Your skin's microbiome. Although it might sound very technical, it’s actually pretty simple once you get past the fancy name.
You may have seen mentions of your body’s microbiome in relation to everything from your skin care to kombucha. So what is it, and how to improve it? That’s the topic for this week’s blog post.
Basics of your microbiome
Let’s start at the very beginning: what even is your microbiome? In simpler terms, it’s all the genetic material of bacteria, fungi, viruses, etc, that live inside your body. But, they aren’t your body’s naturally producing cells.
Although that sounds kind of alarming, it is a natural product of living in any environment. The only way you wouldn’t have one is if you lived in a sterile bubble your entire life. These cells and our bodies have a symbiotic relationship, meaning they benefit us while our bodies provide for them.
Microbiomes are actually huge. The number of cells making up your body’s microbiome outnumber your actual body cells ten-to-one. It’s estimated that it carries two hundred times the genetic material of your own body cells. It could make up to five pounds of your body weight.
The reason much of this information is estimated is because microbiomes are considered to be a relatively recent scientific discovery. Consensus on it existing only arose in the 1990’s.
Your microbiome has an important role in helping to develop a number of important bodily functions, such as the immune system. It also works to digest food (that vast majority of these cells live in your gut). They also even produce vitamins, like vitamin B, B12, K, thiamine, and riboflavin.
Initial research data suggests that a number of diseases - including diabetes and allergies - might be influenced by microbiome imbalance.
Human skin microbiome
As the outer barrier to the world, your skin is the second-largest host of bacteria outside of your gut. All these bacterial communities actually help form that skin barrier and keep harmful pathogens out - contributing to your skin's health. Additionally, your skin's microbiome changes depending on the area of the body. The microbiome of your feet are different from the microbiome of your face.
However, when your skin microbiome changes, or loses balance, skin conditions like eczema or bacteria-driven acne may arise. Researchers suggest that acne develops partly because there’s more for the bacteria (Propionibacterium Acnes) to grow from. Thus, causing your microbiome to be tilted off balance.
There’s also additional research that suggests that an increase in skin flora diversity could help protect against inflammation. On the opposite side, a lack of diversity can result in more inflammation and other skin diseases.
Improving your microbiome
When it comes to gut microbiome, what you eat is key. A very simple thing goes a long way with helping out your microbiome: eating a varied diet.
One of the best things you can do for your microbiome and gut health, is eating a variety of different foods. Just like monoculture in a farm is bad for the natural environment, bacterial monoculture is bad for your body as well. Eating a diverse range of foods introduces new bacterias with different functions, thus making your gut microbiome stronger.
This can also be supplemented with probiotics, which are often sold as over the counter supplements. Probiotics often contain thousands of different “good” bacteria that also improve your microbiome. Fermented foods, like kombucha or kimchi, also are rich in probiotics (and definitely more delicious than a pill).
It’s also important to give your microbiome proper food. That’s where prebiotics come in, otherwise known as dietary fiber. This is what the bacteria in your microbiome thrives on. Foods like oats, flaxseeds, whole grains, apples, seaweed, and onions are perfect options.
Your skin microbiome has a tougher time, and survives off of the lipids and amino acids in sweat and sebum. We admit it, that’s a little gross.
So how do you improve your skin microbiome? Making sure your sebum production is regulated is one thing to do.
Cleansing and moisturizing regularly helps avoid sebum build up, and provides a good, moist environment. This is essential to maintain your skin microbiome's balance and thus, healthy skin. A gentle cleanser like our Deeply Cleansing Milk is perfect for this.
If you’re here, chances are you’re already wary of putting harsh chemicals on your skin. Taking care of your microbiome is just another reason to avoid them altogether. These strip away the good bacteria and leave no protection in their place.