The term ‘gut flora’ is commonly understood these days, but did you know there is also ‘skin flora’? This term typically refers to the microorganisms which live on our skin. When the skins flora is in harmony this means the balance of good beneficial flora is high and is then able to help keep unwanted flora at bay, much like in the gut.

Disruptions in the balance between host (being us humans) and microorganisms (being the skin flora) can result in skin disorders or infections. Things that can begin affecting the host–microorganism symbiotic relationship can be endogenous (for example, a genetic variation that selects for a specific microbial community) or exogenous (for example, hand washing).

The journal Natural Reviews Microbiology published the following comment in a review:

“Cosmetics, soaps, hygienic products and moisturisers are also potential factors contributing to the variation of skin microbiota. These products alter the conditions of the skin barrier but their effects on skin microbiota remain unclear.”

This lack of data on personal care products and its effect on skin flora is what recently led a group of researchers to test the effects of a face lotion, a moisturiser, a foot lotion and a deodorant on skin flora diversity and skin health. The following quote is from the study published in BMC Biology where it was noted that skincare products do have the ability to negatively impact our skin flora and that it appears to also be different product to product, and person to person:

“Personal care product effects last for weeks and produce highly individualised responses, including alterations in steroid and pheromone levels and in bacterial and archaeal ecosystem structure and dynamics.”

In recent times, skin product formulations have also come under fire due to concerns over high levels of chemicals used with very little safety testing carried out prior to making the formulation. However, there are many natural skincare companies to choose from that are selling products with kind ingredients for our skin, the environment and even animals. But to be sure, I recommend using the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep product and ingredient search engine where you type in a product by name or an individual ingredient name, and you will get a rating of how healthy it is (or isn’t) for your skin.

The Environmental Working Group’s mission is to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. With breakthrough research and education, they drive consumer choice and civic action. EWG is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. As well as offering advice about skincare product safety, the EWG also offers health information on other places chemicals are lurking such as in tap water and food crops and offers healthy solutions for you and your family.

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