Everything You Need to Know About the Skin Microbiome
Plus, How It’s Related to Acne
By Andrea Marie
January 24, 2021
It feels as though every day we hear about a new skincare ingredient, product, or condition. Living in a global pandemic for close to a year now, has taught people more about their skin conditions than ever before. Think about it, we all have ample time on our hands to research just about anything. With mask-related acne on the rise, or “maskne” as they call it, people want solutions, and they want them now. At Nourish, we decided to dive a little deeper into the world of adult acne, specifically how it’s connected to our internal health.
Unfortunately, these are not your average breakouts. Adult acne happens to be one of the most complex skin conditions, because it’s a different scenario for everyone. While some experience inflammation and redness, others deal with painful cysts underneath their skin, that can take months to reach the surface.
To understand what is going on, we all need to benefit from learning more about our skin microbiome. Yes, you read that right. Our skin has a microbiome too, which is separate from the gut microbiome you’re used to learning about. According to Kat Burki herself, when balanced, this micro kingdom actually helps protect the skin from invading pathogens. Your skin microbiome could answer a lot of your burning acne questions. Let’s go ahead and dive in.
What is the skin microbiome?
To keep it simple, the skin microbiome is made up of the billions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi living there. Kat tells us that the skin microbiome protects from infections and prevents skin inflammation. It also feeds off sebum, sweat, and dead skin cells—which sounds worse than it actually is. Understanding the different ways that our microbes interact with our skin, will help us understand why we have certain skin issues in certain areas.
It is important to note that, different parts of the body house different types of bacteria. For example, there are bacteria living on your face that are not the same as those on your feet and underarms—one area is considered oily, while the other is considered wet. It is also affected by with whom you have skin-to-skin contact. Learning more about the skin microbiome, will also help determine the best skin solution for you and your concerns. Keep in mind that your gut microbiome and skin microbiome are very different, but if your gut is not in balance or healthy, your skin will suffer—along with the rest of your body.
How is the microbiome connected to skin conditions?
If these different species found throughout the microbiome are disrupted, acne and other skin conditions can be the result. Our skin microbiome is affected by a variety of different things, including a wet or dry climate, UV rays, dietary factors, stress levels, and even using the wrong skincare products. Thankfully, as Kat explains, most of us keep this flora balanced.
However, if there’s any disruption, it can lead to conditions like acne, and that is why it’s important to pay close attention to the triggers, and patterns of your skin. Breakouts are just one common result of a disrupted microbiome— but it can easily go well beyond acne. “Many common skin diseases are caused by an unbalanced microbiome, such as acne and eczema,” says Kat. “Bacterial overgrowth is commonly at the root of acne,” she adds. It’s also reported that this type of imbalance can speed up the signs of aging, resulting in fine lines and wrinkles.
How should you care for the skin microbiome?
Well, the truth is that not all bacteria are considered bad. Among the billions of bacteria living in the different parts of your skin, a lot of them are good and benefit its overall health. That being said, you, don’t want to get rid of the skin’s “good” bacteria, while attempting to treat or get rid of the “bad” bacteria, that are causing your breakouts.
Treatments such as antibiotics (both oral and topical) can kill off a lot of this good bacteria, and eventually throw your skin microbiome out of balance entirely—this is not what you want. When it comes to skincare, you want to keep it gentle. Do not use harsh or abrasive cleansers! “Over-stripping the skin with alcohol-based products, can actually strip the skin of its delicate balance, which decreases your skin’s ability to keep bacterial growth in check.,” says Kat. Unfortunately, many acne-fighting ingredients do exactly that, with the most common one being benzoyl peroxide. Conversely, feeding your skin with products that have prebiotic, probiotic, and postbiotic technology behind them, is ideal and safe for the microbiome.
How do you treat acne that’s a result of an unbalanced microbiome?
“The skin microbiome prefers a relatively acidic environment, which also helps inhibit the growth of pathogens,” says Kat. Again, you’ll want to focus on being as gentle as possible with your skin, to avoid making the condition any worse. “The ideal routine would include an alcohol-free cleanser, high vitamin content, antioxidant nutrients, pH correctors, and a healthy moisturizer,” she explains.
Our case study last year showed that, after 6 months of using the following skincare products morning and night, there was significant improvement to both skin texture, and the appearance of the adult acne.
Calming Gel Cleanser
This skin-balancing cleanser gently removes any excess oil, dirt, and makeup, without disrupting the skin’s protective barrier. It’s formulated with the restorative KB5™ Complex, and a blend of over 92 skin invigorating Ocean Minerals.
Super Nutrient Elixir
This is a nutrient-dense toner for enriching the skin after cleansing. Glycolic acid, botanical hyaluronic acid, calming electrolyzed rose water, and oils, all work together to help the skin better absorb products.
Our skin is at its best when its pH level is mid-level to acidic. The pH+ Essence helps you achieve a strong skin barrier, and treats everything from hyperpigmentation, to loss of elasticity. Turmeric, vitamin C, pumpkin seed oil, and papaya, are just a few of the ingredients found in this hero product.
Form Control Marine Collagen Gel
Help contour and lift the skin with pure algae keratin. Form Control was designed to fill in shape and form, while improving the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It’s also incredibly hydrating, thanks to the silk amino acid proteins.
Vitamin C Intensive Face Cream
This is a huge Kat Burki fan-favorite. It’s one of our best-selling products, because it provides deep moisture and protection. It benefits the skin microbiome, because it’s designed to protect against environmental aggressors and toxins.
As someone who deals with adult acne daily, it’s been such a learning process for me. It’s not easy to get older, and suddenly have to deal with skin conditions that you never had to face before. I never had acne as a teenager, but now in my late 20’s, my breakouts are a lot more frequent than I’d like. On the other hand, it’s comforting to know that learning more about my internal health, such as my skin microbiome, can help me find targeted solutions that work for my individual skin type. If you’re dealing with acne as an adult, I hope this piece gives you a glimmer of hope, for managing your skin, and getting on the right path when it comes to treatments, products, and acceptance.