How to nurture the skin's microbiome

Gut health has been a key focus of the wellness industry for some time, and while experts advise that supporting the gut flora through nutrition can lead to happier, healthier skin, there’s work to be done on the skin’s own microbiome, too. 

Right now, it’s an important research area for pro skincare brands such as Exuviance, Espa and Murad, all of which have either recently released products to work specifically with the microbiome, or have lines planned for the near future. We asked the brands’ R&D insiders to break down the subject. 

What exactly is the skin microbiome?

“When we talk about the skin microbiome, we mean the invisible communities of microbes that make up our skin’s outer layer and act as a protective shield,” explains Barbara Brockway, a doctor of biochemistry who is working with Espa on its upcoming Tri-Active Advanced ProBiome range, due to launch in early 2019. 

What relationship does it have with healthy skin?

“Healthy skin has a balanced, diverse community of microbes. The term ‘dysbiosis’ is used when the skin microbiome becomes out of balance and impaired; when one or a few microbe species dominate, the skin becomes compromised,” says Brockway. “If the dominant species are harmful then we start to see the symptoms of skin concerns, such as acne.” For these reasons, probiotic ingredients are increasingly appearing in skincare launches, says Marisa Dufort, director of product development and ingredient innovation at Neostrata Companies, the parent company of cosmeceutical brand Exuviance. 

“Topical probiotic products are a growing trend, with ingredients that help to strengthen the skin’s barrier and maintain optimal surface hydration such as polyhydroxy acids, which are complementary to probiotic extracts.” 

Murad’s kombucha collagen defence formula uses one such extract, derived from nutrient-rich black tea ferment. Brand founder Dr Howard Murad says: “Probiotics have long been known to help digestion, stimulate the memory and even soothe migraines when taken orally, but when applied topically, they have wonderful anti-ageing benefits.” 

What is the current research focus? 

“Thanks to new DNA-based methods for seeing the microbiome, there is an explosion of scientific interest, especially in relation to allergies and inflammation,” says Brockway. “The current thinking is moving more towards nurturing the skin’s microbiome and helping to maintain its biodiversity.” 

Dufort adds that while research into the benefits of topical ingredients is still in its infancy, studies have already shown that “maintaining a balanced microbiome can help contribute to more vibrant, resilient and healthier looking skin.” She adds: “With the resurgence in popularity [of probiotics], there is a greater understanding of their benefit to one’s overall health.”

Professional Beauty North is returning to Manchester Central on October 21–22 and there will be lots of skincare and aesthetic topics discussed in our seminar programme. You can check out the full education programme here and register for your free ticket to PB North here.