Recently I had the privilege to appear on CTV morning with Natalie Esau from the Upkeep Shoppe. Together we were discussing the importance of addressing the whole body when it comes to skin health. One of the main points that we talked about was the importance of the skin microbiome. Now we are used to hearing about the microbiome of our gut but microorganisms – bacteria, fungi and viruses not only share our living space in our gut, they also coat our 1.8 m² of skin.
Our skin is a barrier to the outside world and works along with the microbiome to keep harmful bacteria away. One of the ways it does this is literally by crowding out potential pathogenic (bad) bacteria. Another way the healthy bacteria do this is by releasing certain antimicrobial proteins. But here is where I need to step in – these specialized antimicrobial proteins are targeted at harmful microorganisms unlike hand sanitizers or antibacterial soaps, therefore they work to keep the healthy microbiome intact.
A few other key points to remember about the skin’s microflora:
- Microorganisms have preferences when it comes to how moist, dry, oily, or exposed the skin is. Therefore, your skin’s microbiome varies depending on location, gender, age, diet and physical activity.
- The skin’s microbiome prefers a pH of 5.0 (more acidic). This is important when we talk about the hygiene hypothesis and being too clean. Antibiotics, antimicrobial hand sanitizers, soaps, acid blockers, topical and oral steroids can all affect the pH of the skin, creating a less welcoming environment.
- Imbalance in microbiome can be associated with psoriasis, allergies, eczema, acne, poor wound healing, dandruff, and rosacea.
To avoid these less desirable skin conditions, follow these simple steps to keep your skin’s microbiome healthy and thriving:
- Hydration – staying hydrated keeps the individual skin cells plump which ensures your skin maintains a healthy barrier to the outside world. A guide I like to follow is to consume ½ your body weight in oz (ie 150 lbs = 75 oz which is approximately 9 1/4 c. a day)
- Healthy eating – include beauty foods such as a rainbow of vegetables, healthy fats & proteins, while also decreasing processed foods, and avoiding food sensitivities.
- Take care of your gut microbiome – include fermented foods, fiber (pre-biotic), and a good quality probiotic daily.
- Minimize hand sanitizers and soaps to help maintain a healthy, slightly acidic skin pH.
- Sweat– through exercise or sauna sweating supports detoxification and is a prebiotic (food) for skin microbiome.
- Manage stress – this is very personal – what I urge is do whatever is going to work for you. The last thing you want is for your stress management component to turn into another item on your “to do” list.
Currently we are just scratching the surface of what we know about the skin’s microbiome. During this very exciting time I look forward to continuing to increase my knowledge and share it with you.