The Skin Microbiome: Why it Matters—And How to Keep Yours Healthy
featuring Jeannette Graf, MD, board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professional of dermatology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine
You may be familiar with the importance of maintaining a healthy gut microbiome, the ecosystem of bacteria in the digestive tract. But did you know that our skin has its own microbiome?
“The skin microbiome is composed of bacteria, mites, yeast and fungi that serve a protective function against pathogenic microbes in the environment,” says Dr. Jeannette Graf, board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. “It’s an integral part of the skin’s moisture barrier, which plays an important role in preventing moisture loss.”
Spotting a Disrupted Skin Microbiome
When the skin microbiome is balanced and healthy, it looks smooth, radiant and youthfully resilient—essentially, the picture of skin health. When skin barrier function is compromised, however, Dr. Graf says it can cause issues like acne, eczema, psoriasis, increased sun damage, hyperpigmentation or excessively dry—or oily—skin.
Whether skin is dry and dehydrated or oily and clogged with breakouts, it might be a sign that the skin microbiome needs help. There are a variety of factors that can disrupt the microbiome. These include UV rays, exposure to environmental pollutants, poor diet and using harsh skincare products, according to Dr. Graf. She adds: “Of course, we can never underplay the role of genetics, hormones and a healthy lifestyle with adequate sleep.”
The Three Elements of a Healthy Skin Microbiome
According to Dr. Graf, there are three primary rules to keeping skin in an optimal—and healthy—state: Maintain the skin’s moisture barrier; maintain the microbiome with a healthy, robust moisture barrier and hydration throughout the skin; and maintain a pH level between 5.2 and 5.4 during the day for microflora to function optimally (at night; pH should be around 4.7 to support necessary renewal function).
The first step toward skin health is to evaluate your skincare routine and remove unnecessary (or harmful) habits. This might mean reducing the frequency of exfoliation or simplifying an overcomplicated routine that contains too many potent ingredients. Aggressive products that claim a “squeaky clean” feel, such as drying cleansers that strip away natural oils, should also be eliminated as they may have a negative impact on skin barrier function.
After the damaging routines are removed, it’s time to add in the right skincare products: ones that are effective and high performing, but also gentle. Microbiome skincare that respects the natural moisture barrier will contain specific ingredients that work in harmony with the skin’s natural rhythms.
For example, the entire BIOME+ microbiome skincare collection contains fermented, microbiome-friendly squalane derived from sugarcane. This plant-derived emollient moisturizes the skin and helps to support a healthy moisture barrier.
The creamy, oil-based BIOME+ cleansing comfort balm features plant-based oils and natural ingredients that melt away makeup, “leaving skin feeling nourished and hydrated without causing wear and tear to the skin barrier,” Dr. Graf says.
BIOME+ dew bright serum also contains niacinamide, tiger grass and holy basil adaptogenic extracts to give skin a healthy glow, along with cross-linked hyaluronic acid to deliver rapid and long-term hydration.
And BIOME+ smoothing cloud crème helps to support a healthy skin barrier with the aid of tremella snow mushroom, a natural adaptogenic extract.
Ingredients for a Healthy Skin Microbiome
According to Dr. Graf, indulging your skin with these ingredients will help your skin microbiome stay healthy:
- Squalane: A natural component of sebum as well as an emollient found in vegetables, squalane is particularly a great natural moisturizer for the moisture barrier.
- Hyaluronic acid: This plumping powerhouse helps dry skin because it can aid in retaining moisture and hydration.
- Niacinamide: A form of vitamin B, niacinamide can be used to help keep skin hydrated and protect it from outside irritants. In BIOME+ dew bright serum, “niacinamide pairs with hyaluronic acid, helping the skin's barrier to retain healthy moisture and creating a wall of protection against environmental stressors,” says Dr. Graf.
It's never too late to begin nourishing the skin’s moisture barrier. In fact, Dr. Graf says that the skin’s microbiome should be taken care of as soon as possible—even as young as infant age. With IMAGE Skincare’s new collection of microbiome skincare, a revolution of truly healthy skin begins.