Why a GOOD skincare routine need not be complicated
Have you had enough of hearing how the latest skincare fad is the only thing that will rescue your skin?
What if we told you that, to be at its best, your skin needs trillions of microbes from thousands of species? In the same way that your gut needs good microbes, your skin depends on its microbial partners to stay healthy. Often products that don’t consider the skin microbiome do more harm than good. So, less can really be more. If your moisturiser is not pH balanced, you’re wasting your hard-earned money. If your cleanser leaves your skin feeling squeaky clean, you’re stripping it of valuable natural oils. If your eye cream is loaded with bacteria-busting preservatives, you’re disrupting your skin microbiome and opening yourself up for all sorts of trouble. Here’s what healthy resident microbes do for you: 1 – they protect you from pathogenic bacteria by colonising all the available space on the surface of your skin, leaving no room for troublemakers (this is called competitive exclusion). 2 – many good species of microbes found on skin produce anti-microbial peptides which actively fight off pathogens and strengthen skin defences. 3 – Lactobacillus microbes produce lactic acid, which keeps the pH of your skin right and improves moisturisation. 4 – they maintain the little stitch-like structures that hold your skin cells together (called tight junctions) which physically keep the bad guys out, and moisture in. 5 – some produce hyaluronic acid right on your skin – that’s pretty amazing, given what lengths some of us will go to to get it into our skincare routines. It might sound as though keeping all of this together might require a load of expensive products, but in reality, it’s often the layers of skin potions and lotions that are responsible for modern skin concerns in the first place – acne, rosacea, eczema and sensitivity are all rooted in an imbalanced skin microbiome. Something has compromised the balance, allowing the wrong sorts of microbes to set up shop and run your skin into a state of chaos. So, what can you do to restore balance to maintain a healthy state? Firstly, we need to identify what threatens a balanced microbiome:
- Preservatives – are designed to kill microbes. You don’t want to slap on harshly preserved products. The same philosophy applies to preservatives in processed food – they damage your gut microbiome.
- pH – products that are not properly pH balanced set the scene for rogue microbes to flourish. Beneficial skin microbes thrive at a pH of around 5 and easily overcome invader species when this pH is maintained.
- Foam dissolves oil. The oil your skin produces is valuable but (as recent research reveals) it is also high-energy food for friendly microbes. This oil (sebum) is metabolically expensive for your body to make, so in effect, it is you paying some pretty high-end staff to do a very important job for you. It makes very little sense to wash it down the drain.
- Hot water – this might be one of the toughest realities to accept, but hot baths and showers hurt the microbes on your skin. When our ancestors roamed the earth, living as one with nature, a hot bath was very hard to come by and so most of the skin microbes we have formed partnerships with cannot tolerate this modern-day luxury.
- Antibiotics are all too often prescribed for minor ailments but should be reserved for life threatening cases only. Antibiotics kill bacterial microbes indiscriminately. This leaves you vulnerable to secondary infection, with no natural defences in place to ward off future pathogen attacks.
- Municipal water – due to the risk of waterborne disease in urban areas, the vast majority of us have no option but to use and consume treated water. It may be hard to avoid, but be aware that this could affect the skin’s microbiome
- C-section deliveries can put babies on the back foot from birth. Our bodies are cleverly designed to deliver all the good microbes a new-born needs on its journey through the birth canal. Their skins are seeded with the right balance of microbes and they swallow their first microbes in the same journey, seeding their guts in the process. Breast feeding also helps with gut health as it’s now evident that breast milk contains prebiotics to feed an infant’s microbiome, as well as probiotics to seed the right species.