Not too long ago, hand sanitizer reserved a prominent place in my purse, on my desk and in my heart. Killing invisible microbes felt right and good. Today and largely thanks to the Human Microbiome Project (HMP), we better understand the 1,000 distinct species of hosted microorganisms and their role in our overall health The skin benefits are fueling our obsession with prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics, also known as ferments.
What is the Skin Microbiome?
The microbiome is the term used to describe the happy family of microscopic organisms that call our skin home, comprised of bacteria, bacteriophage, fungi, protozoa and viruses. Before running for the nearest shower, know that these little critters do pay room and board by protecting your skin.
In fact, the skin’s microbiome plays a complicated role in the human immune system -- helping to defend against harmful invaders, tissue repair, wound healing, and inflammation control. Mind blowing, isn't it.
Keeping these tiny riders healthy and preserving the delicate balance improves the odds of continued symbiotic rewards. Microbiome imbalance, also known as Dysbiosis, has long been associated with many skin disorders, such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, rosacea, and accelerated aging. Exposure to antibiotics or anti-bacterial soaps, along with a poor diet can disrupt the balance. Ironically, this is also true for misguided beauty routines and inferior skincare – over-exfoliation, over-cleansing, over-stripping, insufficiently/overly used preservatives, and aggressive beauty treatments.
Whether seeking improvements to an on-going skin disorder or just wanting to avoid it altogether, a thriving skin microflora is vital – enter Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Postbiotics/Ferments. Think of the skin microbiome as a garden.
Prebiotics act as water and fertilizer, nourishing probiotics, as well as existing microflora. Common topical prebiotics include those derived from plant sugars or fructooligosaccharides. The prebiotics, like Mannose, Ribose, and Rhamnose, both help to improve skin hydration, radiance, smoothness, resilience, and clarity.
Probiotics would be the seeds, serving to repopulate beneficial microflora or eradicate harmful microbes. Most probiotics available in skincare are not live bacteria, to avoid instability.
Lactobacillus strains can help to calm and soothe the skin.
Postbiotics, also known as Ferments, acts as mulch, improving the bioavailability of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients within skincare ingredients. Often created using a probiotic, it may also produce prebiotics. Postbiotics help strengthen skin barrier function and diminish water loss.
Which is Best?
While current research is compelling for the skin microbiome, we await further studies to point towards the how-to guide for skin perfection. With individual probiotic, prebiotic, and ferment delivering distinct benefits, it’s best to shop the ingredient that best fits your needs and supported by clinical data.
No matter which you choose, each are well worth a try.
Cheers to Better Skin!