Microbiota and skin: the importance of skin microbiota for skin health - Microbiota Care
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The skin microbiota: a complex ecosystem

The skin microbiota is made up of billions of micro-organisms, such as bacteria, viruses and fungi, that live on the surface of our skin. These micro-organisms form a complex ecosystem that plays a vital role in skin health. In fact, the cutaneous microbiota is essential for maintaining the skin's balance and protective functions.

The role of skin microbiota

The skin's microbiota performs a number of important functions in maintaining the health and integrity of our skin:

  • Protection against infection : The micro-organisms present on our skin prevent the development of pathogens by competing for resources (nutrients) or by producing antimicrobial substances.
  • Regulation of inflammation : The microbiota helps to control the local immune system by modulating the activation of inflammatory cells and promoting an appropriate anti-inflammatory response.
  • Maintains a healthy skin barrier : Commensal bacteria help to strengthen the skin's barrier function, in particular by stimulating the production of epidermal lipids and supporting cell renewal.
  • Wound healing : The microbiota plays a role in tissue repair by helping to break down damaged tissue and promoting angiogenesis (the formation of new blood vessels).
  • Immune response : The micro-organisms present on our skin interact with the cells of the immune system, helping to modulate the local and systemic immune response.
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Composition of the skin microbiota

The skin microbiota is made up mainly of bacteria, but also includes viruses and fungi. Bacteria are the most abundant and include species such as Staphylococcus epidermidis and Propionibacterium acnes. Other micro-organisms commonly found on the skin include the yeast Malassezia spp. and various viruses such as the human papillomavirus (HPV).

This composition also varies according to the different anatomical zones of the body, reflecting local characteristics such as humidity levels, temperature or sebum secretion. For example, lipophilic (fat-loving) bacteria predominate in areas rich in sebaceous glands, such as the face and scalp.

Diversity of microbiota between individuals

The composition of the skin's microbiota varies from one person to another depending on various factors such as :

  • Age: Infants have a different microbiome to adults, reflecting the physiological and hormonal changes that occur during life.
  • Sex: Men and women differ in the composition of their skin microbiota, particularly in relation to the production of sex hormones.
  • The environment : Where we live, the climate and exposure to certain environmental agents can influence the diversity and balance of the skin microbiota.
  • Lifestyle: Diet, personal hygiene, stress and the use of medicines (such as antibiotics) are all factors that can have an impact on our skin flora.
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Resident flora vs. transient flora

There are two main types of micro-organisms on the skin: those that are an integral part of the microbiota (resident flora) and those that are temporarily present (transient flora). The resident flora is more stable and contributes more to the skin's protective functions. It includes 'friendly' commensal species such as Staphylococcus epidermidis and Corynebacterium spp. On the other hand, the transient flora is made up of opportunistic or pathogenic species that can be associated with skin infections in the event of an imbalance in the microbiota.

Maintaining a well-balanced microbiota

To preserve the natural balance and protective functions of our skin, it is essential to adopt certain habits:

  • Use products adapted to the skin's natural pH: Gentle soaps and cleansers, which do not damage the hydrolipidic film, ensure that the microbiome is not disturbed.
  • Moderate hygiene: Excessive hygiene or the excessive use of antiseptic products can unnecessarily alter the skin biome and encourage the proliferation of pathogenic species.
  • Eat a balanced diet rich in prebiotics: Good nutrition is essential to nourish the good bacteria and support their growth. Fibre-rich foods (fruit, vegetables, wholegrain cereals) are particularly beneficial for our intestinal and skin flora.
  • Limit the use of antibiotics when not necessary: Overuse or inappropriate use of antibiotics can alter the microbiome and encourage the emergence of bacterial resistance.
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By paying special attention to our own bodies, while respecting their natural physiology, we can help to preserve the balance of our skin microbiota and thus maintain healthy, resilient skin.

To find out more about this subject, which is crucial to our daily dermatological health, take a look at "The skin and its microbes: A complicated relationship" by Dr Richard L Gallo, published in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

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