Similar to the fashion industry’s evolving trends, new skincare trends emerge each year, like when hyaluronic acids and their ultra-hydrating benefits became buzzy or when our Instagram feeds were flooded with the launch of beloved skincare brand Sunday Riley. Admittedly, I am borderline obsessed with researching and discovering the skincare trends on the horizon. So when I started hearing the latest buzzword in skincare, "microbiome," I had to inundate myself in education.
I’ve always been an advocate of the "beauty from within" ethos, meaning that what we put in our bodies or what is going on internally (think stress, lack of sleep, etc.) will directly affect our skin. Australian native Carla Oates founded her company The Beauty Chef on that same principle of beauty beginning in the belly. "While it doesn’t sound very glamorous, the gut is truly where the seeds for good gut health and beauty are planted. It’s where at least 70% of our immune system lies and where we regulate hormones and detoxifying enzymes, make nutrients, and neutralize pathogens," she says. "Now, research into the human microbiome shows that there is also a connection between our gut microbiome (an ecosystem of tens of trillions of microorganisms that live in our digestive tract) and virtually every single aspect of our health, from immune health to metabolic health, brain health, and skin health." Essentially, the appearance of our skin’s microbiome is like a domino effect. What is in our body and outside environmental stressors will immediately impact our skin and its overall health.
To fully understand this new trend of microbiome skincare, I consulted a few leading experts in the industry, including Vicki Levine, co-founder and CEO of a new microbiome-nourishing skincare line, Symbiome; Larry Weiss, co-founder and chief scientific and product officer of Symbiome; and Barbara Paldus, PhD, founder and CEO of science-backed skincare brand Codex Beauty, which focuses on balancing the microbiome. But first and foremost, (and before I can recommend microbiome-friendly products), I am breaking down what exactly the microbiome is, its importance in skincare, and how to foster a healthy microbiome and skincare relationship.
What is the skin microbiome?
"The microbiome refers to the complex community of microscopic organisms that live on human skin," explains Weiss. "It’s an amazing ecosystem consisting of bacteria, archaea, fungi, viruses, and other microbes, which form a network of billions of living organisms with massive genetic and metabolic capabilities." Consider the skin's microbiome the natural and good bacteria for the skin.
Echoing Oates, Paldus emphasizes, "These microorganisms are comprised of about 1000 species of bacteria and up to 80 species of fungi that all live on our skin. Because many of these same microorganisms also reside in a person’s gut, researchers believe that the gut and skin microbiomes are biologically linked." She also notes that the majority of microorganisms residing on the skin are harmless to healthy individuals. Some microorganisms are considered beneficial (health promoting) to the skin, while others are pathogenic (infection promoting).
Why is microbiome skincare important?
According to Paldus, the skin microbiome performs several critical functions: It prevents pathogens from colonizing the skin, helps us deal with skin infections, protects us from environmental damage, and communicates with our immune system.
"It’s important to care for our skin microbiome," Weiss reveals. "Our study of the ancestral microbiome (i.e. what our skin looked like before we lived in the modern world) has revealed that our skin microbiome used to produce many of the essential biomolecules (nutrients such as vitamins A, D, K, and many others) needed for our skin to remain hydrated, supple, clear, and resilient. To combat modern-day environmental and lifestyle stressors, we use skincare to supplement our skin with the nutrients our microbiome can no longer make on its own." Simply put, microbiome skincare helps restore and maintain balance in the skin's health through innovative formulations that rely on science.
What constitutes microbiome-friendly products?
According to Weiss, there are some key ingredients in microbiome-repairing formulas. "First, start by understanding what the skin microbiome needs to be healthy—essential biomolecules such as vitamin E, fatty acids, and other nutrients. This is the first step toward returning skin to a healthy state. The second step is to use fewer products with fewer ingredients daily. The more unnecessary ingredients you introduce to your skin, the greater the chance for irritation or disruption to your skin microbiome," he says. Remember less is more when it comes to skincare, especially when treating the microbiome.
"Symbiome formulates all of our products with less than 10 ingredients that are sustainably sourced from supercharged Amazonian plants and biologically intact to deliver post-biotic nutrients in a manner as close to nature as possible," he adds.
Microbiome skincare is the ultimate retreat to our natural state and is key to ridding our skincare routines of products that do more harm than good. As we continue to look to science, nature, and our own skin and body to heal itself, microbiome skincare will become more popular. There's no doubt microbiome skincare is the next best thing, so keep scrolling to discover the 14 microbiome-supporting products to shop now.
"We started Symbiome to create better skincare with health and efficacy as the main design principles. Symbiome is a scientific term that describes the connections between us, our microbiome, and everything around us. With a team of microbiome scientists, microbiology PhDs, and doctors, everything we do is a reflection of our commitment to minimal yet effective skincare enabled by rigorous and proprietary scientific research, guided by the ancestral microbiome, and empowered by intact biological ingredients from the Amazon," explains Levine.
If you're looking for a facial oil that smoothes and moisturizes the skin, ultimately enhancing the skin's microbiome, look no further.
Paldus adds, "In fact, it is worth noting that all our products are MyMicrobiome certified. Those concerned with protecting and supporting their skin microbiome should look for this certification on fermented skincare products."
Peter Thomas Roth's Vital-E Microbiome Moisture Defense Cream is the ultimate skin saver. Infused with Gamma E Antioxidant Technology and 3% butterfly gingerroot extract, this cream will restore and strengthen the skin's barrier to support the natural microbiome.
Don't let the "Face Vinegar" moniker scare you—this cult-favorite toner adds an instant glow to your complexion through prebiotics and gentle acids that support the skin microbiome.