Since the day you were born, trillions of invisible organisms have been working overtime to keep your skin healthy. Even though our skin is the equivalent of a barren wasteland — dry, acidic, and devoid of the nutrients most microbes love–each person plays host to nearly 1,000 species of resilient critters that call our largest organ “Home Skin Home.” It’s estimated that we’re each carrying around 2 pounds worth of unicellular skin guardians.
Bacteria & Viruses & Fungi, Oh My!
Everyone’s microbiome is unique, cultivated by many factors, including where you live, work, clothes you wear, your cleansing habits, diet and how much time you spend outdoors. As children, our microbiomes were constantly changing and growing until puberty, when it settles into a personalized mosaic of essential microphytes that keep us healthy.
Even across our epidermis, bacteria, fungi, and viruses form diverse communities that meet their criteria for habitability.
That’s because different areas of our skin offer amenities that certain species prefer. While they all survive on the salt, oil, and water that we naturally create, our tiny helpers have different must-haves for their homes. They align themselves into particular eco-niches based on temperature, moisture, the presence of hair, and how much sebum that area produces.
Areas with many oil glands, like our faces and backs, thrive with life, while cooler, dryer spots on our arms and legs tend to be less populated. Some even prefer to nestle down into warm, moist environments like our armpits, throwing daily dinner parties with our sweat as the main dish.
The Body’s Real First Defense
In case you’re not too keen on the idea of letting your skin flora live rent-free, there’s no need to fret. These colonies are in constant contact with our internal immune system, allowing our body’s inner defenses to know of any pathogenic threats that might be lurking around on the surface layers. Our skin microbiome penetrates down into the subcutaneous fat layer, forming a defensive wall and alert system if anything goes awry.
When a pathogen does manage to land on our skin, our skin flora sends messages through the dermal layers signaling that there’s a problem. They launch an attack to keep the harmful bacteria from making their way into our more vulnerable internal systems, overcrowding the intruder before it has a chance to grow too strong.
In return, our immune system compensates when our microbiome takes a lazy day, sending a flurry of antimicrobials into our skin to take over combat until the good bacteria gets back into balance.
Work with Your Microbiome, Not Against It!
Your skin flora works diligently to protect you from invaders, maintain moisture levels, and keep your complexion healthy. Unfortunately, some of our everyday habits might be negating all of its efforts. Just as our gut microbiome can suffer from overuse of antibiotics and a poor diet, our external organism communities are at risk. And when that happens, you’re more likely to see skin concerns like acne, eczema, rosacea, and infections flare up.
First, be gentle with your cleansers, especially those that kill bacteria. Soaps can’t differentiate between good and bad bacteria, so scrubbing with cleansers with a pH above five can annihilate communities of helpful microbes. Even worse, soaps create more alkaline skin conditions, which harmful pathogens love.
You should also be careful with your use of antibacterial products like hand sanitizer for the same reason. It’s essential to wash your hands, of course, but be aware that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
Exercise, but more explicitly sweating, produces the food that our microbiome thrives on, so regular exercise can help your skin maintain a healthy skin flora balance.
Most importantly, ensure that your skincare choices love your microbiome as much as you do. Choose non-comedogenic products that help your skin stay nourished and hydrated. Prebiotic-enhanced products like Revision Skincare’s D·E·J Eye Cream, D·E·J Night Face Cream, Bodifirm, and Nectifirm Advanced contain peptides that boost your skin’s microorganisms while providing industry-leading anti-aging benefits. To help keep your body’s largest organ healthy and balanced, add CLn BodyWash to your routine. This effective cleansing solution containing sodium hypochlorite is tough on microbes but easy on the skin as well as free of irritants, fragrances and parabens. Call or stop by AST for more information.