Skin Dysbiosis: How to Protect and Balance Your Skin Microbiome

The surface of your body is colonized by a vast population of microorganisms, which is referred to as your skin microbiome. It is estimated that a single square centimeter of skin can contain up to one billion bacteria.

The skin and skin microbiome have many vital functions, including providing a physical barrier that protects against pathogens, regulating temperature, water retention, inflammation, and aspects of the immune system.

Bi-directional communication between the gut and the brain is well documented. Newer studies have established that the gut and brain communicate with the skin. This concept was first expressed in 2010 when Dr. Petra Arck proposed a unifying communication system called the Gut-Brain-Skin Axis.i

Each of these organ systems can communicate with each other. Similarly, when psychological stress occurs, the brain can send signals to the skin that promote inflammation.

SKIN DYSBIOSIS

Dysbiosis, also called dysbacteriosis, is a term that indicates an imbalance of bacteria in or on the body. While dysbiosis most commonly refers to a microbial imbalance in the GI tract, it can also denote an imbalance of bacteria on the skin, known as skin dysbiosis.

CONCERNS OVER SKIN HEALTH

An extensive study conducted by the Mayo Clinic between 2005 and 2009 revealed that skin disorders are the most common reasons people visit their doctor.ii According to the Mayo Clinic study, 43% of patients made a doctor’s appointment for a skin disorder compared to 33.6% for joint conditions, 23.9% for back problems, and 22.4% for cholesterol problems.

Cancer is still the #1 killer in the U.S.; nearly half of Americans have high blood pressure, and over one-third of Americans have diabetes or prediabetes. Thus, it was surprising to learn that skin disorders are responsible for more doctor visits than these more common high-profile diseases. Realizing skin conditions are associated with skin dysbiosis emphasizes maintaining a healthy skin microbiome.

BALANCE

Most of the bacteria in the gut and on the skin of healthy individuals are beneficial. Balance is the key to both a healthy gut microbiome and a healthy skin microbiome. The gut and skin of all people contain some potentially harmful bacteria. Still, when your microbiomes are predominantly populated with beneficial bacteria, the harmful bacteria cannot multiply and cause problems.

Thus, it is essential to realize that skin dysbiosis, like gut dysbiosis, is primarily a microbiome problem being out of balance.

SKIN POSTBIOTIC METABOLITES

In 2019, my article titled Postbiotic Metabolites: The New Frontier in Microbiome Science explained that probiotic bacteria in the GI tract produce health-regulating compounds called postbiotic metabolites.iii We are now learning that beneficial bacteria on your skin also produce important health-regulating postbiotic metabolites.

One important class of these compounds is antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). Many beneficial skin bacteria strains make various AMPs, which suppress the growth of pathogens and promote wound healing.iv

A species of skin bacteria named Propionibacterium produces an antimicrobial peptide called Enterocin AS-48. It has been shown to have significant antibacterial activity against 23 bacteria strains commonly associated with acne.v

Staphylococcus epidermidis is another beneficial strain of skin bacteria found to produce a postbiotic metabolite called butyric acid. Due to its activity in balancing inflammatory response, butyric acid helps maintain a healthy skin microbiome.vi

In a survey of bacteria isolated from seven body sites, researchers identified 21 previously unknown postbiotic antimicrobial peptides that exhibited activity against a wide range of skin pathogens.vii

The growing understanding that different species of beneficial skin bacteria produce and secrete postbiotic metabolites that help to maintain a healthy skin microbiome is an exciting new area of science.

TOPICAL PROBIOTICS:

The first record of topical probiotic therapy occurred in the Journal of Cutaneous Diseases in 1912, which reported the topical application of Lactobacillus bulgaricus to treat acne.viii However, it would take nearly 100 years before dermatologists understood how beneficial topical probiotics could be to treat skin diseases. In 2014, the American Academy of Dermatologists issued a statement calling probiotics a “Beauty Breakthrough.

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR SKIN MICROBIOME

Here is a list of critical factors that are important for creating and maintaining a healthy skin microbiome:

  1. Eat a healthy diet: avoid processed foods, minimize sugar, and consume a high quantity and diversity of fiber-rich foods.
  2. Understand that an allergy or sensitivity to food (s) or environmental agents (soap, detergent, household cleaning agent, cosmetics) can disrupt the skin microbiome, leading to imbalances in the skin’s overall health.
  3. Get adequate omega-3 fatty acids in the diet or as nutritional supplements. Omega-3 fats help promote healthy skin tone and tissues, immune function, and overall skin health—recommendation: Dr. Ohhira’s Essential Living Oils™.ix
  4. Protect skin from excessive exposure to UV light. Dr. Ohhira’s Propolis Plus contains vital ingredients like astaxanthin, a powerful antioxidant that protects skin from free radical damage caused by UV rays from sunlight.
  5. Maintain a healthy gut microbiome. Studies have reported a strong link between gut dysbiosis and inflammatory skin diseases.x The gut communicates with the skin via the Gut-Skin Axis. Recommendation: Dr. Ohhira’s Probiotics®
  6. Read the book Clean: The New Science of Skin by James Hamblin, MD. Dr. Hamblin suggests stopping or dramatically reducing using shampoos, conditioners, and products that damage the skin microbiome. Select natural products that promote skin integrity and a beneficial skin microbiome.
  7. Use Dr. Ohhira’s skincare products, including Kampuku Beauty Bar, Magoroku Skin Lotion, Hadayubi Lavender Moisturizer, and Collagen Plus. These products contain natural ingredients that help maintain strong collagen fibers and skin elasticity, deodorize and moisturize the skin, and add healthy postbiotic metabolites to promote a healthy skin microbiome.
 
i Arck P, et al. Is there a ‘gut-brain-skin axis’? Exp Dermatol. 2010 May;19(5):401-405.
ii St. Sauver JL, et al. Why Patients Visit Their Doctors: Assessing the Most Prevalent Conditions in a Defined American Population. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Jan 1, 2013;88(1):56-67.
iii Pelton R. Postbiotic Metabolites: The New Frontier in Microbiome Science. Townsend Letter. 2019 June;431:61-69.
iv Grice EA and Segre JA. The Skin Microbiome. Nature Reviews Microbiology. 2011 Apr;9(4):244-53.
v Cebrian R, et al. The potential of bacteriocin AS-48 in the control of Propionibacterium acnes. Scientific Reports. 2018 Aug 6;8(11766.
vi Keshari S. et al. Butyric Acid from Probiotic Staphylococcus epidermidis in the Skin Microbiome Down-Regulates the Ultraviolet-Induced Pro-Inflammatory IL-6 Cytokine via Short-Chain Fatty Acid Receptor. Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Sep 11;20(18):4477.
vii O’Sullivan JN, et al. Human skin microbiota is a rich source of bacteriocin-producing staphylococci that kill human pathogens. FEMS Microbiology Ecology. Feb 2019;95(2):fiy241.
viii Peyri J: Topical bacteriotherapy of the skin. J Cutaneous Dis. 1912, 30: 688-89.
ix Balic A, et al. Omega-3 Versus Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids in the Prevention and Treatment of Inflammatory Skin Diseases. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Jan 23;21(3):741.
x Szanto M, et al. Targeting the gut-skin axis-Probiotics as new tools for skin disorder management? Exp Dermatol. 2019 Nov;28(11):1210-1218.