Your skin is the largest organ in your entire body. And like any of your other major organs, keeping your skin healthy is vital to keeping you healthy.
Take it from someone who knows— I used to struggle with skin issues for years, and my confidence suffered as a result. The emphasis on having flawless skin can be absolutely overwhelming, especially nowadays with social media, and constantly seeing ads for the ”best” skincare products and makeup.
Beauties, I think we all know how important proper skin care is to looking your best. Keeping your skin healthy, hydrated and protected from the elements is important, but would you believe me if I told you that there’s more to your skin health than that?
It’s true! A major factor in your skin’s health and your overall health is your skin microbiome. It’s the trillions of microbes that are living all over your skin, at all times! These microbes are incredibly beneficial and vital to our health.
Similar to your gut or vaginal microbiome, if your skin microbiome is disrupted and out of balance it can have a devastating impact. Unfortunately, modern lifestyle habits are affecting our skin’s microbiome. Showering or bathing in chlorinated water, using antibacterial soaps, maintaining enhanced sanitized environments, and applying skincare and cosmetic products formulated with numerous chemicals, are all damaging to the delicate balance of bacteria needed for your skin’s health.
An imbalanced microbiome can lead to acne and accelerated skin aging. It’s also associated with skin disease and serious skin and health conditions such as: rosacea, eczema, psoriasis, dandruff, yeast and fungal infections, poor wound healing and allergies. Worse, quite often the “remedies” for these conditions are antibiotics, or skincare products that further disrupt a healthy balance of microbes both inside and out.
Your skin’s microbiome is another system that your body relies on to help keep you healthy. In fact, the microbes don’t just live on the skin’s surface, they’re also found in the subcutaneous fat layer, which is where your immune system communicates with your microbiome. The skin’s immune system helps reduce inflammation and even helps protect you from UV skin damage.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to accidentally sabotage your skin microbiome through improper care. The good news, just like the rest of your body, there are simple, holistic and effective ways to help your skin look it’s best, and simultaneously promote good overall health.
What is the Skin Microbiome?
Your skin microbiome, also known as skin microbiota or skin flora, is a living, thriving ecosystem of bacteria that exists on your skin to protect you and keep you healthy. Before you freak out about the word bacteria, don’t worry! The majority of bacteria that make up this microbial community are harmless, and even beneficial to your health.
A healthy skin microbiome is composed of lots of different species of bacteria, which work together to protect you against pathogens that can make you sick or affect your skin. For example, the bacteria Staphylococcus epidermidis, a common strain found on human skin, may serve a probiotic function on your skin by preventing the colonization of harmful bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus. 
Your skin microbiome is unique to you. The types of bacteria that live on your skin can depend on a few factors, including:
- Environmental factors, like climate and hygiene
- Density of hair follicles, sebaceous glands, or sweat glands on your skin 
While you may not want a lot of “bad” bacteria on your skin, they’re actually important too.
You want to have a balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria on your skin to create an ideal synergy. This special balance of bacteria helps keep your skin looking and feeling healthy. It’s when bad bacteria outnumber the good bacteria on your skin, that problems can begin.
Why is the Skin Microbiome Important?
As I mentioned earlier, your skin microbiome exists to protect your skin and keep it healthy. Similar to your gut microbiome— more on that soon— your skin microbiome helps keep your immune system working properly, forming a barrier against skin diseases, protecting against chronic wounds and maintaining your skin’s health. This skin barrier is made up of antimicrobial peptides, which help protect you from harmful bacteria. 
Your Skin Microbiome and Your Gut Health
The important roles of your skin and gut health cannot be overstated. Your skin and gut microbiomes are two separate, but important components of the complete human microbiome. Like your skin microbiome and its role in your health, your gut microbiome exists to perform vital functions including digestion, producing vitamins, and supporting your immune system.
Not only can they protect you against harmful bacteria, but healthy skin and gut microbiomes can also help reduce the appearance of skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis (eczema), psoriasis, acne, and rosacea. 
If you’re interested in learning more about how poor gut health can impact your skin, here are some tips to keep your gut microbiome healthy for more radiant skin!
