A multi-functional organ, our skin makes up nearly 16% of our body weight and has a surface area of 1.5 to 2 square meters that connects and covers the body, making it the largest organ of the human body. The skin plays a vital role in our overall health and wellbeing. Caring for the skin from the inside out and outside in, is vital for life-long health.
Our skin microbiome is the foundation for healthy and youthful-looking skin. Fresh skincare really is the best skincare for our skin microbiome! We'll discuss why gentle, microbiome-friendly formulas and products are ideal.
In this article:
- What does the skin do?
- What is the skin barrier?
- What is the skin microbiome?
- What's the connection between our skin and health?
- What are the signs of microbiome imbalance?
- How to care for different skin types?
What does the skin do?
Our skin is responsible for multiple functions of the body. Think of the skin as a custom body armor that keeps our internal organs intact and protects us from the dangers of the outside world. Our skin helps us regulate our temperature, which prevents dehydration and adverse effects from extreme cold or heat. It maintains the perfect internal balance for our vital organs . Our skin's lipid layer or lipid barrier stores water, fat, and metabolic products and produces hormones necessary for the whole body. Skin thickness varies across the body depending on its function, and it thins out as we age. Maintaining healthy skin is a practice that benefits us throughout our lifetime.
What is the skin barrier?
The skin is a living, breathing landscape of layers: the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis. The outermost part of the epidermis is called the stratum corneum and is often referred to as the skin barrier. These skin layers create a stable yet flexible outer wall that protects the body’s internal components from the outside world. It protects us from moisture, sun rays, and potentially harmful germs and toxins. Our skin barrier adapts to the location and demands we put on it. The skin barrier on our face differs from the skin on our armpits, elbows, hands, feet, and even our torso. Taking care of our skin barrier ensures naturally healthy, fresh, glowing skin.
The stratum corneum and epidermis act as the waterproof protective covering home to most bacteria that make up the skin microbiome . This layer naturally sheds and retains elasticity in response to outside forces. This layer is also sometimes referred to as the acid mantle  because it is naturally slightly acidic. The mantle comprises sebum, the natural oil produced by glands in the skin and the body's sweat. The mantle preserves the microbiome and acts as a barricade to microbes and other foreign substances, protecting skin from harmful bacteria that cause acne and skin conditions. The skin's acidic sweet spot is about pH 5.5. When healthy, skin looks plump and glowing.
The next layer, the dermis, contains our hair follicles, oil, and sweat-producing glands. A network of nerve fibers and capillaries runs through the dermis. The veins are tiny blood vessels transporting nutrients and oxygen into the cells. This layer is held together by a dense elastic collagen fibers network, which allows the skin to be robust yet flexible. When the dermis is subjected to continuous stretching, stretch marks can form. The dermis is where our sense of touch and pressure resides.
The deepest layer of our skin is the hypodermis, or subcutaneous layer, also called the lipid barrier. It primarily contains fat and connective tissue. The lipid layer is an essential variable factor in the secretion of many lipidic compounds like fatty acids, which contribute to the skin’s pH acidification . Fat and water are stored to insulate the body and absorb shock and damage to the bones and joints. The lipid barrier produces Vitamin D when skin is exposed to sunlight. Both middle and bottom layers of the skin house blood and lymph vessels that work with the immune system. The lipid barrier also holds hair roots, nerves, and sweat and oil glands.
What is the skin microbiome, and why is it important?
The term 'microbiome' refers to the microorganisms that live in a particular environment, such as the gut or skin. The skin has its own little ecosystem of living microorganisms (like bacteria) that naturally live in and on our bodies and hold vital jobs; that’s the skin microbiome! Our custom body armor is equipped with microscopic critters essential to overall health and wellbeing. The microbiome is an intricate ecosystem that is consistently striving for a state of balance and diversity among its microorganisms. This system begins at birth and changes with various stages of life, such as adolescence, pregnancy, and aging. Skin pH, thickness, and body temperature all affect the skin's condition. Malnutrition, disease, antibiotic drugs, and antibacterial products also affect our microbiome. A recent study states that global warming, humidity, UV radiation, and air pollution also influence the microbiome . An imbalanced microbiome that’s depleted of beneficial bacteria is more prone to infections and irritation, resulting in many common skin conditions and issues.
