome also gets dehydrated. You need at least 64 ounces of water a day to remain hydrated and to have regular production of sweat. A diet that is rich in healthy fats, minerals, fiber, and protein can also help your skin microbiome by promoting good metabolism and hormone production.
Remember, your skin microbiome is your skin’s first line of defense. When you take the right steps towards a healthier skin flora, you are helping your skin become healthier and, in effect, look better than ever!