Skin Microbiome 101


Get to know the tiny residents on your skin and how to achieve a healthy skin microbiome.

The Secret City: Your Skin's Microbiome, Explained

Imagine a vibrant community teeming with trillions of tiny residents, collaborating and influencing your health in incredible ways. This isn't science fiction, it's the reality of your skin's microbiome; a complex ecosystem of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that play a crucial role in your overall well-being. Similar to those in our gut, your skin microbiome performs a myriad of vital functions such as breaking down nutrients, protecting against pathogens, and training the immune system. At Synergie Skin, we're passionate about demystifying this fascinating field of skin science and empowering you to nurture your microbiome for optimal skin health.

What is skin microbiome?

Just like cities have diverse populations, your skin harbors a vast array of microorganisms, collectively known as the microbiome. The skin microbiome refers to this vast and diverse community of microorganisms that reside on our skin's surface. In fact, these microbes outnumber our own skin cells by 10 to 1! The makeup of your skin microbiome varies across your entire body. Some specific microorganisms may be found in moist areas, like your arm pits or feet, whilst others thrive in dry (the arms) or more oily regions (the face).

Why is the skin microbiome important?

While some microbes are simply "residents", others play essential roles in maintaining skin health by collaborating with your immune system and contributing to vital skin functions like:

  1. Barrier support: They help strengthen your skin's natural outer barrier, protecting you from harmful pathogens and environmental aggressor, and reducing the amount of precious water that may be lost from the skin if the barrier is compromised. The microbiome helps strengthen the skin barrier by producing antimicrobial compounds and competing with harmful bacteria for space and resources. 
  2. Skin immunity regulation: Microbes interact with our skin's immune system, training it to differentiate between the harmless residents and harmful microbe invaders, preventing possible infection and excessive inflammation.
  3. Wound healing: Certain microbes can even promote wound healing by reducing inflammation and supporting tissue regeneration.

Close up on Skin

How do skin bacteria and the probiotics they produce contribute to skin health?

The beneficial microbes on our skin make beneficial substances called postbiotics which help to make the skin healthy. Postbiotics are a relatively recent discovery in skincare but there is so much new and exciting research in this field. In fact, the probiotics created by the bacteria are more important for skin health than the bacteria themselves. Examples of postbiotics are:

  • Short chain fatty acids which reduce inflammation, optimise the skin's pH, promote wound healing and discourage the 'bad' skin bacteria from flourishing
  • Bacterial enzymes which can act as antioxidants and may also break down waste products on the skin
  • Antimicrobial peptides to protect the skin from infection by harmful bacteria.
  • Polysaccharides to improve hydration, feed beneficial bacteria and reduce inflammation.
  • Vitamins offering diverse skin benefits

Biosurfactants to help suppress pathogenic bacteria and improve diversity of the microbiome

What is the bacteria colonisation of the skin?

It is important to note that the skin microbiome is a variable ecology, which means that your skin may house different microbiota species at any given time depending on all kinds of factors – such as humidity, temperature, urbanisation, pH, composition of antimicrobial peptides and lipids and the skin health of the host. In addition, skin structures such as hair follicles and sebaceous, eccrine, and apocrine glands all constitute discrete niches that harbor unique communities of microbiota. The composition of the skin microbiome may also vary depending on body location, age, genetics, ethnicity, and lifestyle factors. However, there are a handful of common baseline microbial patterns that fall under the core term known as ‘skin colonisation’. Common examples of species include (but are not limited to): 

  • Staphylococcus epidermidis: This dominant resident typically provides beneficial effects.
  • Cutibacterium acnes: Plays a role in acne development but also contributes to immune function.
  • Corynebacterium: Found in various body areas, some species can contribute to body odour.
  • Streptococcus and Pseudomonas: These are potentially harmful bacteria that can cause infections under certain conditions.

What is the skin barrier and why does barrier function matter?

The skin is the largest organ of the human body in terms of weight and surface area. Beneficial bacterial colonies serve as a physical protective layer on the outermost layer of the skin to prevent the invasion of pathogens. The core components of the barrier can be broken down into three major elements:

  1. Physical Barrier: The skin microbiota enhances the integrity of the outermost skin layer, the stratum corneum, where corneocytes form a protective layer, crucial for barrier function. This living shield is instrumental in defending against external aggressors and are synergistically supported by the microbial influence on skin.
  2. Chemical Barrier: Microbial by-products (postbiotics) contribute to the skin's acidic environment, creating a chemical barrier that deters pathogenic colonisation. Enzymes from bacteria like C. acnes break down lipids, releasing free fatty acids that bolster this defence mechanism, showcasing the microbiota's role in maintaining Ph balance and skin health.
  3. Innate and Adaptive Immune Barriers: The skin's microbiota engages in a dynamic interplay with the host's immune system, stimulating responses that range from the production of antimicrobial peptides to the recruitment of skin defending immune cells. This interaction ensures a robust defence against infection and facilitates effective wound healing, highlighting the critical balance between microbial residents and immune surveillance for optimal skin health.

In circumstances where the barrier is broken or when the balance between beneficial bacteria and pathogens is disturbed, skin disease or even systemic disease can occur. These tightly packed skin cells and lipids that make up the barrier therefore act as a crucial shield, protecting us from: 

  • Pathogens: Bacteria, viruses, and fungi that can cause infections.
  • Environmental toxins: Pollutants, allergens, and harsh chemicals that can irritate the skin.
  • Water loss: The barrier prevents excessive water loss, keeping our skin hydrated and supple.

