How to Protect Your Skin’s Microbiome Every Day for Glowing, Healthy Skin
Skin microbiome has been a hot topic in skincare for the last few years, right?
With the science of your gut microbiome gaining popularity in the holistic health world, it only makes sense that your skin’s microbiome gets its spotlight too. (And we’re here for it!)
In a world where new skincare products are being produced by the minute, how do you know which products are actually geared toward protecting and boosting your skin’s microbiome? We’re even seeing fads like probiotic skincare flood the market – among other skin microbiome products.
That’s why we want to shed light on this crucial part of your skin health: your skin’s microbiome. We’re going to lay it all out to help you understand exactly what your skin’s microbiome is + why it matters. And no, you don’t need to buy a million expensive products – it’s actually quite the opposite.
There’s a lot you can do to support how your skin’s microbiome functions to protect you + keep a hydrated, happy, and glowing complexion.
What Is Skin Microbiome?
Skin microbiome sounds like a big fancy word, but it isn’t quite as complicated as it sounds – let’s start with the basics.
Your skin’s microbiome is an ecosystem of balanced bacteria that lives on the surface of your skin. It protects your skin from internal + external factors. Your skin’s microbiome contains bacteria, fungi, viruses, and more. Together, this ecosystem intuitively knows how to block harmful/disruptive bacteria or environmental factors from damaging the skin.1
A balanced skin microbiome is able to:
- Destroy pathogens
- Provide anti-microbial protection
- Reduce skin inflammation
- Provide immune defense
And sure, it might feel weird to think about living organisms on your skin. But without these bacteria, we wouldn’t be here. Plenty of bacteria strains are normal and even necessary for your skin (and your skin’s microbiome) to be its healthiest.
The Role of Your Skin’s Microbiome
A healthy, robust skin microbiome is a diverse yet balanced ecosystem that’s responsible for a host of health-boosting properties that:
- Eliminate your skin microbiome’s bad bacteria + pathogens – when well established, your skin’s microbiome is anti-microbial, protecting from (and eliminating) acne-causing bacteria. It also blocks other harmful bacteria and pathogens that can cause infection, inflammation, or imbalance in the skin.
- Keep your skin microbiome’s good bacteria intact – similar to gut health, you don’t want to use, consume, or do things that wipe out your skin’s microbiome. You want to protect the good bacteria and only eliminate the bad. Your skin’s microbiome works on its own to do this if you give it the gentle support it needs.
- Maintain your skin’s delicate moisture barrier – your skin’s microbiome is intricately linked to your skin’s moisture levels. So a healthy skin microbiome also supports a healthy moisture barrier – leading to less flaking, peeling, and wrinkles!
- Regulate the proper PH balance – your skin needs to be on the acidic side to thrive. If your skin microbiome is healthy, your PH will be balanced and slightly acidic. Things like conventional skincare can throw the skin’s PH levels – but more on that later. ;)
- Support healthy sebum production – your skin produces sebum to moisturize, protect the skin, and lower PH when necessary. The fatty acids in your sebum provide the “food” your skin’s microbiome needs to thrive.2 This is why we advocate that not all skin oil is bad. In fact, it can be the key to healthy, balanced skin!
There’s no denying that your skin contains microorganisms that impact the health and normal function of your skin.2
So it’s not surprising that, on the other hand, dysbiosis (imbalance) can contribute to severe skin diseases.2
While your skin’s microbiome is powerful + capable, it’s still crucial to support it with the right practices, habits, and products. So when it comes to skincare products, you’ll want to ditch most of the traditional options – here’s why.
Why Conventional Skincare Isn’t Good for Your Skin’s Microbiome
Simply put, most traditional skincare products are formulated without consideration for the diverse, complex, and important microbiome your skin needs.
Many conventional products contain harsh, abrasive chemical solvents – even products marketed as “clean” or “natural.”
A recent study clearly states the effect these products can have on your skin’s microbiome:2
“Inappropriate cosmetics, or their unsuitable application, negatively influence the skin microbiome by reducing its diversity, leading to dysbiosis.”
Here are a few other things to look out for on your skincare labels that could disrupt your skin’s microbiome:
- Heavy metals3
In addition to the concern for your skin’s microbiome, many of these ingredients are known endocrine disruptors. Exposing yourself to these could severely affect your reproductive or even full-body health.
Another reason to ditch conventional skincare: many will make skin conditions worse or hinder healing, like:
And it’s not just products. We also recommend being mindful of the different conventional skincare trends/treatments you try – even if administered by a professional.
→ Chemical or abrasive exfoliants can negatively impact and disrupt the skin's microbiome, causing dysfunction and dysbiosis. (Think harsh chemical peels and some more invasive laser treatments.)
→ Invasive skincare treatments like microneedling affect your delicate skin microbiome in a very jarring and physical way by creating intentional wounds that puncture the skin and inhibit normal functions.
Common Issues Caused by an Imbalanced Skin Microbiome
Studies have shown some skin conditions are directly linked to an imbalance in your skin’s microbiome, like:2
- Atopic dermatitis (AD)
- Among other inflammatory skin conditions
Understanding how your skin’s microbiome is always monitoring and balancing the sebum, moisture, PH, and microorganisms on our skin is important. With this information, it makes perfect sense that many of these conditions would have a direct link to an imbalanced microbiome.
But if you’ve been using these products, don’t feel bad.
Greenwashing has definitely played a role in the misleading notion that all products designed for the skin are safe for your skin. But just because the FDA hasn’t banned a product yet doesn’t mean it’s good for you – or your skin microbiome.
So let’s talk about what IS good for your skin’s microbiome.
How to Improve Skin Microbiome (+ Support it)
Finally, the good stuff!
