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Trending - the skin's microbiome

May 30, 2018 Reviewed by Marta 0 Comments

The other day, when I reviewed KERACELL’s Brightening Serum ($80 in the shop), I learned about an ingredient that actually changes itself when it comes into contact with the skin’s microbiota. Fascinated, I wanted to understand more about the skin’s microbiome and I predict that more of our topical products will become clever enough to leverage it as KERACELL has done.

The skin microbiome the name given to the ecosystem of all the different microorganisms that live in the skin. There can be up to a billion of them in any square centimeter of skin. These populations can change as new microenvironments form based on things such as temperature, moisture, pH, sebum content, UV light exposure, etc., Then there’s the different areas of our bodies, from armpits to knees. The dry skin areas tend to be dominated by proteoba­cteria, while the moist areas are dominated by firmicutes, particularly by staphylo­coccaceae. The sebaceous regions are dominated by actinoba­cteria.

It isn’t surprising that with so many microbes, we all have very diverse populations. The reader of this article and me could share as few as 13%. A higher degree of diversity in the skin microbiome is associated with healthier individuals. And younger ones, for that matter: studies on facial skin have shown that distribution of the microbiota changes in the course of aging. This suggests that skincare that rebalances the skin's microbiome could be useful.

Our resident microorg­anisms closely interact with the skin barrier, and vice versa. Recent research indicates that microbes present on and in the skin, may contribute to skin barrier stability or dysfunction (source). Microbes can also stimulate ceramide production, with beneficial effects for the skin.

The normal microflora of the skin includes staphylococcal species that will induce inflammation when present below the dermis but are tolerated on the epidermal surface without initiating inflammation (source).

Cosmetic companies are catching the bug in one of two ways. The use of either prebiotics or probiotics. Prebiotics is the use of ingredients that selectively grow desirable (“good”) microorg­anisms. These ingredients are typically carbohydrates such fructo-oligosac­charides. Probiotics uses strains of actual live bacteria topically. There is some evidence suggesting probiotics are effective at treating skin diseases such as eczema. Topical applications of probiotic bacteria may enhance the skin natural defense barriers (source). L’Oréal, meanwhile, has patented the bacteria-derived ingredient vitreoscilla ferment, intended to “balance” the microbiome of dry skin.

Probiotics remain controversial. Manufacturing of live bacteria is complex and it isn’t clear how formulas can legally contain them when regulations forbid the sale of “contaminated” products.

The third approach is the more interesting to me and it involves ingredients that harness the microbiome to do good. This is where I started with the KERACELL ingredient. I’ll end with Givaudan, which manufactures an ingredient called Revivyl. It is based on orobanche rapum, a unique European chlorophyll-free plant and it combines stem cells analysis and the microbiome to create an active molecule that is supposed to have fast, efficient and reliable results on skin.

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