Skin Bacteria: The Good, The Bad and The Balance


There has long been a connection between gut bacteria and overall wellbeing, with the consumption of oral probiotics becoming a popular method to promote health and balance the gut bacteria. But now, research is showing the significance of bacteria on the skin’s surface and its effect on our overall skin health.

Skin Bacteria Explained

Clinical data supports the positive impact of cosmeceutical prebiotic and probiotic products in controlling and defending the skins health and balance. Naturally, cosmetic chemists like myself can see this translation to topical skincare. Up to one billion bacteria inhabit every square centimetre of our skin. There is a huge diversity in distinct species of bacteria, both harmful and beneficial. Traditionally it was recommended to destroy all the so called ’bad’ bacteria on the skin. However, scientists now realise that our skin needs a certain amount of these bad guys to help our immune system work efficiently.

The trick is to maintain diversity and to strike the balance with beneficial bacteria dominating the bad. External factors such as antibiotics, pollution, poor nutrition, antibacterial gels, harsh preservatives, and excessive hygiene can disrupt this important balance. When these bad guys take over, the protective barrier of the skin is compromised. This leads to a host of inflammation and skin conditions such as excessive dryness, premature lines, sensitivity, rosacea, acne eczema, psoriasis and allergy.

The Skincare Solution

New research is delivering promising results for treating all skin with topical prebiotics and probiotics to ensure the skin microbiome is balanced. The ideal skincare formulations contain a combination of probiotics with prebiotics.

  • Probiotics have been shown to stimulate the immunity of the skin and protect it from irritation and stress. An in vivo study of 20 volunteers showed that skin treated with probiotic lysates showed a reduction in stinging, water loss and barrier dysfunction.
  • Prebiotics provide the 'food' for the good bacteria living on your skin. It provides a nutritional source for the good bacteria, whilst inhibiting overgrowth of the harmful bacteria.

I like to use the garden metaphor: Probiotic bacteria are the seeds that grow and flourish on the skin and the prebiotic is the fertiliser providing the food to enable the garden to grow whilst inhibiting the weeds.

Brain Health

Research now shows that our skin produces and metabolises hormones and peptides that influence other elements of the human body. A 2017 study shows that body systems such us our brain chemistry and emotions can in fact be impacted by our skins health. Just like the gut flora, the impact of skin bacteria is more than skin deep, so let's keep those little guys on your face healthy and in balance! Studies clearly demonstrate that topical prebiotic nutrition combined with probiotic lysates do provide measurable skin benefits.

Maintaining the balanced skin microbiome is crucial for skin health and it is clear every skin type will benefit from reducing inflammation and improving barrier function. Prebiotic/Probiotic combination products should be an essential addition to all skin regimens. Take a look at Synergie Skin’s Dermiotic – my formulation of this prebiotic/probiotic complex.

Not sure what products are suitable for your skin type? Head to our Analyse Your Skin quiz to find your routine – your skin confidence begins here.

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