“Microbiome” is the Skincare Buzzword of 2021 — and Here’s Why

Usually when you think of trends that rise and fall in popularity — your mind instinctively gravitates towards the fashion industry. But what you might not know is that the skincare industry also sees evolving trends that come and go.

2020 saw a sharp increase in the sheer amount of probiotic skincare available to purchase in the beauty community, with one buzzword in particular gaining major traction across the globe — microbiome. Looking at just last year, Google searches for the buzzword skyrocketed. In fact, in 2020 alone, the word was Googled almost 10,000 times every month. But what exactly is the microbiome? And what role does it play in our skin health? Before we delve deep into the importance of the microbiome, we have to break down the intricacies of probiotics and skin health. 

It is important to clarify that probiotic skincare is more of a movement than it is a trend. In recent years, you may have learned of pre & probiotics in relation to maintaining optimal gut health. I know, not exactly the most glamorous topic to discuss — but did you know that the same principles apply to probiotics in skincare? Just like in the gut, prebiotics & probiotics could indeed be beneficial for stressed out skin that is feeling off kilter. Sounds amazing, right? Well… it’s slightly trickier than running to your fridge and pouring a whole Yakult down your face. Much like Vitamin C, probiotic skincare is highly unstable in formulation, and it’s difficult for beauty companies to provide high-potency products that can also be preserved for a long enough shelf-life. This is why it has become increasingly important for beauty consumers to do their due-diligence so that they can ensure they are using science-backed, stabilized skincare products formulated to help them achieve real results. Choosing a brand that you can trust to provide you with these potent yet stable formulations has become paramount to the conscious beauty consumer — and is often not very straightforward. The last thing they want is to be spending their hard-earned money on a product with an improper formulation that is rendered useless when applied to their skin. What a waste!

We’ve established how beneficial probiotic skincare can be to the skin’s microbiome, but what exactly is the microbiome? 

“The skin microbiome is the billions of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that comprise the skin microbiota,” says New York dermatologist Dr. Marnie Nussbaum, who recently attended Paris’ Microbiome Summit for doctors and microbiologists. “The human skin has 1 billion microbes (bacteria) per square centimeter and that natural bacteria maintains the skin’s immunity and prevents pathogenic growths like atopic dermatitis (eczema) and psoriasis.” When a healthy composition of microorganisms and bacteria on the skin is disturbed, Dr. Nussbaum says, the skin becomes vulnerable to an overgrowth in pathogenic bacteria, increased inflammation, and an altered skin pH.

Essentially, the more strains of bacteria you have, the healthier your skin is. 

But what causes the skin to be disturbed? Doctors and scientists most often attribute a compromised skin barrier (dysbiosis) to harsh hygiene practices (like over-exfoliation and lathering soaps with antibacterial properties), the use of topical antibiotics, and evolution. The result of having a disrupted microbiome? Bacterial and fungal skin rashes like eczema, psoriasis, perioral dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff), pityrosporum folliculitis (pesky bumps on the chest and forehead), tinea versicolor, and acne — just to name a few! A recent social phenomena has resulted in an extremely fast-growing cause of dysbiosis: frequent mask wearing for long hours. The abrasion a PPE mask creates against your sensitive facial skin has seen many adults developing abnormal skin conditions in 2020 that they had never experienced previously. Now more than ever it is important to strengthen our skin’s microbiome in order to allow it to better defend itself against what threatens it. 

In a rapidly-evolving world in the midst of a pandemic, beauty consumer attitudes have no choice but to shift. Research indicates that educated beauty consumers are more conscious about shielding themselves from airborne pathogens than ever before. One of the best ways to help prepare your skin for combat with these aggressors is to ensure that your skin’s microbiome is as healthy as it can be! Adding bacteria to your skin and using gentle products to help maintain its balance seems to be essential to achieve optimal skin health.  

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Faurote, A., 2021. Microbiome Skincare Is the Next Big Thing—Here's Everything You Need to Know. [online] Who What Wear UK.
Morosini, D., 2019. What Do You Need To Know About Your Skin Microbiome?. [online] British Vogue.