Are Skin Microbiomes the Next Big Thing in Beauty? An Expert Weighs In
Ingestible collagen had its moment in 2018 and, if anything, helped us understand the role our diet plays in skin health. While the beauty industry is no stranger to fads, once we discovered how to take care of our skin from the inside out, we knew this particular movement was no fleeting trend. But it turns out that the microbiome (the ecosystem of bacteria in our gut) has a lot more to do with a glowy, clear complexion than we ever knew.
When it comes to microbiome health, Zach Bush, M.D., is as knowledgeable as they come. As one of the few triple-board-certified physicians in the country, he’s become an expert on the role that chemical farming has on the gut, and in turn, our overall health. We tapped Dr. Bush to learn more about the sudden interest in this topic and how it relates to having skin that looks (and feels) healthy.
What exactly is the microbiome?
“The microbiome is a diverse ecosystem of bacteria, fungi, yeast, parasites and viruses in our body. We now know that every human organ—including the skin—has a healthy micro-ecosystem within it,” Dr. Bush told us.
How does the microbiome relate to beauty?
“When the gut microbiome is injured by food and medical antibiotic exposure, leaky gut can be a common consequence,” he said. “We also see inflammation in myriad forms develop as a result of an overstressed immune system. As our gut barrier and microbiome are compromised, the toxicity that accumulates in the body is often expressed through the skin. We can see evidence of this in dry or cracking skin, acne, eczema, psoriasis, thinning of the skin, hair loss, excessive facial hair growth and pigment changes (such as vitiligo), as well as infections like herpes and impetigo.”
How can we treat these skin conditions before they become problems?
“The vast majority of makeup, hair and skin care products have chemical ingredients that undermine the skin microbiome and immune function. Among the most harmful are phthalates, parabens, formaldehyde and formaldehyde donors such as DMDM hydantoin, quaternium-15, diazolidinyl urea and imidazolidinyl urea. Also be on the lookout for resorcinol, which is used as an antibiotic and disinfectant in topical acne treatments,” Dr. Bush explained.
“It’s critical to find organic products and remain alert to the stress that your skin products may be creating,” he said. “Let your skin breathe and avoid full makeup on a daily basis. Support gut biodiversity and your gut barrier by taking supplements like ION*Gut Health, which is microbiome communication derived from fossil soils to reignite a healthy microbiome and support a strong gut barrier.”
What are some topical products that can improve skin’s microbiome?
Clearly, the key to a healthy microbiome starts internally. But if you need to address specific conditions associated with a compromised microbiome (like super-dry skin, eczema, acne and psoriasis), there are some topical treatments that can help to get your skin back into glowing health.
Here are five bacteria-infused products we love.
1. La Roche-Posay Lipikar Balm AP+ Intense Repair Moisturizing Cream
Specifically created for eczema sufferers who have imbalanced skin microbiomes and an overgrowth of itch-inducing Staphylococcus aureus, this moisturizer contains thermal spring water (a prebiotic), which has been shown in clinical studies to cultivate the growth of healthy bacteria while keeping bad bacteria in check. That means long-lasting hydration and fewer flare-ups.
2. Aveeno Eczema Therapy Moisturizing Cream
You love oat milk in your coffee, but did you know that oats are actually a prebiotic? This cream is packed with oats that feed the skin’s bacteria and encourage a healthy microbiome. In a clinical study, this Aveeno formula spiked hydration in eczema sufferers and took just 24 hours to restore a healthy skin microbiome. Even if you don’t have eczema, it’s proof that it will save anyone from dry, itchy winter skin.
3. Mother Dirt Moisturizer
This whole brand is based on repairing the health of your microbiome, and this nourishing formula has ingredients that are selected to mimic the skin barrier, replenishing essential components typically removed with modern cleansing products.
4. Glowbiotics Probiotic HydraGlow Cream Oil
The name says it all: This unique cream-to-oil formula delivers hydrating, anti-aging and microbiome-balancing goodness. It also protects and strengthens your complexion’s immune system (yup, that’s a thing!) to fend off dryness, dullness and hyperpigmentation. Plus, it includes light-diffusing minerals for an immediate glow, which we’re obviously all about.
5. Marie Veronique Pre + Probiotic Daily Mist
This mist is unique in that it’s a symbiotic, meaning it’s packed with both prebiotics and probiotics. Just a few spritzes sends good bacteria into overdrive and actually tells the skin to create more of its own ceramides. If your face burns or stings in winter, or is sensitive to retinoids, this spray can help balance everything out.