The skin microbiome is made up of millions of microorganisms that live in harmony on your skin. Typically, a person has around 1,000 different species of bacteria on their skin. Though it might seem counterintuitive, this bacterial diversity is crucial to maintaining your skin’s health. A healthy microbiome helps protect your skin from all kinds of environmental stressors and pathogens as well as prevent water loss from the skin.
Your microbiome can become disrupted due to over-exfoliation, over-cleansing and using harsh antibacterial soaps, the use of harsh chemicals or too many potent products in your skincare routine. It can also become disrupted due to stress, hormones, and UV exposure.
When the microbiome becomes unbalanced and this protective barrier is compromised, it can make skin more vulnerable to a variety of issues. In other words, your skin kind of freaks out, sending you SOS signals in the form of anything from breakouts, inflammation, flakiness, or fine lines. Here are a few common signs that your microbiome is disrupted and what you can do about it.
Most people get a breakout and try everything they can to get rid of it—throwing harsh chemicals, aggressive cleansers and scrubs, and astringents at their skin. But this can actually make things worse, disrupting the delicate barrier in place to protect the skin from breakout-causing bacteria.
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An unbalanced microbiome can also be the cause of redness and irritation, what we refer to as sensitized skin. When your microbiome becomes unbalanced, your skin barrier loses the ability to effectively defend against external aggressors and harmful pathogens that can cause your skin to freak out.
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Premature aging can be another result of skin that’s been exposed to external stressors due to a weakened skin barrier. What’s more, our skin microbiome naturally becomes less balanced with age, meaning it’s especially important to support its healthy functioning.
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A weakened skin barrier is not only less able to defend against bad bacteria coming in, but also less able to keep essential hydration from escaping. That combination can lead to dry and flaky skin that’s lost its natural glow.
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When your skin feels like it’s freaking out, the best way to bring it back to equilibrium is by taking care of the microbiome. Introducing skincare containing prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics can be key in helping to support that delicate microbiome balance.
You might already be familiar with probiotics, the “good” bacteria that contributes to a healthy microflora. These can be found in foods like yogurt, kombucha, and kimchi. But have you heard of prebiotics and postbiotics?
Prebiotics are ingredients that provide your microbiome with the fuel it needs to continue functioning at its best to protect your skin. They can be found in foods like garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, barley, and oats, as well as some skincare products.
Postbiotics are the key skin-supporting outputs of good bacteria. They’re the byproducts that probiotic bacteria produce when they consume prebiotic fuel. By introducing your skin to ingredients that provide postbiotic effects, you cut to the chase, providing your microbiome with all the benefits of probiotics from the get-go. Plus, since they are not live bacterial organisms like probiotics, postbiotics offer a much more stable alternative for skincare formulations.
When added to your skincare routine, postbiotic ingredients have been shown to communicate with the skin’s receptors to improve skin regeneration and support the skin's immune system to keep the skin microbiome functioning at its best. This means improving hydration levels, calming inflammation, supporting the skin’s immune system, and protecting the skin from irritants and pollutants that can cause issues like acne and premature aging.
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