Caring for Your Skin Microbiome – 6 Things You Can Do Today
We all know how important it is to take care of yourself. Your skin microbiome benefits from that same level of TLC too!
Here are six things you can do right now to create and maintain a healthy balance of bacteria on your skin.
1: Use the Right Skincare Products
Proper care is vital in maintaining healthy skin, and steps like cleansing and moisturizing protect you against skin inflammation, dry skin, and acne. Just like clogged pores, certain bacterium on our skin such as Cutibacterium acnes or Propionibacterium acnes, can commonly cause breakouts.
Your skin is actually an acidic environment, which is ideal for all the good bacteria. However, most soaps, cleansers and skin products are too alkaline. This means they can unfavorably alter the pH levels of your skin, making it more vulnerable to bad bacteria and pathogens.
While antibacterial products may be good for preventing illness, they don’t know the difference between good and bad bacteria, and will kill both! In fact, a lot of products claiming to be good for your skin can wreak havoc on your skin microbiome.
Many surfactants in skincare products, which are surface active agents that help trap dirt and oils, overly strip the skin of natural oils that help protect your skin. Without these oils, your skin can become more sensitive and susceptible to damage.
When it comes to selecting your skincare products, I believe that less truly is more. You shouldn’t need an extensive regimen to nourish and care for your skin. If you’re looking for natural, powerful and gentle products, I recommend the Solluna Feel Good Skincare System.
I worked very closely with our formulators, keeping your skin’s delicate pH balance and skin microbiome in mind when developing these products. Our plant-based skincare system nourishes and firms your skin while defying elements that can age it, all in an easy and minimal system that doesn’t destroy your skin’s microbiome.
2: Be Gentle with Your Skin!
Your skincare products aren’t the only things that can potentially damage your skin microbiome. Using harsh products with chemicals or even over washing and scrubbing your skin too hard can harm your stratum corneum, your outermost protective layer of skin. Doing so can strip it of any good bacteria living on it, and potentially cause irritation.
A gentle touch really is important when it comes to your skin. When you’re toweling off after a bath or shower, pat yourself dry rather than vigorously rubbing yourself down. If your skin is dry, don’t overwash, it’s okay to cleanse the skin only at night. Pay attention to how your skin feels!
3: Eat Well, Stay Hydrated, and Exercise
Remember how I said that your gut health and your skin health are connected? Your diet is just as important for your skin microbiota as it is for your gut microbiota.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet will benefit both microbiomes, and a plant-based diet rich in healthy fats, fiber and protein will help you feel beautiful inside and out. Cutting groups like dairy, refined sugar, gluten, or alcohol out of your diet can also work wonders for your skin.
Staying hydrated is vital to glowing skin as well— make sure you drink plenty of purified water and eat lots of organic fresh fruits and vegetables. They’ll help keep you hydrated and supply your body with the vital minerals and electrolytes your body and skin needs.
Sweating and Exercise
Exercising and working up a sweat will also feed your skin’s microbiome. In fact, sweat is a source of an antimicrobial peptide called dermcidin. This peptide acts like a natural antibiotic to protect your skin against infection.
Your sweat glands help with thermoregulation with the evaporation of water which also acidifies the skin. As I mentioned earlier, an acidic environment is ideal for beneficial bacteria.
Just remember, stay hydrated before, during and after exercise too! Dehydration can harm your skin microbiome and lead to dry, itchy, or inflamed skin.
4: Keep Your Stress Under Control
Under the right circumstances, stress can actually be a good thing. Good stress, or eustress, can be a motivating factor in helping you get things done. However, chronic negative stress puts us in a constantly threatened state, and when we’re stressed out we can feel it throughout our entire body, affecting how we sleep, how we eat, and how we look.
Skin conditions have been linked to the body’s gut-brain-skin axis. And studies have linked psychological stress to imbalances in skin microbiota.
While we can’t really remove all stress from our lives, there are steps we can take to keep it under control and help us feel more at peace.
- Remember to breathe. Deep, calming breaths help relieve stress and tension.
- Practice meditation. This can help you cope better with stress as well as clear your head of stressful thoughts.
- Move your body! Exercise can help you release stress and feel refreshed.
