The Skin microbiome
Many people have probably heard of good, probiotic bacteria associated with the gut - how important they are for our health and well-being. But they are just as important to the skin, its balance and health and as many as 21% of our total microbiome microbes are on and in the skin.
Trillions of microorganisms live and thrive on our skin - primarily bacteria, but also, for example, various fungi and virus species, which together form the ecosystem we call our microbiome. There are so many of them that they outnumber our own, human cells - and the vast majority are of great importance to us.
A balanced microbiome with high bacterial diversity - i.e. as many different bacterial species as possible - is the most important prerequisite for healthy skin. We live in a mutually beneficial relationship with our bacteria - we provide them with food and shelter, they help us to strengthen our immune system, protect against negative environmental effects, maintain the optimum acidity (pH value) of the skin and produce substances that are important for the skin. In other words, bacteria keep the skin healthy, moisturised and well-functioning.
For many years, bacteria has mostly been thought of as the enemy – something dangerous that should be eliminated.
Nothing could be more wrong, however. While it is true that bacteria can cause disease, most bacteria are very beneficial for our health.
The past decade’s scientific research into the microbiome has led to a completely new understanding of bacteria as one of our most important allies. There is a mutually constructive collaboration between the microbes in our microbiome and our human organism, making bacteria vital to our health.
Only a few bacteria can cause problems for us if, for example, after a period of weakening they are able to reproduce and grow. It can result in dry, itchy and irritated skin. So it requires sufficient "good" bacteria to make sure that harmful bacteria are not given the opportunity to take over. Adding probiotic bacteria can therefore help to maintain a healthy balance of the skin or, if damage has occurred, to restore it.
WHO defines probiotics as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host"
As part of her personal care, a woman will use 12 different products containing on average 168 different chemicals on a daily basis. Men use slightly fewer products, but are still exposed to about 85 different chemicals daily (source: Environmental Working Group). In addition, we are in contact with other products such as detergents.
It is not hard to imagine that this can have an impact on the skin, which can eventually lead to damage - that is, imbalance - of its microbiome. Occasionally, a single product may be enough to cause problems, but often it will be the overall, accumulated impact that becomes problematic and upsets the balance and reduces the important bacterial diversity of the skin. Imbalances can, however, also occur for reasons unrelated to the use of specific products.
Whatever the cause - the balance of the skin's microbiome is destroyed, which can mean that "bad" bacteria with potentially harmful effects can multiply and outnumber the "good" bacteria. This will impair or damage the skin's immune system as well as the barrier function and can cause problems such as itchy and irritated skin.