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How to Master the Skin Microbiome

Preserving the delicate balance of your skin’s microbiome

Written by: 100% PURE ®

We know the gut microbiome affects our skin health, but another factor that’s less talked about is the skin microbiome. Our microbiome is actually our skin’s first line of defense against harmful bacteria and foreign organisms. Current research has shown a link between our microbiome and unhealthy skin states.

Unfortunately, lots of factors can throw your skin out of balance, and restoring that balance takes careful work. If you haven’t learned about the skin microbiome, let’s uncover what it is, why it’s important, and how you can maintain its healthy function.

Why is the Skin Microbiome Important?

Your skin microbiome is a community of microorganisms that live on the surface of your skin. These microorganisms, known as “skin flora,” are mostly bacteria, but can consist of fungi and viruses, too. Maintaining a diverse community of flora is essential to your skin health. This diversity and abundance helps your skin defend itself against harmful microorganisms, dryness, infections, and painful skin conditions.

Current and ongoing research supports the idea that an imbalance in our skin microbiome leads to harmful skin conditions. Skin with active eczema flare-ups, for example, loses its bacterial diversity. It’s dominated by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria instead. Normal skin doesn’t appear to suffer from the same lack of diversity.

Common skin bacteria can overpopulate your skin’s surface and lead to issues. P. acnes is one example of common skin bacteria. As the name suggests, if P. acnes is in abundance on the skin, it can lead to acne. This is often why dermatologists might prescribe antibiotics to treat severe acne. The effects of an imbalance can include acne, dermatitis, inflammation, and irritation.

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What Disrupts Your Skin Microbiome?

A number of factors can cause a disruption in your skin microbiome. Since the balance of flora on your skin is so delicate, it can be easy to cause an imbalance if you’re not mindful. The balance of ingredients you apply might be tipping the scales out of your favor. Here are a few things that might be causing it.

#1: Using harsh scrubs and cleansers
Your cleansers should be hard on dirt and buildup, but gentle on your skin. They should be supporting your skin barrier – not drying your natural oils out. When your cleanser is too alkaline, you can disrupt your skin’s naturally acidic pH. There’s a close link between good bacteria and ideal skin pH. A more basic pH can kill off pH-friendly bacteria and encourage the growth of harmful microorganisms. According to a New York dermatologist interviewed by Allure, bad pathogens are attracted to higher (more alkaline) pH levels.

Similarly, a harsh scrub tends to have ingredients that disrupt your skin’s pH. A harsh scrub can also physically remove friendly bacteria and substances that friendly bacteria “eat.”

#2: Over-exfoliating
Even if you use a gentle scrub, beware of exfoliating too often. Over-exfoliation leads to you wearing down and damaging your skin’s microbiome; this often leads to excessive dryness.

#3: Applying super astringent products
Astringent products are meant to remove oil from your skin’s surface. At first glance, this may seem like a good idea for oily skin. But in the long run, drying your skin out won’t do you any favors. Removing your natural oils makes your skin less favorable to good bacteria. This can increase moisture loss – and lead to dryness.

#4: Skimping on sunscreen
Your skin microbiome helps protect you from outside stressors. Not protecting it from UV rays and other outside stressors is only asking for trouble! These factors can lead to skin damage and dryness that affect the bacteria on your skin.

The Role of Prebiotics and Probiotics

Prebiotics are ingredients that promote the growth of good bacteria, much like fertilizer for plants and flowers. Probiotics are ingredients in the form of healthy bacteria. You can take a prebiotic and probiotic tablet for your gut, but what options are out there for skin?

Finding products with prebiotics can preserve the already healthy bacteria on your skin. This ingredient selectively feeds good bacteria, starving any unwelcome microorganisms. Experts suggest you should look for certain types of saccharides – sugars that feed good bacteria.

Probiotics can come in the form of fermented skin care. Fermentation is the process of introducing healthy bacteria to break down sugars and acids. Fermented food products can be great for your gut microbiome. Incorporating some of those foods into cleansers, toners, serums, and creams can be great for the skin microbiome, too! They can help preserve the balance of good bacteria on your skin, or restore it.

Of course, combining the two types of products is most effective!

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Restoring Your Balance
If you’ve disrupted your skin microbiome, have no fear. You can still help bring your skin to a glowy, hydrated state. Here are a few steps for restoring your skin to its healthy glory.

Stop using harsh cleansers
Toss your harsh cleansers out ASAP and opt for gentle, pH-balanced cleansers. Avoid common bar soap and cleansing ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate. They’re too drying!

Stop scrubbing
If you find that a physical scrub is too rough or sensitizing for you, find a gentler option. This can be a more pleasant physical exfoliant or a chemical exfoliant. Avoid over-exfoliation by using your products only 1-3 times a week.

Use fermented skin care products
The probiotics in these products can help tip the scales in your favor once again. They can help introduce good bacteria and fight off pathogens that have dominated your skin’s surface.

Add more moisturization to the mix
If you’ve dried your skin out excessively, adding moisture to your routine is essential. You’re helping to create an environment favorable to good bacteria and rebuilding your moisture barrier. Be sure to use plenty of humectants and use a facial oil to seal in that hydration. Remember to use an oil for your skin type!

Use sunscreen
Perhaps most important is sun protection. UV rays can inhibit our skin in more ways than one. Besides affecting the diversity of our skin bacteria, UV rays can cause faster visible aging and hyperpigmentation. Don’t skimp out on reapplying either. We often don’t apply enough sunscreen in the first place!

Prevention is key to preserving your skin microbiome. Anything that harms your skin barrier first affects your good bacteria. Keep wearing your moisturizers, sunscreens, and antioxidant serums. Remember that all is not lost if you do damage your barrier. Most importantly, be gentle to keep your skin (and its microbiome) happy!

We carefully hand-select products based on strict purity standards, and only recommend products we feel meet this criteria. 100% PURE™ may earn a small commission for products purchased through affiliate links.

The information in this article is for educational use, and not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should not be used as such.

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