- Don’t obsess over what you can’t change. Panicking about stressors that you have no control over will only stress you out more— going with the flow won’t fix the issue, but it’ll make it easier to cope.
5: Focus On Your Sleep
A recent study revealed that 85% of Americans don’t get the recommended 7+ hours of sleep they need each night.  Yikes! It can be hard to always get your beauty sleep with a busy lifestyle, but it is so important to your skin and overall health to get the rest you need each night.
Poor sleep can imbalance your entire body, including your hormones and your appetite. And when your body’s systems are out of balance, that can leave you feeling sluggish, drained, and unprepared for life’s challenges.
Sleep is also connected to your gut microbiome. A healthy gut microbiome means healthy skin. If you’re suffering from conditions like rosacea or acne, it often leads back to gut imbalances that create skin damaging inflammation.
Creating a nighttime routine can be helpful in falling asleep faster and experiencing better, deeper sleep each night. Avoid consuming caffeine after 2:00 PM, and avoid alcoholic beverages three hours before bed.
Relaxation practices such as meditation or breathing exercises are also great ideas. These promote good sleep by helping you relax and clear your mind each night, preventing your stresses from the day from interrupting your rest. If you’re still struggling with sleep even after making positive changes, it’s possible that you may have a sleep disorder, and it’s important to get tested and treated swiftly. 
For more information about the importance of a good night’s sleep, check out my conversation with award-winning sleep expert Dr. Michael Breus.
6: Use the Right Probiotics
As mentioned earlier a healthy gut microbiome leads to healthy skin. Many problems in your gut can be caused by too few good bacteria and too many of the bad bacteria. It’s the same for your skin— If you want healthy skin, you have to have a healthy gut microbiome. One of the best ways to do that is by incorporating a probiotic supplement into your daily routine. But if you’re going to incorporate probiotics into your diet, then it’s important for you to choose the right ones.
I always recommend selecting soil-based probiotics, or SBOs. Soil-based probiotics are hardier than other probiotics and are more likely to make it to your lower digestive tract where they can do the most good. My SBO Probiotics are designed to closely mimic the probiotics found in nature, and include prebiotic fiber creating a powerful, effective mix of strains that will help you look and feel your best.
In addition to your SBO supplement, I highly recommend you eat probiotic-rich foods. This includes foods like raw sauerkraut, kombucha, natto, and even coconut yogurt. However, this does not replace a good probiotic supplement— probiotic-rich foods should complement your supplement, rather than be your only source of probiotics.
In the end, making positive changes to your lifestyle is just as important to a healthy skin microbiome as what products you use. We all live perfectly imperfect lives, but making small changes and sticking to them will do wonders for not only your body, but your confidence too.
Your skin is an eliminative organ, and when it’s overloaded with toxicity, it can really show! Maintaining a healthy skin microbiome doesn’t just require good skin care, it requires good self-care. Taking good care of your entire body will give you radiant, glowing skin and keep you feeling beautiful inside and out.
- Otto, Michael. Staphylococcus Epidermidis–the ‘Accidental’ Pathogen. Aug. 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2807625/.
- Grice, Elizabeth A., and Julia A. Segre. “The Skin Microbiome.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 16 Mar. 2011, www.nature.com/articles/nrmicro2537.
- Kim, Jung Eun, and Hei Sung Kim. “Microbiome of the Skin and Gut in Atopic Dermatitis (AD): Understanding the Pathophysiology and Finding Novel Management Strategies.” Journal of Clinical Medicine, MDPI, 2 Apr. 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6518061/.
- Ellis, Samantha R, et al. “The Skin and Gut Microbiome and Its Role in Common Dermatologic Conditions.” Microorganisms, MDPI, 11 Nov. 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6920876/.
- “AASM Sleep Prioritization Survey Adult Sleep Duration.” American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 2020, j2vjt3dnbra3ps7ll1clb4q2-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/sleep-prioritization-survey-2020-adult-sleep-duration-results-1.pdf.
- Breus, Michael. “What to Do When You Can’t Sleep.” The Sleep Doctor, 19 Mar. 2021, thesleepdoctor.com/2021/03/19/cant-sleep-what-to-do/.