Understanding the Skin’s Microbiome
Your skin is a natural home to hundreds of species of microorganisms that form its microbiome. The microbiome strengthens your immune defenses and offers a natural barrier against harmful environmental pollutants.
Dr. Heidi H. Kong, a senior investigator of cutaneous microbiome and inflammation at the National Institute of Health (NIH), analyzed the skin microbiome of healthy individuals taken from over 20 skin sites. The human skin is essentially a complex system with various niche areas (e.g., moist, dry, or sebaceous (oily) regions) that attract different types of commensal microbes. These microorganisms live in harmony with skin cells and differ in composition and density between people.
Dr. Kong’s works drew a strong connection between microbiomes, the body’s immune system, and a person’s susceptibility to diseases. She eventually co-published a catalog called the Skin Microbial Genome Collection that identified about 85% of skin microbiomes found in healthy skin through 19 body sites.
Scientists continue to develop advanced techniques and tools for studying the complexities of the skin's microbiome and its relation to health and immune responses. However, there remains underlying evidence that the interaction among skin microbiomes can implicate the host's health.
The Microbiome’s Ever-Shifting System
While your skin’s microbiome is naturally an excellent defender that develops as you grow, keeping it in optimal shape is a challenge. Doing so requires consistently careful and complex interactions between the various microorganisms on your skin and your skin cells. Other factors, such as ambient temperature, skin moisture, and the pH of substances that touch your skin, also affect the health and biodiversity of your microbiome.
Our human ancestors’ exposure to pristine forest environments for millions of years gradually led to a symbiotic connection between the skin’s microbiome and the natural world.
Humans need to coexist with natural landscapes like forests for contact with beneficial bacteria that drive a balanced response against foreign/external allergens. The need has become more pressing as allergens have risen due to urbanization. One biodiversity hypothesis states that consistent contact with a natural environment enriches the skin’s natural microbiome and promotes immune balance while also protecting the body from various allergies and inflammatory disorders.
The modern-built environment of urban jungles and cityscapes has created a new world that limits biodiversity on the micro-ecological level. As such, it drives greater dysbiosis (imbalance in the skin's microbial community), which significantly increases the risks of inflammation and gradually leads to various health problems.
According to the World Allergy Organization (WAO), "In order to accomplish this, a better understanding of interconnected ecology of humans, microbes and the environment is required." This does not necessarily mean forsaking technology and modern conveniences to return ‘back to nature.' Instead, the WAO proposes that by "moving forward with nature and working with microbes on the skin and countless other niches, we can support a terrain of health."
Microbiome Management for All Ages
Your skin's microbiome changes at different life stages, each version requiring proper care to keep the microbiota balanced. Exposure to the environment, stress, and hormonal changes all contribute to the microbiome changes experienced over a lifetime.
Older adults require natural cosmetics infused with forest microbes to help cope with the effects of aging. Specifically, older adults must overcome senescence or apoptosis resulting from oxidative damage when the skin's antioxidizing capabilities start to slow down. Exposing older adults to microbiome-friendly cosmetics can potentially mitigate the impact of aging by intervening in the interactome (molecular interactions in the skin cell) found in the genome-microbiome-exposome trio that shapes the aging process.
On the other end of the age spectrum, infants can benefit from organic cosmetics that enhance the development of the immune system. The first few years of a person's life involve a familiarization process as the body identifies and collects the most beneficial microbes to settle in the body, creating the foundation of their immune system.
While traditionally, the infant's familiarization process involved direct contact with natural landscapes, this has proven increasingly difficult with urbanization. In these cases, Ecocert-certified cosmetics like Forest Riot's range of dermatologically tested products can help fill the absence and give children a healthy head start.
Extra Microbiome Care for Atopic Individuals
Atopic individuals are people who have a genetic predisposition to developing skin conditions caused by allergies. They have heightened immune responses to the environment and stimulants, leading to increased experiences of inflammatory symptoms as a result.
Research shows that the microbiome of the skin and gut includes transient and resident microbes. Additionally, the microbiome is in a dynamic and constant interaction with the immediate environment. The process is more delicate for atopic individuals who are more sensitive to microorganic changes.
A comparative study on atopic school children living in Finland and Russian Karelia highlights the importance of skin and nasal microbiota in response to allergic reactions. The multi-year research showed a consistent pattern, a threefold to 10-fold difference in the occurrence of atopic conditions, including asthma and rhinitis. Research results suggested that children in Russia and Finland experienced a widely contrasting skin microbiota, specifically the diversity and abundance of the genus Acinetobacter. Russian schoolchildren had lower instances of atopic sensitivities, potentially due to significantly higher biodiversity.
In other words, by maintaining proximity to natural environments and encouraging diverse microbiota, the skin can receive a constant supply of beneficial microorganisms to regulate its cell functions and avoid atopic reactions. Doing so reduces the risks of altered skin microbiomes that are commonly responsible for inflammation, allergies, and ill health. As such, regular contact with natural environmental microbes like the Reconnecting Nature formula can ultimately affect how genes function.