Skin microbiome and acne. How does the skin microbiome affect acne?
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Have you ever wondered why some people have perfect skin, while others struggle with acne? This could be related to the skin microbiome, which has a key impact on the condition of our skin. Acne vulgaris is one of the most common skin diseases, affecting over 80% of adolescents and about 8-9% of adults. One of the factors preventing acne development is taking care of the skin microbiome condition. Disruptions in its functioning can lead to the formation of pimples and imperfections, which can ultimately lead to acne development. From this article, you will learn what the skin microbiome is, how it affects the formation of acne, and how we can take care of our microbiome to improve our skin condition.
What is the skin microbiome?
The skin microbiome is an ecosystem made up of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microbes, that inhabit our skin. These microorganisms perform a variety of important functions. They protect against infections, regulate the pH of the skin, and assist in regeneration - these are just some of the tasks performed by these "friendly" microbes. With the proper balance of the skin microbiome, all these microorganisms live in harmony, creating a natural protective barrier for our skin.
You can read more about the microbiome in this article: What is the skin microbiome and how to take care of it?
Skin microbiome imbalance and acne
The balance of the skin microbiome is a delicate balance that can be easily disrupted. Disturbances in the balance of the skin microbiome, also known as dysbiosis, can lead to various skin problems, including acne.
There are many causes of acne, in particular, we can distinguish factors such as increased sebum production, colonization by Propionibacterium acnes bacteria, inflammation, increased sweating, hormonal fluctuations (related to the menstrual cycle or excessive androgen production), and obstruction of the hair follicle-sebaceous gland apparatus.
In the case of increased sebum production, its excess, along with dead skin cells, blocks pores, which can lead to inflammatory states and the development of pathogens.
Another factor is also genetic issues. Usually, in people with persistent and difficult-to-cure acne, the occurrence of this disease is also found in other family members. Our emotional state, especially stress, can also intensify acne symptoms.
The main culprit of acne is a bacterium called Cutibacterium acnes. These bacteria are part of the natural skin microbiome, but when conditions are right - for example when pores are blocked - they can lead to the formation of pimples. As studies show, people with acne usually have more of these bacteria on the skin than people without acne (widely discussed in scientific research, such as Dréno et al., 2018).
We can distinguish many types of acne, and what appears in us depends on a number of factors such as diet, genetics, or the state of the microbiome. Here is a list of the most common types of acne:
- adolescent acne – it occurs during puberty, is associated with hormonal changes and increased sebum production,
- adult acne – occurs in adults regardless of age, its causes are very complex, as they can depend on many factors, where often the diagnosis of the whole organism (hormones, emotional state, etc.) is required,
- rosacea acne – its causes are not fully understood, it manifests itself with strong skin redness, sensitivity, and the presence of subcutaneous nodules,
- pyogenic acne – we recognize it by the presence of purulent cysts, it heals leaving scars,
- cosmetic acne – caused by improperly selected care, usually subsides after eliminating the cause,
- drug-induced acne – caused by some drugs (e.g., steroids, barbiturates, hormonal drugs).
If you notice acne symptoms in yourself, a visit to a specialist is necessary, who will select the appropriate treatment.
Our skin microbiome plays a key role in protecting our skin from acne. Here's how it works:
Regulates sebum production: Excess sebum is a key factor in the formation of acne. Some microorganisms on the skin help regulate sebum production, thereby preventing clogged pores.
Prevents the multiplication of harmful bacteria: Good bacteria on our skin, such as those of the Lactobacillus genus, can inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria, such as Cutibacterium acnes, which are associated with acne.
Supports the skin's immune system: The skin microbiome works with our immune system, helping to recognize and combat harmful bacteria before they lead to acne.
Provides skin barrier protection: A healthy skin microbiome helps keep our skin barrier strong and able to defend against harmful microorganisms and toxins that can contribute to acne.
Helps maintain proper skin pH: The skin microbiome helps maintain skin pH in an optimal range. Too high pH can promote the growth of harmful bacteria, which can contribute to acne.
Skin care supporting the skin microbiome
Understanding the role that the skin microbiome plays in keeping our skin healthy can significantly change our approach to skincare. Focusing on supporting the health of our skin microbiome, not just battling its visible symptoms such as acne, can yield long-term benefits. So how can we do this?
Gentle Skin Cleansing
One of the most critical aspects of skin microbiome-supportive care is gentle cleansing. Many popular skin cleansing products are too aggressive and can damage the natural skin barrier, leading to dysbiosis. By choosing gentle cleaning products, preferably with a physiological pH, we can help maintain the balance of our microbiome.
Cosmetics Containing Probiotics, Postbiotics, and Prebiotics
These ingredients can help maintain the health of our skin microbiome. Probiotics are "good" bacteria that can help fight "bad" acne-causing bacteria. Postbiotics are the metabolic products of these good bacteria that have beneficial properties for the skin. Prebiotics are components (e.g., inulin, betaine, or alpha-glucan) that "feed" good bacteria, helping them grow and thrive.
Appropriate Moisturizing Creams
Moisturizing the skin is another key element of skin microbiome-supportive care. Dry and irritated skin is more prone to microbiome disorders. A good moisturizer will help keep the skin hydrated and healthy, thereby supporting the health of the skin microbiome.
Skin care supporting the skin microbiome is not just about effectively combating acne, but a holistic approach to skin health. Thoughtful choices of skincare products that support our natural skin microbiome can bring significant benefits to the health and appearance of our skin. Remember, a healthy microbiome means healthy skin!
Healthy diet and lifestyle as support for the skin microbiome
The role of a healthy diet and lifestyle in maintaining a healthy skin microbiome cannot be overstated. A fiber-rich diet helps support the good bacteria in our microbiome. Probiotics, which are "good" bacteria, are also essential. They can come from fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, or kimchi, but also from supplements.
Stress also impacts the balance of our skin microbiome. High levels of stress can lead to inflammation and dysbiosis. Stress-reducing practices such as meditation, physical exercise, and regular rest can help maintain a healthy skin microbiome.
Acne-prone skin care requires consistency and patience, but understanding the role of the skin microbiome can significantly improve our efforts. Proper cleansing, using cosmetics that support the microbiome, appropriate moisturizing, a healthy diet, and stress reduction - all these are key to our skin's health. It's worth remembering that the skin microbiome is a delicate ecosystem that needs time to regain balance. Therefore, the key is patience. By consistently caring for our skin microbiome, we can aid the fight against acne and enjoy healthier skin.