Maintaining a healthy skin barrier is essential for overall skin health and well-being. By understanding the importance of the skin microbiome and its role in barrier function, we can make informed choices to protect our skin and prevent long-term inflammation and skin damage.

Healthy Skin Barrier Vs Damaged Skin Barrier Diagram

What happens when you disrupt your skin barrier?

Damaging the skin barrier disrupts the delicate balance of the microbiome, leading to:

  • Increased growth of harmful bacteria: This can trigger inflammatory responses and contribute to skin conditions like acne, eczema, and rosacea.
  • Loss of beneficial bacteria: The good microbes that protect our skin and maintain its health can be depleted, leaving us vulnerable to barrier disruption and susceptibility to infections.
  • Reduced moisture retention: This leads to dry, flaky skin and potentially worsens vulnerability and existing skin conditions.
  • Increased sensitivity: A compromised barrier makes the skin more susceptible to irritation from external factors like harsh chemicals, personal care products and allergens.
  • Increased elastin and collagen breakdown: The skin loses its elasticity and firmness, contributing to wrinkles and sagging.
  • Hyperpigmentation: Uneven melanin production can occur, leading to dark spots and uneven skin tone.
  • Reduced antioxidant defences: The skin becomes more susceptible to free radical damage, accelerating inflammation and the visible signs of aging.

Long-term effects of a broken skin barrier:

A compromised skin barrier, often caused by harsh chemicals, excessive washing, or skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, can lead to chronic skin inflammation and several long-term consequences:

  • Increased susceptibility to infections: Pathogenic bacteria can more easily penetrate the weakened barrier, increasing the risk of infections.
  • Chronic inflammation: Disruption of the microbiome can trigger long term inflammatory responses, potentially contributing to skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
  • Dehydration and dryness: A damaged barrier loses its ability to retain moisture, leading to dry, flaky vulnerable skin.
  • Accelerated aging: Loss of barrier function can expose skin to environmental damage, accelerating the signs of aging like wrinkles, loss of elasticity and hyperpigmentation.

How to balance my skin microbiome?

The role of prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics is essential in supporting the skin microbiome on multiple levels:

→ Nourish beneficial bacteria

Prebiotics like inulin serve as "food" for good bacteria, promoting their growth and activity. This enables the beneficial to outnumber the bad.

→ Introduce beneficial live bacteria

Probiotics specifically target certain bacterial strains associated with healthy skin, potentially reinforcing the microbiome's balance is often added to skin care products. However, in most cases, the bacteria will be destroyed by the much needed preservative in the product and will be rendered inactive

→ Deliver beneficial bacterial byproducts

Postbiotics offer the advantages of probiotics without containing live bacteria. They provide the most effective skin-soothing and barrier-strengthening effects. Using postbiotics overcomes the problem of adding live bacteria to products which will be deactivated by the preservative. I believe that the best formulas are a combination of prebiotics and postbiotics only.

How to balance your skin microbiome - model holding product

Common Question about the Skin Microbiomes

1. Is my skin microbiome unique?

Yes, just like fingerprints, your skin microbiome is as unique as you are. Factors like genetics, environment, diet, and lifestyle all influence its composition. However, there are common characteristics of individuals with a healthy microbiome. This includes a high diversity of microbial species, a dominance of beneficial bacteria, a balance of fungi, a balanced pH level and barrier resilience.

2. Can I damage my skin microbiome? 

Unfortunately, yes. Harsh chemicals, excessive washing, certain medications and antibiotics, poor nutrition, underlying skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis and even stress can disrupt the delicate balance of your skin microbiome.

3. How can I maintain a healthy skin microbiome?

Here are some key strategies:

  • Gentle cleansing: Choose gentle, Ph balanced non-stripping cleansers that leave your skin's natural oils intact. Try to avoid SLS and other sulphates in cleansing products.
  • Moisturise regularly: Use a moisturiser suitable for your skin type to lock in moisture, maintain optimal hydration and create a healthy environment for your microbiome.
  • Embrace prebiotics and postbiotics: Consider incorporating products containing prebiotics (food for good bacteria) and postbiotics (the beneficial molecules created by good  bacteria) to support your microbiome's balance. Avoid probiotics skincare (containing live bacteria) as they will be destroyed by the preservative.
  • Minimise stress: Stress can negatively impact your gut microbiome, which is also linked to your skin microbiome. Practicing relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga can help.
  • Eat a balanced diet: Nourish your gut and indirectly support your skin microbiome by consuming a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, prebiotic fiber and fermented foods.
  • Explore Our Microbiome-Loving Products: At Synergie Skin, we formulate our products with your skin's microbiome in mind. Discover our range of prebiotic and postbiotic-infused solutions like Dermiotic Pre Serum Elixir, designed to nourish and support a healthy skin microbiome for visibly radiant results.

Unleash the Power of Your Skin Microbiome

We hope this article has helped you on your journey to understanding and nurturing your skin's microbiome. By incorporating the above tips and exploring our microbiome-friendly products, you can empower your tiny residents to build the foundations for healthy, resilient skin.

Ready to delve deeper? Explore our other blogs covering specific aspects of the skin microbiome:

Restore Your Skin Microbiome

The Role of Prebiotics, Probiotics, Postbiotics in Skincare: 

How to Strengthen Your Skin Barrier

Skin Bacteria: The Good, The Bad, The Balance

Together, let's unlock the full potential of healthy, radiant skin! 

[Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Always consult a healthcare professional for personalised recommendations regarding your skin health.]