As the body's largest organ, it's no secret the skin plays a vital role in overall human health.
But did you know that many of the skin's superpowers are driven by your 'skin microbiome' - a vast community of over 1000 bacterial species, fungi, and other tiny organisms living on your skin surface?
Throughout this post, we're going to cover everything you need to know about:
The role and purpose of the skin microbiome
How atopic dermatitis affects skin flora composition, as well as the causes and risks of a poor skin microbiome
How to maintain a healthy skin microbiome (even with eczema!)
Keep reading to learn more about the impressive, hidden kingdom of skin microbes and better understand how to boost your skin health and combat skin diseases today.
How Does The Skin Microbiome Work?
The skin microbiome provides a significant interface between yourself and the outside world, communicating with your immune system and external environment to protect you against infections and diseases.
But how exactly does this work? Well, we're here to break it down!
Boosting Skin Immunity
Whenever the tiny microbes on your skin's surface come into contact with harmful allergens, pathogens, or irritants, they 'talk' to your immune system, releasing antimicrobial peptides to defend against pathogenic bacteria and keep you safe from infection.
The good bacteria living on your skin also help to crowd out pathogenic organisms to stop infections from spreading.
Your skin microbiota prefers an acidic environment to thrive. Through a process of acidification, therefore, a healthy microbiome will work to maintain an average skin PH of around 5.0, inhibiting the growth of diseases and infections that require a more alkaline environment.
Eczema Microbiome: How Does Atopic Dermatitis Affect Skin Health?
Atopic dermatitis is a chronic, inflammatory skin condition caused by genetic and environmental factors. It is characterized by itchy patches of dry, inflamed, and cracked skin, flaring in repetitive cycles.
Atopic Dermatitis and the Skin Microbiome
For people with atopic dermatitis, the typical skin microbiome composition is thrown off-kilter by a pathogenic bacteria called Staphylococcus Aureus (or S. Aureus for short). This domineering aureus colonization will bury deep into the skin's barrier, triggering the immune system to launch a defensive, inflammatory response, causing eczema flare-ups.
The skin microbiome of someone with atopic dermatitis also tends to include fewer antimicrobial proteins, reducing the acidity of the skin's PH and therefore creating an alkaline environment where harmful S. aureus bacteria can thrive.
Threats To A Healthy Skin Flora
Beyond atopic dermatitis, several other factors might limit the topographical and temporal diversity of your skin microbiome or destroy your healthy bacteria.
Taking certain medications, including topical creams
Using harsh soaps and detergents
Maintaining a poor diet
Not spending enough time out in nature
Living in an overly sterile, hygienic environment
Psychological and emotional stress
Living With A Poor Skin Microbiome
So, what are the risks associated with an unhealthy skin microbiome?
Without the beneficial superpowers of a thriving microbiome, the human skin can become susceptible to several skin conditions and infections. This may include eczema (as we've already explored), psoriasis, acne (or acne vulgaris), and dandruff.
Alongside these, a compromised skin microbiome can also lead to the slowed healing of skin wounds, more severe allergic reactions, yeast and fungal infections, and accelerated rates of skin aging.
How Can You Nurture a Healthy Microbiome?
If you're worried about the health of your skin's microbiome, don't fret! You can do many different things to improve your skin immunity and cultivate a more diverse microbiota.
Re-Think Your Skin-Care Routine
Protecting Good Bacteria
Many popular soaps, creams, and cleansers contain harsh chemicals to kill off pathogenic bacteria on your skin, but they destroy good bacteria, too. To avoid this, you must find skin-care products made of simple, gentle, and nourishing ingredients that won't strip your skin of its natural oils or throw your microbiome balance off-kilter.
This soothing Calendula Facial Cream is pH balanced, meaning that it maintains an optimum skin pH to help your microbiome thrive and fight skin infection.
Restoring Healthy Skin Barrier Function
If you have atopic dermatitis, it is vital to restore a healthy skin barrier so that pathogenic bacteria can't break through and cause eczema inflammations. One of the best ways to improve your skin's strength and resiliency, therefore, is to maximize skin hydration and regularly use a nourishing moisturizer.
The Super Dry Soother has been formulated with scaly, dry eczema and psoriasis in mind, using certified safe herbs to heal even the most rough, cracked, and chapped skin.
Healthy Lifestyle Changes
It's no secret that health and beauty are more than just skin-deep. With this in mind, you can make several lifestyle changes to cultivate thriving skin microbial communities longer-term.
Work Up A Sweat
Regular exercise is a fantastic way to increase blood flow to your skin, providing your skin microbiome with the vital oxygen and nutrients it needs to survive.
Get Out Into Nature
Not only is spending more time out in nature a great way to improve your mental health, but skin microbiome research has also found that increasing your skin's exposure to the many different microbes that exist in the outside world can improve the diversity of your skin microbiome.
Now, there's an excuse to re-discover the joy of jumping in muddy puddles again, or getting your hands dirty in the garden!
Eat a Healthy Diet
Studies have shown that the health of your skin and gut microbiome are intrinsically linked via the gut-skin axis.
Eating a plentiful, nutrient-dense diet is a great way to promote healthy skin from the inside out!
Treating Atopic Dermatitis
It is worth noting that some conventional eczema treatment options may destroy your skin's microbiome, such as taking diluted bleach bath alternatives. We encourage you to try natural baths, such as baking soda, coconut, or oatmeal baths, as a safer alternative.
Due to this, if you're living with atopic dermatitis, it's essential to be careful and seek professional medical advice on the best ways to combat your itchy eczema flares without risking your skin's microbiota.
You can opt for gentle and natural eczema treatment options, and most importantly, don't lose hope! Cultivating a healthy skin microbiome even while living with eczema is very possible.
Nurture Your Skin Microbiome Today
Follow these tips to help cultivate a more diverse, healthy, and resilient skin microbiome today, protecting yourself against skin infections and tackling atopic dermatitis symptoms sustainably and safely.