RATIONALE for: The Skin Microbiome

Richard Parker explains the
Skin Microbiome

In 2013, Geneticists and Molecular Biologists Elizabeth Grice and Julia Segre published a definitive paper on The Skin Microbiome.

What I found most interesting about this article was that both scientists are part of the National Human Genome Research Institute. This was the first time I became aware of the powerful link between the skin’s microscopic life and genetics/epigenetics.

The Skin Microbiome (and the accompanying subject of “Skin Probiotics”) is a hot topic in dermatology and skincare right now. And, as with most ‘next big things,’ there is a smattering of facts and a plethora of potentially harmful products and ‘solutions.’

So I offer my thoughts here, based on the work of genetic biologists such as Grice and Segre.

The skin is colonised by a diverse array of micro-organisms, including bacteria, fungi, viruses and even mites(!), most of which are thought to be harmless or even beneficial to skin health. Colonisation is variable depending on bodily location, inherited internal health factors (genetics), and environmental influences (epigenetics).

It is believed that this array of micro-organisms, known as the Skin Microbiome, provides a vital skin health function that the human skin genome has not yet evolved. For example, skin microbiota may help prevent pathogenic organisms from entering the body, or play a critical role in educating the billions of T-cells found in the skin by priming them to respond potently to pathogenic assault.

It is now increasingly understood that an imbalance in the skin microbiota can result in certain skin disorders, infections and diseases.

Which leads us to ask, what does a healthy skin microbiome comprise?

We know that the skin is essentially a cool, acidic and desiccated (relatively water-free) environment. Some of the skin’s functions, such as sweat production and enzyme processing serve a vital function of maintaining skin in a relatively acidic state (around pH5.5), which prevents certain pathogenic bacteria from proliferating. Preserving an acidic skin pH is essential.

Vital nutrients, such as B-group vitamins have a profound beneficial effect on boosting the skin’s immune system. Skin antioxidants, including Vitamins C and E, are important in ensuring skin lipids and sebum are present at the correct concentrations to act as a bacteriostatic shield.

External factors, such as solar exposure and pollution, are well documented as harmful to beneficial skin microflora and fauna.

Which leads us to two questions:

  1. What is the best way of maintaining the skin microbiome in optimal condition?

  2. Are topically applied “probiotics” helpful in skin microbiome health?

From earlier research on gut health, we know that the best way to maintain a healthy microbiome (be it in the gut or on the skin) is through the right diet for the individual. I always use the analogy of a topical “skin diet” and find it most helpful.

For 30 years, I have maintained that an optimised topical skin diet, comprising all of the topical vitamins, minerals, lipids and proteins necessary to optimal skin health, is the best way to ensure a healthy skin microbiome. This ideal topical skin nutrition is represented in its perfect form in the RATIONALE Essential Six.

Regarding the glut of “probiotic” skincare ingredients and products, these are of no value and could potentially be harmful as the micro-organisms they contain are no longer living but ironically provide the ideal food for pathogenic bacteria to be introduced to the skin. It’s the equivalent of eating food that is rotting and contaminated.

Regarding the glut of "probiotic" skincare ingredients and products, these are of no value...It's the equivalent of eating food that is rotting and contaminated.

RATIONALE Founder + Director of Research, Richard Parker
New Essential Six RATIONALE

And similarly to gut health, the skin microbiota is highly individualised, with no one product or ingredient offering a miracle solution for all. So a comprehensive Skin Consultation, including a DNA test which will allow a personalised skin prescription, is crucial. 

Like all worthwhile health-related issues, skin health can only be achieved by self-education and diligence. All of the information and technology exists, and you will be rewarded for your dedication with Luminous Skin for Life.