As a clinician who specializes in gut health, I talk a lot about our gut microbiome, and how to support it through nutrition, lifestyle, herbs, and even supplementation.
But did you know, that we have many microbiomes, all over our bodies? One of them being on our skin.
Our skin is covered by a biome of bacteria, viruses and even fungi. Some of which include members of the Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes phyla (which are also found in our gut microbiome!), and Staphylococcus epidermidis.
What’s interesting about our skin’s microbiome, is that its composition changes depending on where the skin is located on the body, as well as our age and life stage.
In this article, we’re going to dive deeper into the skin microbiome: why it’s important, and what you can do to support yours.
Why is the skin microbiome important?
Our skin microbiome plays many roles in our overall health and wellbeing. While there are a lot of areas that science has yet to investigate, with regards to just how many roles our skin microbiome has, but let’s explore some of them.
Our skin is the largest organ of the body — protecting our inner world from exterior elements, pathogens, anything that can disrupt our inner homeostasis.
Our skin’s microbiome specifically, may play important roles in immune function (especially our skin’s immunity), in inflammation, protection against pathogens (by influencing pH levels, and “crowding out” pathogenic species, much like in our intestinal microbiome), and in wound healing.
The microbial balance on our skin may also play a role in the manifestation of different pathologies, such as rosacea, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and acne.
How to support a healthy skin microbiome
1. Support your Gut Health
There is something called the gut-skin axis; an interconnectedness between the intestinal and the skin microbiome. If the gut’s microbiome is compromised (if there is an imbalance in the commensal-to-opportunistic species ratio), if there is an overgrowth, or a deficiency in beneficial flora, there’s potential for that imbalance to be reflected in the skin’s microbiome, too. Whether you present with more ‘obvious’ digestive issues (such as bloating, IBS, gas, acid reflux, etc.), or you’re currently experiencing issues with your skin — it’s definitely worth digging deeper into your digestive health. Support good gut health by eating a variety of plant foods (aim to “eat the rainbow” on a daily or weekly basis), ensure you’re having a bowel movement daily by eating enough fiber, drinking enough water, and moving your body.
2. Be mindful of your skin-care products
Using alkalizing soaps and abrasive products can impact the pH levels of our skin, which can ultimately impact the microbial balance. When it comes to washing your body, a good rule of thumb to support a healthy skin microbiome is to only use soap on “bits and pits,” meaning your armpits and groin, where bacterial populations can lead to body odor.
Another thing that’s important to keep in mind as it relates to product, is the over-use of antimicrobial products (hand-sanitizers, soaps, etc). While there is a time and place when leaning on these products are important, over-use of these can impact the populations of our skin’s biome (much like antibiotics can impact the composition of our gut microbiome!).
When it comes to your facial skincare, it’s important to find what works for you, but ideally use products without ingredients like sulfates and parabens that can impact the skin’s pH and microbiome.
3. Incorporate anti-inflammatory foods, and reduce or remove pro-inflammatory foods and triggers
Many skin pathologies are influenced by inflammation in the body. By incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods (think omega 3 fatty acids from fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, turmeric, leafy greens, and deeply coloured fruits and veggies), and being mindful of pro-inflammatory foods (things like gluten, highly refined flours and sugars, processed seed oils, and dairy) can help keep skin conditions at bay.
4. Prioritize nutrition for skin health
Ensuring that you’re staying well hydrated, eating enough omega 3 fatty acids, and getting key skin-loving nutrients like vitamin E, A, C, B’s is important for the health and integrity of your skin.
Get your omega’s from: walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, salmon, mackerel, halibut, anchovies, sardines, algae oils
Get your vitamin E from: sunflower seeds, almonds, beet greens, pumpkin, red bell pepper
Get your vitamin A from: offal, carrots, sweet potato, spinach
Get your vitamin C from: citrus, bell pepper, broccoli, spinach, acerola cherry, kiwi, strawberry
Get your vitamin B’s from: organic animal meats, offal, bee pollen, nutritional yeast, eggs, shellfish, salmon, anchovies, sardines, dark leafy greens
If you’re currently struggling with your skin health, whether it be acne, psoriasis, perioral dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, or rosacea, and you’d like to explore your gut health further, then definitely check out my Gut Reset Program and Gut Rehab Intensive.