POSTED: 5 Mar 2024

Could Your Microbiome Be The Secret to Great Skin?

The skin microbiome might be the key to flawless, radiant and more youthful looking skin. There is emerging evidence that the microbiota of our skin plays a pivotal role in maintaining skin health, protecting it and even influencing how we age. Whilst many people have heard of the gut microbiome and it’s impact on overall health, very few are aware of the impact of the skin microbiome and the role it plays. In this article, we’ll explore the role of the skin microbiome, how to nurture it and use the right skincare to enhance the appearance of your complexion.

What is the Skin Microbiome?

The skin microbiome comprises billions of bacteria, fungi and viruses. These are collectively known as the skin microbiota and are as unique to each person as a fingerprint. However, these microorganisms are not just passengers on our kin. They’re actually crucial allies in maintaining our it’s health and protecting it. The skin microbiota protect against harmful pathogens, help with the skin’s immune response and even help manage the skin’s pH balance. All together these actions create an environment where harmful microbes struggle to survive.

Our skin microbiome begins to form at birth and continues to evolve throughout our lives. The initial skin colonisation occurs when the newborn is exposed to the mother’s microbiota. As you can imagine this differs significantly between those born vaginally and those delivered via cesarean section. As we grow, our environment, lifestyle and even the people or pets we interact with further diversify our skin’s microbiota. Factors like diet, hygiene habits and geographical location all influence the composition of our skin microbiome. Additionally, the use of antibiotics, skincare products and changes in health can also dramatically alter the makeup of the skin microbiota. So as you can see, this ever-evolving ecosystem is a reflection of our interaction with the world around us. Since no two people have the exact same experiences throughout their life, this is what creates a unique microbial fingerprint for each of us.

What are the Benefits of the Skin Microbiome?

The microbiome plays a crucial role in our skin health and overall well-being. This complex network of microbiota affects our skin in a number of ways:

  • Protection: Our microbiome offers the first line of defense against pathogens. It does so by forming a protective barrier that guards against infections and external aggressions like oxidative stress.
  • Immunity & Inflammation: A healthy microbiome also regulates the skin’s immune response. This means it plays a vital role in preventing inflammatory skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis and acne.
  • Nutrition: The skin microbiota also help in the synthesis of essential nutrients and vitamins. These nourish the skin and promoting cell repair as well as renewal.
  • Skin Barrier: In addition to forming a physical barrier against harmful agents, the skin microbiome is instrumental in managing the pH level of the skin. This creates an environment that protects the skin and prevents harmful organisms from invading it. This balance also ensures the skin remains hydrated and supple.

The interplay between the microbiome and your skin both protects the skin from harm but also nourishes and revitalises it. This reduces skin aging, hydrates the skin and boosts its overall health. For this reason, there is emerging evidence that a healthy skin microbiome can lead to more youthful and radiant skin.

What Happens When it is Off-Balance?

Despite its many benefits, there’s a flip side if the microbiome is not balanced. The harmony of the microbiome of the skin can be easily disrupted which can lead to a range of conditions and worsen existing ones. This imbalance, or dysbiosis, can trigger problems like acne, eczema and rosacea. For instance, an overgrowth of certain types of bacteria can trigger conditions like acne. Similarly, an underrepresentation of beneficial microbes can cause inflammation and a flare up of skin conditions like eczema. Beyond this, an unhealthy microbiome is less able to protect your skin and can impair your skin cell’s ability to renew and regenerate. This can cause lack-lustre skin that is more susceptible to damage and skin ageing.

A number of internal and external things like health, drugs, diet and lifestyle can cause microbiome balance. Health conditions that affect immunity or inflammation like Diabetes, malabsorption or infections can affect the balance of the microbome. In addition, certain medications in particular immune suppressants and antimicrobials can also affect this ecosystem. For example prolonged, inappropriate or unnecessary use of antibiotics, both topically and systemically, can decimate beneficial bacterial colonies. Similarly, diets high in sugar and processed foods can encourage the growth of harmful bacteria and yeasts at the expense of beneficial microbiota. Lastly, pollution, stress and the overuse of harsh skincare products (especially antimicrobials or exfoliants) can also throw this delicate balance of your skin microbiota into chaos.

