Stayin’ Alive: Protecting the Skin’s Microbiome!

Stayin’ Alive: Protecting the Skin’s Microbiome!

Posted by Wilma Schumann on May 9th 2019

A May 2019 article printed in DERMASCOPE Magazine, Leading Professional Skin Care Publication.

There is a veritable Armageddon-like battle going on right now – a real life and death struggle between good and evil. This battle is not happening thousands of miles away, but is actually happening all around and, especially, inside of each person. This battle, of course, is the life and death microbiological battle between different bacteria strains, viruses, and fungi going on right now, on our skin and inside each body.

For years, individuals have been told to wash and scrub to kill those pesky bacteria. Industries have developed infinite amounts of disinfectants, antibacterial soaps, and other chemicals to rid the unwelcome invaders. Some of these cleansing products are natural, but some are just toxic.

Now, science is suggesting to slow down on the onslaught and be more selective when it comes to the indiscriminate bacterial purge. The big news is that not all bacteria are actually bad. In fact, many strains of bacteria and other microorganisms are indispensable in the healthy functioning of the body.

The National Institute of Health is working on a major project that intends to create a microbiological road map of several organs in the body, including the skin. The project, called the Human Microbiome Project, uses new technology that allows researchers to sample large amounts of genetic material, making it possible to identify the organisms present in these tissues. If they succeed, this project has the potential to transform medicine. This road map can help doctors determine what life forms are beneficial and belong on that tissue and which organisms are harmful.

Dr. Martin J. Blaser from New York University is directing a study on the microbiome of 75 people suffering from psoriasis. The results of his study may shine the light on new, more natural and biologically-based treatments for this disease. Other studies show the link between the health of the gastrointestinal tract and the health of the skin and other organs. The more an individual’s diet relies on plants, fruits, and fermented foods, the more diverse their intestinal flora is. The more diverse our intestinal flora, the better it is for the entire body, and the better individuals look and feel.

Enter probiotics. Probiotics are microorganisms (bacteria and yeast) that help promote healthy micro life in and on the body. Common probiotics foods include yogurt, sauerkraut, and even kimchi. There are other, less familiar, foods loaded with probiotics such as miso, kombucha (fermented black or green tea), kefir (drink similar to yogurt), and tempeh (Indonesian soy product). Research on the benefits of these products and ingredients is on the rise. “Breathtaking science is emerging showing how the gut, brain, and skin are connected with microbiome, which support our health and share a mutually beneficial relationship with our bodies” says dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe, author of “The Beauty of Dirty Skin.”

The benefits of probiotics are not limited to the foods individuals ingest. Growing research is showing how topical probiotics applied on the skin act as a shield that may help protect against inflammation and infection-causing microbes. These topical probiotics produce antimicrobial peptides that have an antibiotic-like effect on the skin, helping good bacteria overcome harmful ones. Other reported benefits of topical probiotics include soothed inflammation, protection against oxidative damage, increased hydration, and ceramide production. When it comes to the professional skin care industry, few breakthroughs in recent history have shown more promise than the study of the life that exists on the skin.

The challenge to skin care formulators remains in providing probiotic benefits in a stable and durable formula. Currently, lactobacillus ferment lysate (a distillate secretion of the lactobacillus bacteria) is one of the leading ingredients and offers many of the benefits of live probiotic within a stable formula. Combining this ingredient with prebiotic ingredients (essentially food for the good bacteria) increases the effectiveness of the formula. Some formulations from reputable manufacturers offer incredible results in shelf stable formulations. However, not all probiotic topical products are the same, so do your research! New developments and encapsulation technologies will continue to improve the effectiveness of these ingredients.

For best results on a healthy microbiome all over the body, a balanced approach is recommended. Step one is always a healthy diet. More fiber foods and vegetables are key, as well as some of the probiotic-rich ingredients and foods mentioned in this article. Varity matters, so individuals must make sure to mix it up. Next, probiotic supplementation can be added. And, finally, the great news, the microbiome on skin can be aided through the right topical products to give it the arsenal it needs to win the fight to stay alive.


1 Brody, Jane E. “Unlocking the Secrets of the Microbiome.” The New York Times. Nov 2017.

2 Shatzman, Celia. “Why Probiotic Beauty Products are Great for your Skin.” Forbes Magazine.

Jan 2018.

3 Bowe, Whitney. “The Beauty of Dirty Skin.” Little, Brown and Company. Apr 2018.

Stay healthy!