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Updated: Feb 29

The skin is the largest organ of the human body and is home to a diverse array of micro-organisms which can influence health. These are understood to play a significant role in the hosts immune reactions, wound healing, colonisation of pathogens and skin disorders. A great deal is still to be discovered on how these resident microbes influence health both at the site of where they reside but also the pathways to systemic health which are influenced by these skin microorganisms.

The skin microbiome works with the immune system to produce antimicrobials when necessary to help manage inflammation. A healthy skin microflora is needed to help maintain the integrity of the skin’s barrier.

A dysregulated skin microbiota is seen in all chronic skin conditions.

Excessive washing with detergents, particularly in infants at risk of eczema, impairs skin barrier function and alters skin microbial composition, thereby increasing the risk of developing eczema and sensitisation.

The composition of the skin microbiome changes throughout life due to changes in hormonal levels and psychological stressors that increase as we age.

Lifestyle and environmental factors are also a contributing factor to skin health. These exogenous and endogenous factors interact with the physical and functional aspects of the skin barrier through effects on both host cells and the skin microbiome to alter both the integrity and the activity of the skin whether it be hormonal, metabolic, or an immune response.

The health of the gut microbiota can affect our skin microbiome through several potential pathways both positively and negatively. These include the migration of microbes and their metabolites to the skin disrupting the balance of the microflora, increasing the susceptibility of systemic inflammation ensuing due to a leaky gut lining allowing undigested food particles or toxins to gain access to the blood stream activating the immune system.

SCFAs, produced from fibre fermentation can affect the composition of skin microflora to positively influence the skin’s immune response. Research suggests that by modulating gut flora with probiotics you can modulate systemic immune responses and improve skin pathologies.

Initial research has also looked at the use of probiotic formulas as topical applications to relieve and help manage skin diseases.

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