Our skin is most often considered as it relates to our external aesthetic, but as the largest organ of the body is it critical to our overall health.
Not only does it make up a protective barrier between us and the outside world, but the skin is also home to millions of microbes which are integral to our internal and external wellbeing.
Trillions of microbes live on our skin and make up the skin microbiome; over a thousand bacterial species and up to 60 species of fungi. Some of these species can also be found within the gut microbiome, such as Candida and Lactobacillus.
Dermatologist Dr Shawana Vali explains why maintaining a healthy skin microbiome is important.
“The microbiome plays a role in wound healing, limits exposure to allergans, minimises oxidative damage including protection from UV rays, along with maintaining moisture and hydration keeping the skin supple and plump,” says Dr Vali.
“The skin microbiome maintains a pH of 5.0 which inhibits pathogenesis and protects against infection,” adds Dr Vali.
Both what we put on our skin, and what we put in our body, can both compromise the microbiome and result in skin dysbiosis which is associated with conditions such as rosacea, eczema, dermatitis, acne, psoriasis and yeast infections.
So what tips does Dr Vali give to maintain a balanced skin microbiome?
1: Skip the soap
Most soaps and cleansers have a pH of up to 10, enabling it to remove dirt and microbes. However our skin microbiome thrives at an acidic pH of aroud 5. Therefore alkalising soaps and cleansers disrupt the microflora, increasing the liklihood of skin issues.
If my patient presents with an inflammatory skin condition, be that acne, rosacea, dermatitis or eczema I always recommend them to undertake a skin-fast, using only water to wash their face and removing any products from their regime.
This allows the skin pH to reset and our microbiome to rebalance, which supports healthy wound healing and reduces inflammation along with maintaining skin moisture.
2: You are what you eat
We know that your skin microbiome is linked to internal inflammation and similarly the gut microbiome can influence skin issues.
Therefore supporting a healthy gut is key to maintaining healthy skin. The ‘gut-skin axis’ links the gut health and skin health.
Supporting the gut microbiome to prevent and treat disease is a critical facet of my approach to skin disorders. Probiotic supplementation can suppress Propionbacterium acnes, a bacteria leading to acne break outs and Lactobacillus has been proven to improve skin hydration and elasticity.
3: Sweat like a superstar
Our sweat produces a fortifying and antimicrobial prebiotic peptide called dermcidin, which actually supports the skin microbiome protecting against infection and pathogens.
Sweat also keeps the skin hydrated and healthy, and allows for toxins to be purged from our pores. So avoid scrubbing the skin with cleansers and soaps immediately post-gym to allow your skin to soak up the benefits of your sweat.
Dr Shawana Vali’s clientele can undertake a personalised skin microbiome assessment along with a gut health analysis and screening with her expert dietitian.
But for those not lucky enough to be invited to the luxury members-only wellness retreat hidden away in central London, you can still purchase Dr Shawana Vali’s range of supplements that support skin and gut health to optimise your microbiome and shine like a superstar.