So, healthy-looking and feeling skin requires a healthy microbiome. But the microbiome’s importance is not just about appearance and feel of the skin. The skin microbiome is also the foundation of our immune system, and imbalances in the microbiome have been linked to a wide range of illnesses.
What's the connection between skin and overall health?
Our skin microbiome is intelligently linked to our immune health. The immune system is a blend of good bacteria that fight off harmful bacteria. Several skin diseases such as atopic and seborrheic dermatitis, alopecia areata, psoriasis, acne, and skin cancer may result from an imbalance of the skin microbiome and immune system .
We call the good bacteria commensals. They are the dominant resident bacteria that protect the skin microbiome. The skin's immune cells work with keratinized cells to make up the skin's immune barrier function. The skin is our first line of defense against pathogens and infections. When injured, for example, the skin microbiome senses, and the body responds with increased blood supply to the wound to encourage healing and with antimicrobial peptides to defend against infections. The microbiome and immune system work together to keep us healthy.
What are the symptoms of skin microbiome imbalance?
Learning to read our skin can keep us looking youthful and radiant for the long term. The skin is a map of our body's internal state. When our body's microbiome is imbalanced, it shows up in our skin. Skin dryness, dullness, loss of firmness, and even wrinkles hint at potential skin damage or imbalance. Our skin is a delicate ecosystem and can be altered and damaged by factors we often overlook, like diet and excessive use of antibacterial products. Heavy and greasy foods may increase acne-promoting bacteria on the skin. Climate and temperature can increase the body odor of bacteria under the armpits. Daily nourishment and maintaining the skin's good bacteria is critical for healthy skin and body.
Other factors that may alter our skin's microbiome include:
- Skin’s pH levels
- Stress and free radicals
- UV radiation
- Air pollution
- Harsh chemicals found in cosmetics, cleansers, and other topical products
- Preservatives in skincare and personal products (they’re designed to kill bacteria, good and bad, in our products and do so on our skin as well when we apply them)
- Abrasive skin procedures like chemical peels
- Excessive exfoliation and excessive washing
Symptoms of skin microbiome imbalance:
- Oily acne-prone skin
- Red or irritated skin
- Dry and itchy skin
- Sensitivity to temperature changes
- Overly sensitive skin that reacts to topical products
- Skin disorders like eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, and more
At LightWater, we’re revolutionizing skincare by bridging beauty and wellness. Our products are formulated to take clean beauty to the next level by removing all concerning ingredients, including preservatives and fragrances, to deliver truly pure and fresh ingredients. Microbiome-friendly, nourishing, and protective against environmental stressors, our Skin Health Regimen is the perfect skincare routine to improve skin health and appearance with visible results. Read more about the science behind our products here: LightWater Science.
- InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. How does skin work? 2009 Sep 28 [Updated 2019 Apr 11]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279255/
- Skowron, K., Bauza-Kaszewska, J., Kraszewska, Z., Wiktorczyk-Kapischke, N., Grudlewska-Buda, K., Kwiecińska-Piróg, J., Wałecka-Zacharska, E., Radtke, L., & Gospodarek-Komkowska, E. (2021). Human Skin Microbiome: Impact of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Factors on Skin Microbiota. Microorganisms, 9(3), 543. https://doi.org/10.3390/microorganisms9030543
- Surber, C., Humbert, P., Abels, C., & Maibach, H. (2018). The Acid Mantle: A Myth or an Essential Part of Skin Health?. Current problems in dermatology, 54, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1159/000489512
- Lopez-Ojeda W, Pandey A, Alhajj M, et al. Anatomy, Skin (Integument) [Updated 2021 Oct 22]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441980/
- Boxberger, M., Cenizo, V., Cassir, N. et al. Challenges in exploring and manipulating the human skin microbiome. Microbiome 9, 125 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40168-021-01062-5
- Isler, M.F., Coates, S.J. and Boos, M.D. (2022), Climate change, the cutaneous microbiome and skin disease: implications for a warming world. Int J Dermatol. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijd.16297
- Carmona-Cruz, S., Orozco-Covarrubias, L., Saez-de-Ocariz, M. (2022) The Human Skin Microbiome in Selected Cutaneous Diseases. Front. Cell. Infect. Microbiol. 12:834135. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2022.834135