How to Hack Your Skin Microbiome

So it’s obvious that a healthy balanced microbiome can help reduce skin ageing, protect against disease and damage and give rise to better looking skin. Conversely, an imbalanced microbiome can trigger skin problems and make your skin look worse. The great news is that with the right knowledge, we can hack our skin’s microbiome to not just prevent skin problems but to promote a more youthful and naturally glowing complexion. Microbiome skincare is all about focusing on nurturing the skin’s natural microbiota. You can do this through the use of diet, lifestyle and microbiome-friendly skincare products which we’ll detail below.

Probiotics and Prebiotics

There’s a crucial two way relationship between the gut and the skin microbiome (called the gut-skin axis. A great way to feed your skin and gut microbiome is by incorporating probiotics and prebiotics into your diet. Probiotics introduce beneficial bacteria to the skin, while prebiotics provide the necessary nutrients to feed these beneficial microbes. Together, they help restore the skin’s natural balance, reducing inflammation and enhancing the skin’s natural barriers. You can also use prebiotics and probiotics directly on the skin such as the viral flax seed mask and probiotic serums, toners, creams or masks. These pro and prebiotic skincare products can help replenish and nourish your skin’s microbiome but there is less research on them than directly incorporating these ingredients into your diet.


Beyond skincare, lifestyle changes can significantly impact the health of your skin’s microbiome. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fermented foods can support the growth of beneficial bacteria, both in your gut and on your skin. Hydration, stress management and adequate sleep also play critical roles in maintaining the balance of the microbiota of the skin.

Microbiome-Friendly Skincare Products

Never has the mantra “first do no harm” than when it comes to skincare. The best thing you can do for your skin microbiome is to avoid overusing soaps, antimicrobials, alcohol and harsh products on your skin. These not only kill the microbiota but can also damage your skin barrier and cause microbiome imbalance. Choosing the right skincare products is also crucial in maintaining a healthy skin microbiome. Use gentle cleansers and avoid aggressive over exfoliation, over cleaning or products that strip your skin off oils. Protect your skin with sunscreen and use hydrating products and antioxidants to support your skin’s health. Some skincare products are specifically labelled as “microbiome-friendly” but if you in general avoid harsh ingredients, soaps and irritating chemicals then you’ll be on track. Beyond this you can also consider skincare products that contain prebiotics and probiotics although research behind these is still developing.

Is the Skin Microbiome The Future of Skincare?

Our understanding of the skin microbiome is just beginning and there’s growing research on its effect on skin health everyday. It is likely that we’ll see an increase skincare products targeted at boosting the skin microbiome in future. These would boost skin health, treat specific conditions and even slow down skin aging. Moreover, give the uniqueness of each person’s skin microbiome, this is an exciting area of research as it can lead to the development of personalised skincare treatments. These would target the unique needs of your microbiome to improve skin appearance.

The skin microbiome is a fascinating area of study and may hold the key to unlocking the secret to radiant, healthy and younger-looking skin. By understanding and nurturing this complex ecosystem, we can enhance our skin’s natural defenses, prevent common skin problems and promote a naturally glowing complexion. You can easily boost it’s health by embracing microbiome-friendly practices in our skincare routines and lifestyles. These simple habits can lead to long-lasting, visible improvements in your skin’s health and appearance. As we continue to uncover the mysteries of the microbiome, there’s great promise for personalised skincare treatments to target our unqiue microbiota and meet our skin’s needs.

At City Skin Clinic, we are dedicated to the concept of personalised skincare. Our online skin clinic, offers safe and effective individualised treatments with prescription-strength ingredients like Tretinoin and Hydroquinone. Our doctors treat a range of skin conditions including acne and scars, hyperpigmentationmelasma and skin ageing. To start your personalised skincare plan, book a virtual video consultation or use our online consultation form. The journey towards great skin starts here.

Authored by:

Dr Amel Ibrahim
Aesthetic Doctor & Medical Director
Founder City Skin Clinic
Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England
Associate Member of British Association of Body Sculpting GMC Registered - 7049611

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