Skin Microbiome: A Hidden World
The thought of having millions of tiny, minuscule organisms on the skin is frightening.
There is this misconception that all micro-organisms are harmful and their presence on the skin can cause an infection. But did you know that there is a variety of microbes that makes and keeps our skin healthy?
To understand how this immensely complicated system works, we need to have a basic knowledge of the skin’s microbiome.
There are billions of microbes living on our skin – bacteria, fungi, viruses, and even mites – there are more them than us for every cell in our body. They make a whole ecological system including you, interacting with the human body. Some help us in functions that our body cannot perform – digesting food and producing vitamins. Some are here just for the ride, not affecting us in any way, yet if they increase in number or get into places they aren’t meant to be leading to infection and some are pathogens – those are downright harmful. All of this makes up your skin microbiome.
Our skin covers everything up and is different in different places, implying that its microbiome differs too. It depends on the location, the amount of light, and whether the area is moist, dry, hairy, or oily. It can change with age too.
The skin is the first line of defense against any injury or infection. But it’s not the skin cells that act as our army but those good microbes living on your skin. Naturally, the skin’s environment is inherently unfriendly to harmful microbes or pathogens. It’s cool, dry and pH is acidic, even the sebum is antimicrobial.
The role they play is integral. These microbes communicate with our immune system to protect against infections, regulating inflammation, aiding in the healing of our wounds, limiting exposure to allergens, and minimizing oxidative damage.
If the microbiome has been damaged or changed – the number isn’t the only one that matters, but we have to see how diverse it is. This imbalance occurs with excess use of antimicrobial soaps and sanitizers, harsh skin care products that strip off your skin and the microbes with it, and your environment. All of the factors disturb or damage your skin microbiome, the consequences will become evident. This imbalance or skin dysbiosis is linked to skin conditions – allergies, eczema, acne, skin ulcers, psoriasis, dandruff, yeast, and fungal infections and accelerated skin aging.
The research is still ongoing on the intricacies of our skin microbiome. As time passes, we have come to realize that it is essential for our overall health. Either aesthetically or helping protect our body.