There are plenty of easy, effective ways you can naturally protect your skin’s microbiome.
Only Use Products That Support Balanced Bacteria
So instead of traditional skincare products, opt for holistic skincare items like cleansing oils + nutrient-rich masks that won’t strip or dry your skin.
Be mindful of products that stay on your skin (serums, moisturizers, toners). These products should include clean, chemical-free, and natural ingredients. And even better if they’re loaded with healthy fats and oils.
It’s especially important to choose a cleanser wisely, as these are the most common culprits for drying and damaging your skin’s microbiome. That’s why we recommend a daily oil cleansing regimen. (Check out our Oil Cleansing FAQ discussion if you’re new to oil cleansing or have questions.)
And if you’re double-cleansing, stick to water or glycerin-based soaps for your second cleanse. These are much more gentle on the skin and won't disrupt your skin’s microbiome.
Don’t forget other products that you might not normally group in the “skincare” category – like sunscreen. Conventional sunscreen contains various chemicals that can disrupt your skin’s microbiome + block beneficial effects from the sun.
Ultimately, everyone’s skin is different but we all need balanced bacteria within our skin’s microbiome. So the answer is clear: stick to products you can feel confident are improving + supporting your skin’s microbiome.
As you’ve probably already gathered, many cleansers are far too harsh and can be incredibly disruptive to a healthy skin microbiome. The classic example is acne-prone skin that gets prescribed salicylic acid products with other endocrine-disrupting ingredients.
Stripping the skin barrier (and microbiome) can lead to early aging because it dehydrates the skin and the skin doesn’t have protection from oxidative stress, among other negative factors.
So please don’t over-cleanse your face. While we support good hygiene, washing your face too often IS a thing. That's why we recommend only cleansing 1x a day and splashing with water in the AM.
Speaking of hygiene, let’s discuss a few ways to practice good skin hygiene.
Maintain Proper Hygiene
Like many things in life, hygiene is a balance – especially if you’re viewing it through a holistic lens like us. Keep in mind bacteria aren’t inherently bad – and some of them are very necessary to build our immune systems and keep our skin’s microbiome intact.
Hygiene isn’t meant to be obsessed over, but we do recommend:
- Keeping brushes clean (makeup, hair, dry brushes)
- Washing your hands before touching your face
- Only using CLEAN washcloths on your skin (don’t reuse them, as tempting as it is!)
- Set up an environment for restorative, hygienic sleep (pillowcases are breeding grounds for bad bacteria)
See, that’s not so bad. These are pretty straightforward but play a big role in your skin’s microbiome. Easy to do, easy to benefit from.
Prioritizing Moisture to Lock in the Good Bacteria
Did you know that moisture helps lock in the good bacteria? Remember the moisture barrier we mentioned earlier? Yep, that’s what locks in all the best microorganisms that benefit your skin:2
“Moisturizers reduce the intensity of water loss from the skin and can support the skin microbiota while decreasing skin cell exfoliation.”
Plus, retaining your moisture barrier prevents early signs of aging.
Pro tip: Check out gel water – it will level up your hydration game even more.
Facial Dry Brushing for Gentle Exfoliation
Sure, we might be biased, but we love facial dry brushing for gentle cell turnover instead of chemical exfoliants or abrasive physical exfoliants. These types of exfoliation methods often damage or destroy the delicate balance of your skin’s microbiome.
While many exfoliation products (even those that claim to be “natural” or “derived from nature”) strip the skin and often kill off beneficial bacteria, facial dry brushing can nudge cell turnover in a graceful, gentle process. Without disrupting your skin’s microbiome.
Intense exfoliators can be tempting, but trust us – you’ll be glad you avoided them in the long run.
Eat More Nourishing Foods
It can be hard to manage in our food-obsessed, caffeine-addicted culture full of “but coffee, first” and fried foods, but trust us when we say: skin superfoods are not something you want to skimp on.
Bone Broth is a great daily addition to your routine. Try it as an afternoon pick-me-up to replace your second round of coffee.
And, of course, it should go without saying: prioritize probiotics and prebiotics in your diet to supplement healthy bacteria in your skin microbiome.
Bottom line: what you eat (and drink) matters for your skin.
We know sweat benefits your full-body health, so here’s the good news: you won’t regret the time you spend sweating. Sweat is a magic worker for cleansing, detoxing, and resetting your skin. It can even help reset your skin’s PH because sweat is naturally acidic. Crazy how our bodies are designed to self-correct, right?
It just goes to show our ancestors had a lot of things figured out. And sometimes, following their lead just means going back to the basics.
Tip: If you don’t have the energy for a workout, here are six creative ways to sweat more. ;)
While this advice can feel like a lot to implement at once, don’t worry – you can always simplify your life and start by following our esthetician’s morning + night routine to start protecting your skin’s microbiome. Either way, incorporating these suggestions (or even one!) into your routine will set you up for a healthier, more balanced skin microbiome.
Your Skin’s Microbiome Needs You
It might sound cheesy, but it’s undeniably true! Your skin’s microbiome needs you to pay attention and show it some love. The delicate balance of bacteria might sound like a lot to manage, but our body has many built-in functions that help maintain it once you get the basics down.
Just practicing supportive, simple habits will go a long way for the health of your skin and boost your body’s innate healing + balancing capabilities.
Your skin’s microbiome needs you – are you in?
- National Library of Medicine | Human Skin Microbiome: Impact of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Factors on Skin Microbiota
- National Library of Medicine | Human Skin Microbiome: Impact of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Factors on Skin Microbiota
- Primally Pure | 4 Chemicals To Look Out For On Your Skincare Labels
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