B for bacteria

If you’ve never felt completely alone, you’re probably right.

At this moment there are millions of microbes hanging out on your skin, creating a unique, harmonious ecosystem called your skin microbiome. Microorganisms such as bacteria, virus and fungi mostly populate the superficial top layers of the skin, but also can be found in the hair shaft, sebaceous and sweat glands.

How does this affect me?

In addition to being a physical barrier, your delicate skin can ‘talk’ to the immune system. The skin recognises the microorganisms present on it and sends signals to your immune system, creating either a good or bad response.

But before you go off to take a long, hot shower to scrub yourself clean, read on!

Insufficient diversity in the skin microbiome suggest that microorganisms on the skin are not at optimal levels, contributing to skin conditions such as acne, eczema and rosacea.

Studies found that eczema patients have a unique microbiome different to those who don’t normally have inflammation and skin rashes. During flare-ups, bacterial diversity is lost and dominated by inflammation-inducing bacteria, staphylococcus aureus.

Acne sufferers have exhibited overgrowth of the bacteria, propionibacterium acnes. This bacteria lives deep inside the pores and feeds on sebum that is produced by your glands. Interestingly the bacteria doesn’t directly cause significant damage, despite its implicating name. But it’s the body’s immunological response that causes the telltale angry redness.

Tips on how to improve skin microbiome

Just like how you would eat yogurt or pop a probiotic for gut health, the bacteria on your skin needs some care too.

1. Ease off the harsh soaps.

There is such a thing as being too clean! Excessive use of hand-sanitisers can negatively alter the skin microbiome.

Soaps have very high pH levels, while the skin's microbiome prefer a relatively acidic pH of about 5. Disturbing the skin’s natural pH can disrupt the balance of the microorganisms.

2. Maintain a natural skin care routine

Avoid ingredients that may aggravate your skin condition and throw out old beauty products past their use-by dates. Choose gentler natural products to protect your skin’s integrity. Some natural ingredients and fragrances can also be irritating for certain skin types so make sure to test a small area prior to use.

3. Sweat it out!

Your sweat is a natural prebiotic, providing nutrients for the existing bacteria. Coupled with a balanced, healthy diet, the sweat you produce functions as food for your skin.

4. Spend some time outdoors

Spend some time gardening or take a short walk around the park. This helps to expose you to different types of microorganisms, boost your immune system and reduce stress.