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Bacteria on your skin: Gross or gorgeous?

If you’re not convinced that good bacteria can improve the look of your skin, scientific proof will make you a believer.

Published On: 09/25/18

Science is sexy. We don’t need a clinical study to tell us that much.

Still, consumers in the digital age are becoming more aware of the science behind their skincare fixes — and more interested in the processes, materials and ingredients involved in the making of their products.

As a result, they are also starting to understand the scientific mechanisms for healthy-looking skin. Put simply, if you’re going to put a bunch of weird soaps and creams on your face every day, it’s natural to want to know what’s in them and how they’re going to help.

With that, the skincare industry has seen a growing interest in products that nurture the community of microorganisms that live on your skin: the microbiome. The makeup of your microbiome affects things like your skin’s hydration and acne breakouts, or more persistent conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

Now we’re seeing a rise in products that cater to the microbiome trend. The goal is to promote the growth of good bacteria to improve skin condition, inhibit bad bacteria and maintain a healthy, balanced environment that keeps your skin looking beautiful.

What’s all the fuss about the microbiome and where did it start? Let’s ask an actual scientist.

“If you look at overall trends, [like in] nutrition and supplements, a lot of fermentation ingredients are trending,” says Philip Ludwig, Technical Service Specialist at BASF.

Fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut and pickles have hit trend status as consumers connect the dots between fermentation, healthy bacteria and digestive wellness. While words like “bacteria” and “yeast” may have set off alarm bells previously, it’s now understood that certain types can benefit gut health just as much as other types can hinder it.

As the consumer mindset shifts to embrace bacteria like S. epidermidis, which is part of the normal human skin flora, we’re moving away from the days of antibacterial soaps that wipe out our microorganisms indiscriminately. We understand that the skin’s microflora contributes to the healthy appearance of our skin.

That’s why we now have products like Relipidium™, a BASF innovation that cultivates a thriving environment for the beneficial bacteria on our skin.

Relipidium™ was developed from a biological yeast extract and modified by biotechnology using a bacterium called Lactobacillus plantarum. It improves the skin’s condition in two ways: first, it fortifies the physical barrier and improves moisturization by boosting the production of certain lipids. Second, it strengthens the immunological barrier by increasing the presence of specific proteins, which Ludwig calls “the watchdogs of the skin.”

“They help protect the skin,” he explains. “By increasing the immunological barrier, you increase the level of the good, commensal bacteria S. epidermidis.”

On your skin, that translates to stronger barriers, better after-sun recovery, and deep and lasting hydration.

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Can you believe?

Even if you’re past the initial yuck factor of millions of random microorganisms camping out on your skin, you might worry at the prospect of messing with your body’s natural state. But Ludwig says there’s no cause for concern.

“Scientifically, everything you do perturbs the bacteria on your skin,” he explains. “Every time you shower, that changes your microflora. If you look at the overall body, your forehead has a slightly different population than your cheeks, and your face overall is quite different than under your arms or on your legs.”

As consumers become more invested in understanding ingredients and preserving the health of their skin, they become less interested in purely cosmetic or surface treatments. The microbiome trend goes straight to the heart of the problem.

Have dry skin on your face? It could be linked to an imbalance in the microbiome. When you understand that root cause, it makes more sense to address the problem instead of slapping on some lotion as a quick fix.

“It’s more of a holistic approach,” says Ludwig. “It’s helping to feed the bacteria on the skin to create a good environment. Compared to just, say, applying a moisturizer — here, you’re looking at the root cause.”

That’s the microbiome philosophy. Because it’s on such a micro scale, you can’t exactly see it to believe it, but BASF conducts extensive testing to make sure everything is safe and effective.

Besides, once you see the difference on your skin, we know you’ll be a believer.

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