By Vivienne O’Keeffe, CIBTAC, AAD, PEA
The human microbiome (bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microorganisms that our bodies play host to) was a hot topic even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, but discussions of it almost always centre on the microbiome in the gut.
There’s no denying the huge importance of a healthy gut microbiome. Nurtured by factors ranging from a high-fibre diet to such intangibles as high levels of wisdom and compassion, it promises less illness, longer lives, and recently, according to the Chinese University in Hong Kong, less serious Covid symptoms.
But did you know that other body parts and organs including the mouth, vagina and skin have their own microbiomes? Yep. The skin’s microbiome is affected by its own particular set of predators, including pollution, harsh skincare products, poor nutrition, high stress and inadequate sleep.
Observes reporter Fiorella Valdesolo in the Wall Street Journal Magazine, “A properly functioning skin microbiome, composed of bacteria known also as skin flora, is critical to skin’s health: it fortifies the skin’s barrier, trapping moisture, shielding against infection and environmental aggressors and reducing inflammation. When the microbiome is lacking in good bacteria, the skin’s barrier function is compromised.”
The result is what one dermatologist calls “leaky skin” – a spin-off on the term “leaky gut,” and refers to the skin becoming dehydrated and allowing irritants, allergens and pollutants and other pathogens to penetrate and trigger inflammation.
People using too many or incorrect products for their skin type and condition can strip their skin of its innate protective mechanisms and upset the delicate balance of its microbiome.
For its part, The Global Wellness Trends Report says “The next big trend in beauty is optimizing the skin’s microbiome. Our skin’s microbiota strengthens its barrier, traps moisture, and prevents infection and inflammation. Bad diets, stress and pollution affect it, as does our manic beauty culture of over-cleansing and over-exfoliating.”
Social distancing and hyper-sterilization during the pandemic have weakened our immune systems and exacerbated the threats. Alternate style and culture magazine Dazed and Confused goes so far as to argue that we need to create a future where we collaborate with bacteria and viruses rather than annihilating them.
We agree with all of the above, and believe the best medicine is sometimes no medicine at all. We have also known about the importance of the skin’s microbiome for years, and make its health one of our first considerations when formulating our products. The prebiotic in our ēcōMD Nourish line, for example, helps directly promote the skin’s microbiome health. Our AHA/BHA contains chicory root (inulin and fructose), a prebiotic to help improve skin microbiota and help to prevent infection and inflammation. Our Restoring Antioxidant Cream is made with orobanche rapum, a chlorophyll-free plant that helps protect skin microflora.
We‘re excited about what modern science is continuing to discover about our all-important skin microbiome. And even more excited about using these findings to create more great products for our customers.