Microbiome: the lowdown
Recently, the term microbiome has been cropping up on our skincare products. But our microbiome is nothing new. “Microbiome is the invisible, carefully balanced collection of trillions of microbes that live on our skin,” says Katy Bacon, education director for Murad Australia. “It’s what helps keep our skin clean, clear and healthy.”
The issue is that our obsession with hygiene has put our skin at risk of being stripped of its good bacteria, leaving it prone to a host of skin issues, including pimples. “A functioning microbiome provides a healthy external immune system that is better able to fight disease, inflammation and defend against undesired bacteria,” explains Bacon.
Probiotics and prebiotics explained
Probiotics: coined “good bacteria”, probiotics help balance and restore the microbiome in our body. “They help strengthen the immune system and support the body’s ability to [stay] healthy,” says Bacon.
Prebiotics: the fibre or “food” that probiotics feed off, prebiotics are essential to maintaining good skin balance “Prebiotics have been clinically proven to be beneficial to our good bacteria,” says Bacon. “Think of them like fertiliser for the skin.”
The skin benefits of good bacteria
Well known for their ability to support healthy gut function, probiotics and prebiotics are increasingly being added to skincare. “Pre- and probiotics help balance the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria,” says Bacon. “This strengthens skin and helps keep it free of issues such as acne and inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis, dermatitis and rosacea.”
The balancing act
In this age of excessive sanitising, too-diligent skin cleansing can upset our finely tuned microbiome. “Our microbiome naturally likes a pH that is slightly more acidic,” says Bacon. To keep things in check, “avoid over-cleaning and exfoliating. Also look for a cleanser that is pH neutral and won’t strip the skin barrier.”
On the inside
To look after our skin, we also need to look within. “Inflammation is linked to many skin problems, such as rosacea, eczema and acne,” says Carla Oates, founder of The Beauty Chef. “By looking after our gut health, we are helping to prevent inflammation, which is one of the major culprits of ageing.” Her suggestion is to rebalance the gut by removing irritants such as dairy and gluten (for at least a few weeks), then work in good bacteria. “Your skin will look brighter and clearer,” says Oates.
This article originally appeared in the December 2019 issue of marie claire.