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Ask the Dermatologist: Your Skin Microbiome - Your Skin Has a World of Its Own!

What is the skin microbiome and why is it important for your skin health?

A picture of Dr. McKelvey in front of a question mark and the question "what is the skin microbiome and why is it important for your skin health?"

A microbiome is the collection of all microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, and viruses and their genes that live on our bodies. Although these microorganisms are so small they require a microscope to see them, they contribute in big ways to human health and wellness.

The skin is the largest organ of the body and has its own unique microbiome. Your skin microbiome varies depending on the part of the body it’s on, like your face, scalp, armpits, or feet. Your skin’s microbiome also changes with age, season, climate, diet, hygiene, and cosmetics.

This tiny world plays a vital role in maintaining your skin’s barrier function, modulating inflammation, healing wounds, and preventing infections. A healthy skin microbiome can also influence how we look and feel by affecting skin hydration, elasticity, pigmentation, and sensitivity.

Your Skin: Out of Balance

When the balance of your skin microbiome is disrupted by environmental factors or internal factors such as stress or hormones, it can contribute to various skin conditions including:

  • Acne

  • Eczema

  • Psoriasis

  • Rosacea, and

  • Dermatitis

This is why it is important to take care of your skin microbiome and keep it in harmony with your body.

How can you protect your skin microbiome?

There are some simple steps you can take to support your skin microbiome and improve your skin health:

  • Avoid over-cleansing or scrubbing your skin, which can strip away the natural oils and beneficial microbes.

  • Avoid routine use of antibacterial cleansers. Regular soap and water is just as effective at removing harmful germs from the skin, but doesn’t damage the good bacteria.

  • Make sure your skincare is pH balanced. This will support the protective film called the acid mantle that nourishes your microbiome and serves as a barrier against harmful bacteria.

  • Moisturize your skin regularly with products that contain ingredients that support a healthy and natural skin environment such as ceramides or hyaluronic acid. These can help restore the skin barrier function and prevent moisture loss.

  • Protect your skin from excessive sun exposure, which can damage the skin cells and alter the microbiome composition. Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and wear protective clothing and hats when outdoors.

  • Manage your stress levels and get enough sleep. Stress and lack of sleep can impair your immune system and trigger inflammation in your body and skin. This can affect your microbiome diversity and function.



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