What is the Skin Microbiome?

March 2023

The concept of skin microbiome has actually been around in the dermal science industry for quite some time.

From what we’ve been told, we know that the human skin harbours a diverse group of microorganisms invisible to the naked eye. They provide the necessary protection against external factors and pathogens such as ultraviolet exposure, environmental microbes, personal hygiene, sebum, sweat as well as everyday consumer care products. Everywhere from in-between our toes to our eyelids and our underarms, there are millions of microorganisms living with us.

Microbiome Facts

- Microbes are the general term to describe a host of different life forms such as bacteria, algae, fungi and viruses.

- A microbe is a living organism too small to be seen by the naked eye

- Our lifestyle, diet, environment, and even genetic makeup can all influence our microbiome community.

- They communicate with our immune systems in order to maintain optimal health and wellbeing

These microorganisms form communities and ecosystems that undertake a variety of complex molecular and cellular processes inside and outside the skin and even influence the physical expression in the skin. These microbiotas interact directly with skin cells and play a central role in skin physiology and diseases. Within these ecosystems, microbes coexist and strive to maintain a state of ‘symbiosis’ or balance within their hosts (this is you!) It’s said that the more diverse and abundant your microbiome community is, the better.

Essentially, when microbes become ‘imbalanced’, this is known as ‘dysbiosis’ and is believed to contribute in the development and progression of certain skin diseases and conditions. Think about how you react to stressful situations, where and how you live everyday can have a profound effect on the state of your gut and skin microbiome. External stressors (either psychological or environmental) can reduce the diversity of our microbes weakening our protective barriers.

A 2020 study investigated the role of the skin microbiome in relation to acne. It supported that idea that certain strains of microbes can indeed protect against pathogens and contribute to the maintenance and restoration of a healthy microbiome community. Namely, S. epidermidis and C. acnes, these strains can be used against imbalances in the skin and therefore treat or improve common skin diseases and conditions. (2020, Nørreslet L.B, Agner. T & Clausen M.L).

In her book, Good Bacteria and Healthy Skin, Paula Simpson explains that ‘topical creams, powders, lotions, sprays and other cosmetics contain elements that can alter the skin microbiome.” These elements can reduce the diversity and decrease the number of our resident microbes, changing our whole microbiome community. (2019, Simpson. P).

It’s important to note that the microbiome community existing in inflammatory skin diseases differ depending on disease as the host can influence its microbiome makeup. Not only are the bacterial species important but also different strains within the same species can result differently, where some can be commensal and protect against microbial dysbiosis, whereas others can induce skin inflammation and immune reactions in humans. (2020, Nørreslet L.B, Agner. T & Clausen M.L)


2020, Nørreslet L.B, Agner. T & Clausen M.L, The Skin Microbiome in Inflammatory Skin Diseases, Springer Science+Business Media, Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s13671-020-00297-z

2019, Simpson. P, Good Bacteria for Healthy Skin, Ulysses Press, Berkeley California, United States of America