How to Take Care of Your Skin's Microbiota: Not All Bacteria Are Bad

Not all bacteria are bad. In fact, many skin conditions are caused by an imbalance in the skin flora. Discover how to take care of your skin's microbiota here.
How to Take Care of Your Skin's Microbiota: Not All Bacteria Are Bad
Leonardo Biolatto

Reviewed and approved by the doctor Leonardo Biolatto.

Written by Jonatan Menguez

Last update: 21 June, 2023

When talking about bacteria, viruses, or parasites, it’s common to be alarmed and expect something negative. However, some of these microorganisms reside in the outer layers of the skin and contribute to skin protection. Discover how to take care of your skin’s microbiota and what happens when it becomes unbalanced.

What is your skin’s microbiota and how to take care of it?

Beyond its negative connotation, not all bacteria are bad. There is a set of them, along with viruses, parasites, and fungi that colonize parts of the human body from birth. It’s known as microbiota, and it’s estimated that it’s composed of more than 100 trillion microorganisms.

In interaction with host cells, microorganisms live together in symbiosis, i.e. they favor each other for their development. As a rule, these bacteria perform protective functions, produce vitamins, and assist in the digestion process. In exchange, they receive a place to locate themselves.

There are three main types of microbiota according to the sector they occupy:

  • Intestinal. They colonize the gastrointestinal tract and contribute to nutrition, protection, and digestion. Some bacteria are native and others proliferate from food intake.
  • Vaginal. Fundamental for hormonal balance and protecting the intimate area of women against pathogenic microorganisms.
  • Cutaneous. Protective function against other threatening external microorganisms. Divided into groups residing in the axilla and between the fingers; on arms and legs; and on the face.

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The cutaneous microbiota

Also known as cutaneous flora, this refers to the group of bacteria, fungi, parasites, and other microorganisms that reside on the skin. They form a complex symbiotic ecosystem, with which they function as a protective barrier against external threats.

Therefore, a balanced microbiota is essential for the proper functioning of the organism.

According to a study by the Journal of the Colombian Association of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, 9 out of 10 human cells have symbiotic relationships with the microbiota. In other words, an imbalance of this “acquired organ” represents exposure to different skin diseases.

How to take care of your skin’s microbiota from possible alterations

Having hydrated, shiny, and healthy skin is – to a great extent – a product of the balance of the skin flora. But there are different situations that can alter this coexistence. This alteration is known as “dysbiosis” or “dysbacteriosis”.

Some reasons are linked to external aspects, while others depend on personal care. The following situations tend to alter the microbiota:

  • Unconscionable hygiene habits
  • Poor nutrition
  • Alteration of the pH of the skin
  • Environmental changes and pollution
  • Stress
  • Taking antibiotics

If any of these factors, or a combination of them, produces dysbiosis, it can translate into different skin problems. For example, itching, flaking, and rashes. In addition, it can also contribute to the development of psoriasis or rosacea.

Even so, it’s possible to carry out different care to avoid or counteract this imbalance. These are daily actions such as having a healthy diet, regular exercise, and avoiding certain hygiene products.

It’s also important not to self-medicate in order to avoid incorrect consumption of antibiotics that alter the microbiota.

Tips on how to take care of your skin’s microbiota

Some factors that affect the skin flora have to do with changes in the environment, but others are related to the consumption of medicines, food, and hygiene products. Although we don’t have total control over the situations that alter it, it’s possible to carry out a series of personal cares.

Check your hygiene products

Although skin cleanliness and general hygiene are fundamental for health, there are commercial products that can alter the balance of the microbiota. For example, shampoos and soaps with sulfates and other chemicals that affect the pH level of the skin.

In these cases, it’s recommended to use naturally made products and to regulate the intensity and frequency of application. This includes hair care products, soaps as well as cosmetics, and perfumes. Some products contain probiotics that work to restore the skin flora.

Wash with care

In addition to the frequency of washing, attention should also be paid to the way in which the products are applied to the skin. A bath with water that’s not so hot, of short duration, and without the use of sponges is recommended. Drying should be done gently and without rubbing too much.

Ensure proper hydration

To take care of the skin fleet, it’s essential to avoid dryness and apply soft creams that promote skin hydration. In addition, there are regenerative products that are respectful of the skin.

Hydration also refers to the suggested daily water intake. The Mayo Clinic suggests a daily intake of 3.7 liters of water for men and 2.7 liters for women.

Protect yourself from the sun to take care of your skin’s microbiota

It’s clear that UV rays present numerous complexities for the skin. The skin’s fleet can suffer from imbalances if it’s not cared for with sunscreen all year round. In addition, exposure to intense radiation should be avoided.

That said, it’s essential to apply sunscreen with a protection factor of more than 30 and to wear clothing and accessories that help cover the skin from the direct impact of the sun (long shirts, sunglasses, hats, etc.).

Taking care of your diet and rest is key

A balanced diet, including vegetables, proteins, and fiber, helps the microbiota. On the other hand, regular rest also contributes to a healthy state of the skin flora and the whole body in general.

Don’t self-medicate

Improper intake of drugs, especially antibiotics, leads to alterations in the microbiota of the skin. In addition, as detailed in a review in Science Translational Medicine, this may contribute to the problem of antibiotic resistance.

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Protecting the bacteria that coexist with the body

Remember: not all bacteria are bad. Those that make up the microbiota of the skin are responsible for creating a protective barrier against possible pathogens.

Therefore, taking good care of them is essential to enjoy soft, healthy skin with sufficient defenses to fulfill its barrier function.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.