Skin microbiome

Skin, of course, is our major interface with the external world. Through skin, we sense temperature, moisture, touch, while also providing a protective barrier. Skin is also, to a significant degree, a reflection of internal health.

Because of the launch of the Gut to Glow oral skin product, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about skin health and the skin microbiome. The world of the skin microbiome is like outer space: it’s hardly been explored at all. Thousands of research studies are released every year on the gastrointestinal (GI) microbiome, but the skin microbiome receives far less attention. Nonetheless, it is clear from limited evidence that skin conditions such as eczema and rosacea, as well as issues such as dryness, itching, and redness, all have skin microbiome implications.

What I’ve tried to achieve with the Gut to Glow product is to provide skin benefits via an orally-consumed formulation. I see ladies spending huge amounts of money, for instance, purchasing topical hyaluronic acid serums. Apply around the eyes and wrinkles are reduced, moisture increased, but then washed off when you splash water on your face at night—you are not healthier, your skin is not healthier. All you did was apply something externally that only yielded the appearance of smoother skin, but it is illusory. Ingest hyaluronic acid orally, however, and there is an increase in dermal moisture and skin smoothness that does not wash off. Hyaluronic acid consumed orally also exerts favorable prebiotic fiber effects on the GI microbiome, causing a bloom in the species Akkermansia muciniphila, for example, that yields metabolic health benefits and helps reduce inflammation.

Here is something further to consider: Take a look at the ingredients in any topical moisturizing cream, hyaluronic acid serum, or makeup (if they are even listed, as they are often not). In addition to the unpronounceable chemicals, you will also likely see preservatives, chemicals such as parabens, formaldehyde, benzoic acid, and many others. Preservatives are added to topical products to inhibit growth of molds, fungi, and bacteria. But it also means that you are applying antimicrobial ingredients to your skin, as well. One preliminary study documented the reduction in skin microbiome populations with such products. Taking oral antibiotics are, of course, detrimental to the GI microbiome and to overall health increasing, for instance, the likelihood of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and numerous other health conditions in your lifetime. Applying topical products containing preservatives likely also exerts detrimental effects on the skin microbiome with uncertain potential for long-term skin health and appearance.

Another question to consider: How much of a role does the GI microbiome play in skin health via the presumptive “gut-skin axis”? One connection is clear: SIBO and endotoxemia, the situation in which unhealthy fecal species have ascended to colonize the 24-feet of small intestine where they do not belong and shed their cell wall components that enter the bloodstream—“endotoxemia”—plays a roll in skin rashes. Likewise, intestinal fungal overgrowth, labeled “SIFO” if the small intestine is involved, is a cause or contributor to eczema and other skin rashes. Addressing SIBO and SIFO is therefore part of an effort to obtain healthy skin. The loss of GI microbiome species such as Lactobacillus reuteri also plays a role, impairing your capacity to produce moisturizing sebum and accelerating thinning of the dermal layer of skin leading to wrinkles. The failure to ingest Lactobacillus plantarum, a microbe commonly found in fermented foods, is another skin health-impairing phenomenon.

Bottom line: Let’s start thinking about skin health and appearance by seizing control over the GI microbiome, avoiding products containing antibacterial preservatives, and restore skin health by ingesting factors absent from modern life such as L. reuteri, collagen peptides, and hyaluronic acid.

A terrific resource for anyone looking to minimize exposure to problematic ingredients in topical products can be found in the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website.