The way we live, our diet, and our daily routine can impact our health and immune system and, in turn, our skin’s health. Eczema, one of the most common inflammatory skin disorders, is the result of several genetic, environmental, and microbiome-related factors.
Researchers have known for a while that individuals with eczema have a unique skin bacteria footprint. However, over the last few years, recent studies have clarified the critical relationship between skin health and our microbiome. While there is no definitive cure for dermatitis yet, understanding how the skin flora impacts your flare-ups can help you relieve and reduce inflammation. Here’s all you need to know.
Affecting an estimated 3% of the adult population worldwide, eczema is the most common chronic inflammatory skin condition. There are seven types of eczema, such as contact dermatitis and dyshidrotic eczema, but the most common type is atopic dermatitis (AD).
This skin condition leads to various symptoms, from itchy skin to dry, swollen, and sore patches across the body. For some people with mild eczema, this is nothing more than a temporary annoyance, while for others is a severe, life-changing condition that can have physiological and psychological effects.
When looking at the causes behind eczema, scientists have not yet pinpointed one triggering factor. However, recent studies have linked eczema flare-ups and the worsening of this condition with changes in the immune system and microbial composition.
The factors that weaken the immune system, such as high-stress levels, unhealthy diets, limited physical activity, a lack of sleep, and alcohol and tobacco abuse, can affect the skin microbiome and worsen your dermatitis.
The link between eczema and the skin microbiome
The microbiome refers to all the bacteria and microorganisms that inhabit our bodies – from our guts to our skin. The skin microbiome composition is different from one person to another and is influenced by several factors, including the environment, skincare products, lifestyle, and genes.
While every individual has a unique skin flora composition, we can all invariably count on an array of beneficial bacteria ready to protect our skin from inflammation and infections.
However, some lifestyle and genetic factors can modify a person’s microbial composition, leading to drastic changes – or “dysbiosis”.
Recently, studies have found that, as these changes happen in the skin microbiome, they affect the immune system and general health.
If the good and bad bacteria fall out of balance, you can experience various side effects, including high levels of inflammation. Inflammation is the immunological response of our body to foreign or dangerous bacteria and viruses. In turn, higher levels of inflammation can worsen your dermatitis, as well as conditions such as acne and dandruff, and lead to flare-ups.
In particular, scientists have been looking into a specific commensal (or type of bacteria) present in the skin microbiome. Researchers have found that the skin of individuals with eczema has a higher density of this bacteria – as well as fewer beneficial bacteria in charge of fighting off infections.
How your lifestyle can affect eczema
The skin flora composition starts developing from the moment of birth onwards. While it reaches a stable balance by the time we are in our 30s, nothing is set in stone! Your diet, environment, level of exercise, and skincare products all have an influence on the health of your skin microbiome.
Understanding this connection is essential to make the lifestyle choices necessary to reduce inflammation and limit the overgrowth of the harmful bacteria that cause eczema flare-ups.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Hydration and nutrition – since the skin and gut microbiome are connected through the gut-skin axis; it is essential to follow a diet that is rich in plant-based proteins, vegetables, and healthy fats. Some triggering food can include gluten and dairy.
- Environmental stress – prolonged exposure to extreme heat, extreme cold, pollutants, and UV rays can worsen your eczema.
- Emotional stress – stress and anxiety are linked to high levels of cortisol. While cortisol does not cause eczema, it increases inflammation throughout the body, which, in turn, can trigger eczema flare-ups.
- Chemicals, fragrances, and detergents – strong chemicals and unsuitable skincare products can throw your microbiome off-balance, worsening inflammation and creating an ecosystem in which beneficial bacteria can’t thrive.
When trying to bring balance back to your skin flora, it is essential to keep in mind that your daily routine and the products you apply to your skin every day will constantly affect your skin microbiome.
To soothe eczema, helping your skin retain moisture and oxygen circulation can help. Products such as vitamin B3, glycerine, and shea butter can help your skin draw moisture from the surrounding air and keep balanced and moisturised.
Understanding your skin and nurturing good bacteria
Now that you are clear on the link between eczema and skin microbiome, it is essential to take the next step: knowing the skin you’re in. When selecting eczema makeup, moisturisers, and skincare products, it is necessary to know your skin microbiome and find products that will keep it balanced and protected.
And, since every person’s skin flora is unique, you should start your journey by testing it and understanding its composition. The Skin Trust Club test is an easy way to see what imbalances in your skin microbial composition are causing your flare-ups – and get a personalised skincare routine to address it!