Skin Important Organ Barrier Function Microbiome Biodiversity Complex

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young group of people on city street photo by William Fortunato from Pexels

With our current normal a lot has been written about our skin microbiome. This has brought about new studies along with those concerns. We may not realize how important our skin is and why we should take care of it.

Our Skin at Face Value

Our external covering known as our skin is always open to aesthetic scrutiny. Looking in our mirror we may continually take inventory saying such things as; I’d feel better once I brighten my dark spots, clear my acne or smooth out wrinkles.

We all do it, don’t we (this tending to our personal skin complaints)? And there is nothing wrong with that. There are benefits to feeling more confident in your own skin and boosting your self-esteem. But our skin has major purposes other than its looks.

As our largest and most noticeable organ, our skin doesn’t stop at telling us about what is going on beneath its surface with immune function, nutrition, oxidative stress and metabolic issues. In addition it is our first line of defense from infections, environmental stressors and the loss of nutrients and moisture.

Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes and not for diagnosis. More details.

Our skin is actually an indicator to our overall health and well-being. By continually communicating with our environment and working to support our health. The skin microbiome protects against infections working closely with our immune system, protecting us from UV rays and helping to give nourishment to our skin cells.

With our current new normal our microbiome has become more important needing healthy organisms more than ever. It is time with this New Year to actually start taking better care of our skin barrier.

Our Complex Skin Barrier and Microbiome

The skin anatomy is complex, confusing (we have seven layers) and really not very understood. This may be why we don’t consider it as a barrier.

Here we will break the barrier function down a bit. Your skin includes lipids (fats) known as ceramides, these are responsible as sealant, holding moisture in while keeping environmental aggressors out. These make around 50% of the epidermis layer (what we actually see) a film of dead skin cells known as stratum corneum.

While it is important to exfoliate to remove excess dead skin, you can’t and shouldn’t over do this because these cells provide protection for the young, healthy skin cells beneath from free radicals and more. One most valuable component, the skin microbiome, as protection is least understood.

And we haven’t really made a dent in things yet. Once we look at all the interactions of these systems, you will realize how complex things are.

The theory used to be that organisms only lived on our surface but research has discovered our flora goes to deeper subepidermal fat layers. These bugs communicate with your internal immune system. So the microbiome actually is present in all layers.

Research is just beginning to really understand what our skin and microbiome exactly do for our bodies.

Modern Lifestyle Affecting Our Skin Biodiversity

Well that is your skin barrier when it is working right. But there’s a problem, for many of us with skin conditions, it is not.

Our current skin care routine, this issue, can be overwhelming. This can harm our biodiversity.

Factors may be ingredients:

  • In topical skin care products
  • Household products
  • Cosmetics
young female tall green grass yellow dress photo by Ricaldo Donaldson from Pexels
young female tall green grass yellow dress photo by Ricaldo Donaldson from Pexels

These can interfere with the microbiome causing triggers or making skin conditions worse:

Sulfates and strong surfactants get rid of organisms by going after bad ones but they can also harm good ones in the process. Strong ingredients such as parabens and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives that are used in products to help keep contents safe from harmful bacteria and mold can also kill the organisms on our skin.

Having an aggressive routine and over exfoliating can make the skin weak by developing tears allowing pathogens into the barrier’s protective layers and changing the normal pH.

Our lifestyles can also contribute to our microbiome. Our skin’s biodiversity used to be due to being out in nature. Now we are living in populated cities with more pollution, spending a majority of time indoors on devices (yeah) and not having time for more healthy natural green space.

This has been showing up on our skin. One study by Shiseido researchers found inflammatory skin conditions were increasing.  The connection is our weakened microbiome. Those with sensitive skin had significantly decreased biodiversity in their skin flora compared to those who were more resilient.

A rosacea study linking bacteria imbalances has also been done. In addition there is a connection between eczema and the microbiome.

Skin Care Catching Up with Microbiome Friendly Products

As we learn more about our complex largest organ, the skin care industry is making changes. This includes existing products that have stripped the barrier instead producing more new products to help with our microbiome.

These new skin care products surfacing can’t make a claim to be beneficial to skin without considering the microbiome. They need to list ingredients supporting a healthy skin flora versus those that are damaging.

Biotic-infused products have been introduced to the market in a variety of forms to restore our balance. These have seen a surge in growth and will continue for some time. As consumers we will need to consider the new terms and product labels for our needs.

  • Prebiotics include food for our skin’s bacteria to encourage growth.
  • Probiotics include live cultures (like your yogurt) of good bacteria.
  • Postbiotics include (lysates) dead by-products of good bacteria to work with skin’s bacteria.

Because it is tricky to have live organisms in products that must have a shelf life most of these products contain prebiotics, postbiotics or a combination of these.

Hands at Front-Line Defense of Microbiome

Currently with COVID-19 (please refer to CDC and WHO websites for current updates) our hands are going through a lot. We use our hands the most with interacting so they are at the front-line to pick up pathogens, where our microbiome can be placed under attack.

Still important to wash hands and use hand sanitizer. But don’t forget to pamper those hands too. We must rebalance and replenish that skin barrier and microbiome.

For those hand sanitizers to be effective against COVID-19 they need to include 60% alcohol. The alcohols kill many disease causing bacteria and virus (effective germ-killers) within seconds. On the other (hand) this is biome unfriendly. Currently we don’t know the long term affect.

These alcohols cause major damage to the skin barrier affecting natural lipids and fatty acids there on the skin surface. So to help, find a sanitizer containing soothing and hydrating aloe vera (my favorite ingredient) glycerin or one with the minimum CDC alcohol requirement to prevent drying skin.

young female in Indonesia with straw hat photo by Ihsan Aditya from Pexels
young female in Indonesia with straw hat photo by Ihsan Aditya from Pexels

Although, hand washing is better for your skin, it can also be drying leading to damaged skin. Look for ingredients to restore the barrier helping bring back the normal pH range (somewhat acidic). The acid mantle kind of invisible layer also needs us to respect the pH for healthy skin.

So you should be diligent about hand washing, if available or hand sanitizer but don’t forget to repair with hand cream at the end of your day. Carry a moisturizer along with you and don’t forget to apply often to restore those lipids encouraging the regrowth of healthy bacteria. You want to do this while skin is still damp to really seal in nourishing ingredients.

With all the current research we are discovering how essential our skin is to our internal and overall health. Each study shows new revelations to understanding the key to healthy skin. Not only being able to heal skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis and premature aging but understanding more on how the skin protects us.

Have you tried any biotic-infused products?

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Header Photo young group of people on city street by William Fortunato from Pexels

Mary is the founder of All About Our Skin. Former esthetician and CPC. Enjoys researching skincare and has been studying our skin for the past fourteen years.
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