Much like your gut, your skin is also home to a thriving community of bacteria, aka a microbiome, whose job is to keep life and health in balance. Your skin is an essential protective layer, the first barrier between your inner physiology and the outside world. Not only does your skin microbiome protect the body against pathogens, it also acts as its own immune system, repelling invaders and keeping your insides safe.
Just as with your gut, your skin microbiome can experience a dysbiosis, or, in everyday language, an imbalance, in which unhelpful bacteria overwhelm and suppress the helpful bacteria. When this happens, you might experience skin irritation and disorders like acne, eczema, and rosacea, heightened sensitivity, slower healing, and a greater vulnerability to infection—or you just may not look quite as radiant as you’d like.
Your skin also acts as a window into the state of your inner health. If any aspect of your insides isn’t functioning well, such as the endocrine, digestive, or immune system, that imbalance will literally show up on your skin. That’s why tending to the root causes of skin issues – instead of just slapping on another ointment – is essential.
So, how to win at the good skin game? Here are a few pointers to keep your skin microbiome in peak form and your skin glowing all over:
Take care of this all-important ecosystem by considering your skin’s needs every day. Antibacterials, high concentrations of drying alcohols, and harsh cleansing agents can upset the microbiome balance, strip the skin barrier (also called its “acid mantle”) of its protective lipids, and disrupt its healthy pH level (which should be around 5.5). Products that are too alkaline (above a pH level of 9.0) or too acidic (below 3.0) should be avoided due to their potential to upset the bacterial and pH balance of healthy skin. Look for beauty companies whose products help maintain a healthy pH (and say so on the box), like non-toxic brand, Drunk Elephant.
Clear out the cobwebs.
If you struggle with persistent skin issues, instead of piling on more products (medicinal or otherwise,) try giving your skin a chemical vacation, or a detox. Often, it’s the stuff we put on our skin every day to keep it extra ‘clean’ that may actually be causing the problems. When you remove the questionable stuff, identify and remove any alkaline, drying, or antibacterial products, and temper your a.m. cleansing routine, imbalanced skin gets a “clean break.” As you do that, also focus on feeding and nourishing the skin with plenty of healthy veggies and fluids, and on rebalancing the skin with good, clean products and ingredients.
Get a little steamy and a little dirty.
Though it sounds counterintuitive, a lifestyle that includes regular sweat sessions will support you on your quest for better skin. Turns out, perspiration from saunas, and exercise, especially outdoor activity (with a little dirt mixed in), supports the healthy balance of protective bacteria. Sweat is like a prebiotic for the probiotics on your skin! Another reason to quit using antibacterial cleansing products to clean face, body and home? All that cleansing has wound up depriving us of natural, immune-stimulating exposure to pathogens which, interestingly, also correlates with the rise in allergies. But what if your day doesn’t always allow for a good sweat session? Then spritz on some ‘sweat.’ Try an ammonia-oxidizing bacteria facial spray from companies like Mother Dirt, to help deliver a dose of live probiotics to your skin and help restore its naturally balanced state.
Get glowing with a healthy prescription.
Your skin is like a good health mirror so, to achieve truly radiant-looking skin, you’ll need to nourish it inside and out. Here are a number of steps to take to get your glow on without piling on more chemical layers, or stripping the natural ones off:
- Do a two-week elimination diet – to detect and remove irritating foods, particularly dairy, sugar, and processed foods
- Hit the infrared sauna – and do so regularly, to sweat out toxins and help clear pores
- Just add collagen powder – a scoop or two in smoothies, soups and stews will help strengthen and heal misbehaving skin
- Drink bone broth – which is known for its ability to help clear up a number of skin disorders
- Avoid antibiotics – as they can throw your skin microbiome out of balance, just like they do in your gut
- Supplement with probiotics – to add more healthy bacteria to your system, and enable it to thrive, as they boost your health and immunity
- Take antimicrobials – these defend against bad bacteria and yeast overgrowth (often the root cause of bad skin) and help create microbial balance.
- Eat your veggies – particularly those leafy greens which are great for skin health, in case you needed one more reason to eat ‘em
- Drink apple cider vinegar – a tablespoon diluted in water before meals makes a skin-supportive ‘mocktail,’ and you apply the same mixture to your skin to support your skin microbiome
- Unwind with yoga – or gentle stretches before bedtime to fortify your skin against stress.