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Microbiome is the latest buzzword in skincare, but what on earth is it, and how can it give us clearer, healthier skin?

Microbiome beauty has been quietly brewing for some time, and has only recently exploded into the mainstream among our favourite skincare brands. Whether you've heard of this beauty buzzword already or you have no idea what it means or stands for, we're here to help.

Microbiome health is particularly on the rise at the moment after Rob Calcraft, founder of Ren Clean Skincare, decided to launch a new brand inspired by the subject. “I thought my skincare days were over," he said, before discovering the importance of nurturing the skincare microbiome: "I just thought this is so new, so exciting and so scientifically sound that I should get back on the skincare horse, so to speak.” From this, Cultured was born.

But it's not only new brands that have been paying attention to this; Gallinee, Murad and Drunk Elephant have all created products or lines based around taking care of the skin microbiome in recent years.

Jennifer Rock, dermal facialist and founder of skincare brand Skingredients, believes this fresh interest in the microbiome is a product of Covid-19, much like many other current trends: "During the pandemic, many have turned to skincare as a form of self-care, but without an understanding how to safely use powerful active ingredients, so the skin may have become compromised and irritated."

"Because of this, we've learnt it is important to respect our skin using nourishing and replenishing ingredients which work to restore the skin’s microbiome balance and maintain healthy, protected skin," she finishes.

Still confused? Let's start at the beginning...

What is the skin microbiome?

In short, the microbiome is an ecosystem of bacteria that lives on the skin's surface. Having a balanced microbiome is beneficial, especially to skin health.

"Our skin is an organ and living on the surface of our skin is an entire ecosystem of microorganisms – which are collectively known as our skin’s microbiome," explains Rock.

"The microbes inhabiting our skin, such as viruses, bacteria and fungi, are key to maintaining skin health by reinforcing skin barrier function, which keeps harmful aggressors out and helps to reduce inflammation within the skin."

Why is it important to look after your skincare microbiome?

Having a balanced microbiome is like a basic building block for skin health; if it's healthy, skin is more resistant and resilient.

For example, one key benefit is feeling protected from environmental aggressors such as pollution. Another is for skin to be more hydrated and for it to retain moisture better in general.

But it's not just these simple assists, says Rock: "A healthy microbiome also helps to ward off the triggers that can cause the skin to become inflamed, irritated and sensitised. If the microbiome is disrupted, infections and skin disorders such as atopic dermatitis (otherwise known as eczema) can occur."

How should you protect your skin microbiome?

So now we know how important it is to tend to your microbiome, what steps can we take to do that?

Interestingly, says Rock, it's not just about the products you add into your routine, but the ones you should take away too. "Skincare such as harsh cleansers and overuse of certain active ingredients can alter our skin’s pH balance and disrupt the skin’s microbiome," she explains, before adding that you should be mindful of harsh treatments or overusing things like acids and retinoids.

Instead, stick to balancing ingredients targeted toward improving skin barrier function, such as ceramides and hyaluronic acid.

Gut health also equals a healthy microbiome, so it's about taking care of those insides as well as using topical products. For that reason, investing in supplements and pro/pre-biotics is advisable too.

This article was originally published on Glamour UK.

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