The term microbiome is a collection of organisms, predominantly bacteria, that keep your body functioning properly. Typically we hear the term microbiome in relation to our intestinal health. Bacteria breaks down food, ensures nutrient absorption, expels toxins and even helps boost your immune system. Your gut, however, is not the only place on the body where a microbiome can be found. Your skin also has a microbiome and increasingly, the scientific research suggests that your skin’s microbiome health and acne are very closely linked together.
Quick Facts About Acne
While any acne sufferer will tell you there is nothing simple about acne, for our purposes today we are going to break it down to 3 Main Culprits. Culprit 1 is Sebum. Sebum is oil produced by the sebaceous glands that commonly clog pores along with dirt and dead skin cells. Within that Sebum lives Culprit 2. Baceria. P.acnes Bacteria is in a constant battle to overpower the good bacteria, it P.acnes wins, your skin is prone to breakout. Lastly, Culprit 3. Inflammation. Clogged pores trigger your skin’s natural inflammatory response, which is responsible for the swelling and redness you associate with a pimple.
Microbiome’s Role In the Process
Just like in your gut, your skin’s microbiome contains both beneficial bacteria as well as bacteria which can cause skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, rosacea and eczema. As long as the good bacteria is able to thrive, skin can remain healthy. Good bacteria nourishes your skin and keeps them healthy and functional. But that balance can be upset.
pH is a measurement of how acidic or alkaline your skin is. Good bacteria thrive in a slightly acidic environment roughly 4.5 on the scale. If your skin’s microbiome is upset, bacteria such as P.acnes begin to overpower the good guys and breakouts are eminent.
What Causes an Imbalance In the Microbiome?
Natural Aging Process
Maintaining a healthy microbiome is not magic and while much of it is in your control, there are also aspects that are beyond your control such as aging. The Natural Aging Process causes good bacteria counts to dwindle over time, which is why more and more adults are experiencing breakouts seemingly out of no where.
Antibiotics & Prescription Drugs
Prescription drugs and antibiotics are a huge factor in the overall health of a microbiome. Even over the counter drugs negatively effect bacteria levels. If you need these medications for health reasons, be aware of the fact that you are killing bacteria indiscriminately, meaning both good and bad bacteria. Be sure to replace good bacteria with probiotics and probiotic skincare.
Pollution, smoking, and exposure to chemical irritants reportedly contribute to an imbalance in the microbiome. By shifting the pH balance of your skin, these pollutants make it more difficult for good bacteria to thrive on your skin.
Harsh Acne Products
Are you ready for this one? Commonly prescribed and recommended acne treatments can actually cause your bacterial balance to go out of whack. By targeting all bacteria in an attempt to stop only the strains that cause acne, can actually create imbalance in the microbiome and lead to more breakouts, not less.
What Can you Do to Protect Your Microbiome?
By choosing foods that are rich in probiotics and probiotics you can create the right conditions to achieve homeostasis. Typically food that are anti inflammatory are good choices for your microbiome as well. Yogurt or kimchi are great probiotics. Asparagus, garlic and many types of oats can encourage healthy bacterial growth which benefit your skin.
Probiotic Supplements & Skincare
Both probiotics and prebiotics are now being included in skincare formulas by select brands. They are highly effective alternatives to help beneficial bacteria while working to reduce redness and inflammation. Taking a daily probiotic supplement orally is also beneficial to your skin’s microbiome.
Antioxidants work to protect your skin from the harsh environmental pollutants they are surrounded by. The more you protect your skin cells that better they are able maintain proper bacterial balance within the skin.
Go Easy on Harsh Face Washes
Using abrasive scrubs or harsh drying cleansers will only make matters worse. Be careful about washing your face too often. What may seem like good hygiene today may result in over dried or stressed looking skin tomorrow. Be smart, be gentle and be aware.