7 Ways to Foster a Healthy Microbiome
Your skin is not a lone ranger in its important role of protecting you from the outside world...In fact, it has trillions of helpers which make up your totally unique skin microbiome - a collection of microorganisms including bacteria, yeast and viruses. They are so important to the health of your skin that your cells actually have docking sites for them - amazing right?
Think of it like a pair of sheer stockings that covers your whole body. The microbiome works with your skin to fight off pathogens, defend against environmental stressors and even produce nutrients for your skin.
Now, we live in a metropolis and we are never going to be free from elements that will challenge the microbiome and that is ok. You just want to support it as much as is realistically possible. Here are 7 simple ways to support your microbiome so it keeps supporting you.
Incorporate prebiotic and probiotic skincare
Just as fermented sauerkraut will boost your gut microbiome, advanced probiotic skincare will improve your skin microbiome. When it comes to micro-organisms, probiotics are the good guys. They are the microbes that encourage and shift the skin’s ecology to favour a harmonious and diverse ecosystem and the more probiotics you have in your microbiome, the less docking sites available for more harmful microbes, known as pathogens.
The best in show for probiotic skincare has to be Esse Skincare which was the first professional skincare brand to incorporate live probiotics into its products. Our favourites from their range are the Probiotic Serum and the Toner Plus. Prebiotics are also essential as they are the food which the probiotics love to feed on. You can find them in the Toner Plus and Cosmetics 27 Pure 27 and Recovery 27.
Don’t mess about with your skin too much
Our microbiome is not indestructible and can suffer if there’s too much thrown its way. Try to avoid a 20-step routine with lots of astringents, denatured alcohols, and stripping formulations as these can weaken the biome and barrier function, leading to compromised skin and room for more sinister microbes to move in and flourish. Topical antibiotics can also affect the microbiome so only use in instances of bacterial infection. And make sure there are products in your routine that nurture the skin flora such as probiotic skincare (above), gentle cleansers, and a beautiful nutrient-rich face oil such as Ojai Wild's Yarrow Face Oil.
Use a carbon shower filter
Our water supply contains chlorine which is brilliant at killing pathogens in our water supply that could make us ill, but it also isn’t selective with the microbes it affects which means that many of the good microbes that live on your skin can also be destroyed too. To help reduce this, installing a simple carbon filter on your showerhead can help reduce the levels of chlorine in your shower water which in turn reduces the damage it can do to your microbiome.
Diversity is king
The best microbiome is a diverse microbial community with each microbe playing it’s unique role in your skin’s health so you need to make sure you’re exposed to many different sources of microbes which brings us nicely onto our next tip...
Get into nature
City living has many benefits but it does mean that we lack exposure to many beneficial microbes that we find in nature. If you’re lucky enough to have access to a spot of greenery, get out and don’t be afraid to get a little muddy - this will introduce more microbes into your natural flora.
Don’t forget about the microbiome within
The health of your digestive system is intrinsically linked with the health of your skin and an imbalanced gut microbiome, known as dysbiosis, can result in inflammation, reactivity, breakouts, and other skin conditions. For more information about how to improve your gut health, read our interview with author and nutritional therapist, Eve Kalinik.
Balance your skin pH
Your skin microbiome is happiest at a slightly acidic pH of around 5 and it even produces lactic acid to keep it around this level. You want to do your best to support this pH level which means avoiding ingredients that are more alkaline such as traditional soaps, sulfates, and home remedies such as baking soda.