25 June 2021

Remembering there is a skin microbiome

Most people nowadays understand that there is a gut microbiome that is crucial to good health.  An article in The Atlantic reminds us that there is also a skin microbiome.
Even water alone, especially hot water, slowly strips away the oils in the outer layers of skin that help preserve moisture—and the drier and more porous someone’s skin, the more susceptible it is to irritants and allergens... 

Skotnicki believes that this is one way overwashing prompts eczema to flare in people with a genetic predisposition to the disease... the incidence of immune-related skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis has risen in the developed world, while acne is as pernicious as ever, despite the constant stream of expensive new medications and unguents sold to address it.

An early jolt of public recognition that our skin was thick with them came in 2014, when researchers scraped the faces of a small group of volunteers in North Carolina and found DNA evidence of microscopic mites called Demodex burrowed in their pores. The detection of the colorless arachnids made headlines nationwide, eliciting a widespread cry along the lines of Get these things off of me this instant. But although an abnormally high density of the half-millimeter bugs has been linked to rosacea, they’re almost surely serving some useful purposes. Michelle Trautwein, an endowed chair of dipterology (the study of flies) at the California Academy of Sciences and a co-author of the study, told me that Demodex may feed off our dead skin cells—making them the most “natural” exfoliants of all.

An out-of-balance skin microbiome isn’t just the result of too much soap and scrubbing. We’ve also exposed ourselves to preservatives with antimicrobial properties. Prime among them are parabens, which have been used for the better part of a century to extend the shelf life of many hygiene and beauty products—deodorant, makeup, toothpaste, shampoo—as well as packaged foods...

Researchers at NIAID tried spraying eczema patients’ inner elbows with the aforementioned Roseomonas mucosa. After six weeks of twice-weekly applications, symptoms such as redness and itching diminished in most of the patients, according to Ian Myles, the lead investigator. Some also reported needing fewer topical steroids even after the treatment stopped...

At a fundamental level, spending time in the natural world, starting from early childhood, seems to be one of the best ways to build and maintain a healthy skin biome.
More at the link.


  1. If I may say as a soapmaker for 20 years... The number one cause of skin irritation is synthetic fragrance. And who knows what it's doing to our noses? Plus,so much of what we call soap is really detergent. Body wash. Yuk. I recently had surgery and the instructions were to wash with an antibacterial soap like Dial which used to have trichlosan but the chemical was outlawed in 2016 after it was found deep in groundwater. Now Dial uses Benzalkonium Chloride for the unnecessary antibacterial action. My presurgery instructions were written years back, I'm afraid. I used our soap to prepare for the operation. I didn't mind their guidance to take a shower the night before and sleep on clean sheets.
    Such a TYWKIWDBI fan! Thank you!

  2. the suggested pre-op skin wash is with the brand name 'hibiclens', which has chlorhexidine.



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