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The Skin's Microbiome
What is the Microbiome?
Microbiome refers to the full colony of bacteria, fungi, archaea and viruses that inhabit an area such as the gut or the skin. Colonies of bacteria from different areas are called microbiota or flora, so you will often hear about “skin flora” or “gut microbiota”. For centuries, the words “bacteria” and “microbes” had negative connotations but thanks to modern science we know that bacteria play vital and extremely positive roles in the functioning of our bodies. Your skin is the largest organ in your body and the interface with the environment, therefore your skin’s microbiome is extremely important in influencing how your skin reacts to aggressions such as stress, pollution and UV rays.
Your Microbiome is personal
Like DNA or a fingerprint, the microbiome is unique to each person and no two are alike. When we are born, we are literally sterile, but get our first exposure of bacterial flora through our mothers, either through the vaginal tract, breast feeding or even just close contact. Little by little we form our unique personal mix of microbes, which differs by area of the body. The bacteria actually create a symbiotic relationship with the tissue where they live but we know that this can be easily altered by environmental factors specific to you: the job you do, the soaps and shampoo you wash with, the skincare products you use, the medication you are taking. All these factors will alter your skin’s microbiome.
Your Microbiome and your Skin’s Immune System.
The relationship between bacteria and skin is complex and fascinating. On a basic level, your skin’s microbiome optimises the production of lipids to reinforce your skin’s physical barrier. But on a deeper level your microbiome controls and influences the skin’s immune system, which is vital for cell regeneration and healing. We know that an imbalance in the skin’s microbiome is directly linked to irritations and inflammations such as rosacea, acne and eczema so it is of vital importance to look after your skin’s microbiome.
Since the 1930’s, scientists have been discussing the gut-brain skin axis. This postulates that stress alone or in combination with a poor diet can affect the gut flora, causing unfriendly bacteria to start to outnumber the good bacteria. Eventually, when the bacterial flora in the gut are "out of whack", the toxins begin to “leak out” into the body, causing inflammation that can trigger skin disorders. It is proven that when we consume good bacteria in the form of probiotics, inflammation and oxidative stress are reduced, with a favourable impact on the skin.
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