Did you know that your skin microbiome starts to develop from the moment of birth. Microorganisms colonise skin, getting picked up as the baby moves through the birth canal. The skin microbiome of C-section babies is most similar to the microflora of their mother’s stomach skin.
The microbiome is relatively stable but is built from two microbial/fungi/virus communities: resident and transient flora.
Resident flora is like a fingerprint, unique but similar to fingerprints of family members. This is the microbiome you have from birth. It can be changed, but most of the changes are temporary.
Transient flora are “tourists” entering the skin microbiome when the opportunity comes.
For example, a skin microbiome can change after 20-30 minutes swimming in the ocean because the ocean’s bacteria adheres to the skin. It changes back to “normal” in a few hours but with daily swimming the microbiome can change and ocean bacteria can switch from transient to resident.
This microbiome change can also happen when contacting animals, especially farming animals and dogs. This kind of exchange is especially beneficial for children and elderly people, helping them to avoid atopic skin conditions.
Fun fact: A cat’s microbiome rarely changes the microbiome of its master’s skin.
THE MICROBIOME CAN BE CHANGED
While the microbiome can be changed for the positive, it’s also challenged by many factors causing disruption. Common causes that disrupt the skin microbiome are:
Changes in temperature, both hot and cold, can change the skin barrier structure. Creating a new environment for skin microflora. Some microorganisms can adapt better than others.
UV is known to be disinfecting and regular exposure to sun rays makes the skin microbiome less diverse.
Regular contact with chemical disinfectants can lead to the development of skin dryness and irritation because of changes in microbiome and dissolvement of skin lipids.
Diet is an important factor too because of the gut-skin microbiome axis – the constant interaction between the microbiome of the gut with the microbiome of the skin.
SKINCARE AND HYGIENE PRODUCTS
Hygiene products and skincare play a crucial role in potential disruptors of our skin microbiome. Multiple and repetitive applications of products on the skin surface can create new environmental conditions for all microflora of the skin.
Some products can help to maintain a healthy microbiome, others can change it.
You should be very careful using products with the potential to change pH. The pH of our skin is one of the main factors of the skin microbiome’s stability. Soaps and AHA-based skin care are best known in this category. AHA’s can acidify skin while the use of soaps can lead to alkalinisation.