Our Skin's Natural Inhabitants

Our Skin's Natural Inhabitants

Our knowledge about the human microbiome has advances in next-generation sequencing technologies. This has revolutionized our knowledge about the skin and its natural inhabitants.

The skin is a major barrier between the body and its environment. After we are born, microbes rapidly start to colonize our skin and they form a complex ecosystem that lives alongside us. This includes bacteria, viruses and fungi. It is often said that in, and on, our bodies, microbial cells outnumber human cells by a factor of ten! Can you believe we are more microbe than human! This set of microbes and their genetic material are our “microbiome”.

The human microbiome is diverse and different between individuals. We each have our own unique combination on our skin. It can also be influenced by factors such as age, sex, lifestyle, disease, and area.

Maintaining your skin microbiome is beneficial for your health. These “good” microbes can prevent our skin from being taken over by pathogenic or ‘bad’ microbes. They also have a role to play in optimizing the immune function of the skin and influencing metabolic processes. Research shows that it is the outer protective barrier, or stratum corneum, that has the largest number of bacteria compared to other skin layers.

There are a number of resident bacteria that live on the skin. Certain body areas favor growth of one particular type over another. Like our sebaceous or oily areas such as the face and back have a different microbiome make-up than moist areas such as the armpits, which are different again from dry areas. The gut microbiome is also very different from the skin’s.

Skin conditions, such as acne and eczema, may occur with disruption to the microbiome. Being able to manipulate the microbiome can potentially provide us with new methods to treat skin problems. Targeted treatments are undoubtedly better than using antibiotics, which simply kill all bacteria, both good and bad. Consult your doctor about taking probiotics during and/or after a course of antibiotics, which can help restore your gut microbiome. Also, eating high-fiber foods, fermented foods and prebiotic foods after taking antibiotics may also help reestablish a healthy gut microbiome.

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