Our skin is the home of trillions of bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms that protect it and keep it healthy – the skin microbiome. When healthy and balanced, the skin microbiome has the beneficial bacteria it needs to fight off attacks from harmful microorganisms, infections, and diseases.
Our skin is the ultimate barrier between our body and the environment. As such, it is always at the mercy of internal and external stressors, which can easily throw it off balance and damage it.
A damaged microbiome can lead to many symptoms, including the worsening of skin disorders and premature age lines. Recognising what a damaged skin microbiome looks like and adopting a healthy lifestyle is all you need to take great care of your powerful skin flora.
When your gut flora becomes damaged, you might suffer from digestive issues, high irritability, and low immunological defences. While the skin-gut axis connects the skin and gut floras, an out-of-balance microbial composition in the skin might lead to different symptoms.
Our skin microbiome has many responsibilities, such as regulating pH, modulating our immune system and fighting off harmful bacteria and infections. Several environmental, physical, and psychological factors can throw it off balance and, when this happens, you might notice some symptoms. Here’s what a damaged microbiome looks like.
Worsening of acne, rosacea, and eczema
If the skin microbiome becomes damaged, it is likely because of an ecological imbalance between the beneficial and harmful bacteria populations. This happens when harmful bacteria overpower the beneficial effects of symbionts and commensals.
For example, an overgrowth of inflammatory acne bacteria will lead to breakouts and flare-ups of acne. In eczema, flare-ups can be worsened by a high density of the dangerous Staphylococcus aureus. Lastly, a high density of Demodex mites has been seen to be responsible for rosacea flare-ups.
As the skin microbiome is depleted of beneficial bacteria, it will struggle to fight back infections and reduce inflammation, which leads to the worsening of most chronic skin conditions.
A dry and dehydrated skin
You don’t necessarily have to deal with severe skin disorders to notice that your skin microbiome is damaged.
A clear sign of an imbalance is dry or dehydrated skin. Indeed, thanks to beneficial bacteria, a healthy microbiome can create a layer of protection on the skin, which prevents evaporation. In turn, this keeps the skin hydrated and supple, preventing too much moisture from escaping.
When this barrier is compromised, it is easy for your skin to start looking dry.
Skin infections are the most common severe symptom of a damaged microbiome. When stress and environmental factors throw the skin flora off balance. In turn, this can lead to drastic and sudden changes in the immune system.
A weaker immune system, coupled with low levels of beneficial bacteria, leaves the skin more prone to infections and impaired wound healing.
Premature ageing and more visible lines
It is widely known that stress and high cortisol levels negatively affect the skin, causing cell damage and affecting collagen. However, age lines can also become more visible because of the effects of stress on the microbiome.
While more research needs to be done, initial studies published in 2019 have started to link the health of the gut microbiome to the ageing process. In addition, a certain group of skin bacteria are known to produce antioxidants that slow down the ageing process.
Your gut and skin microbiome start developing from birth. However, adults have consolidated microbiomes that allow them to count on a stable immune system and body functions. Generally, exposure to pollution, temperatures, and stress does not immediately have a drastic effect on the microbiome. However, prolonged exposure and an unhealthy lifestyle can have devastating effects.
Some of the main microbiome disruptors include:
- Medications and antibiotics – antibiotics are not selective, and they can destroy commensals and beneficial bacteria.
- Pollution and chemicals – chemicals from clothes, skincare products, soaps, and hand sanitiser can disrupt the bacteria ecosystem, exposing the skin to infections.
- High-stress levels – high cortisol levels affect the whole body, including your gut health. Stress management options include meditation, yoga, and breathing exercises.
- An unhealthy lifestyle – unhealthy diets and limited exercise can discourage the growth of a variety of healthy bacteria.
Discover more of your microbiome health today
Specific skincare products and a tailored routine can help you keep your skin moisturised and your microbiome healthy. However, no two products will work in the same way on two different people because the skin bacteria composition is unique and varies from an individual to another.
A quick Skin Trust Club test allows you to understand better the health of your microbiome and how to take care of it with a personalised microbiome-friendly skincare routine. Start healing your microbiome today and check your results on the Skin Trust Club app!