Microbiome skincare and makeup: Everything you need to know

Microbiome skincare and makeup: Everything you need to know – plus the best microbiome products

17th March 2024 | Author: Victoria Woollaston-Webber

Our skin is teeming with bacteria, fungi and viruses that make up our unique skin microbiome. There is now a rise in beauty products designed to keep this microbiome in check


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What is a microbiome?

What is microbiome-friendly skincare and makeup?

Microbiome skincare

Microbiome makeup

In the realms of skincare and makeup, there’s a growing trend of products that promise to maintain or restore the natural balance of your skin’s microbiome.

Every one of us, from birth, develops a microbiome made up of a microorganisms that live and thrive on our skin, and in our gut.

These microrganisms include live bacteria, fungi, and viruses and the balance of which are completely unique to us and our interactions and life.

In fact, your microbiome is as individual as a fingerprint, and it changes and evolves in response to environment, lifestyle, age, and the people we spend time with.

Such is its uniqueness, and its impact on those around us, studies have been able to identify cohabiting couples based purely on how similar their microbiomes are.

Given the critical role your microbiome therefore plays on your skin health, a growing number of brands are releasing “microbiome-friendly” skincare and makeup in a bid to keep your skin balanced and looking its best.

But what does “microbiome-friendly” actually mean and is it worth paying (often extra) for?

What is a microbiome?

What is skin microbiome?Shutterstock

Your skin microbiome is teeming with trillions of microorganisms that develop shortly after you’re born and diversify as you age. Just like your gut microbiome.

These include:

  • Probiotics: Live microorganisms that live on the skin and help maintain the stability of the microbiome.
  • Prebiotics: These are compounds found on the skin that nourish and promote and balance of probiotics.
  • Postbiotics: The beneficial substances produced by probiotics as they metabolise on the skin. These by-products play a key role in supporting a healthy microbiome, helping your skin retain moisture and fortify the skin’s defence.

When your skin is healthy, all of these microorganisms live in balance and harmony. They protect your skin from harm, keep your skin barrier in check and is the natural ecosystem that guards the skin against invaders.

The benefits include:

  • Acting as a shield against harmful pathogens trying to invade your skin
  • Helping your immune system function properly
  • Producing beneficial compounds that keep your skin healthy
  • Breaking down sweat and sebum (oil)

It’s effectively a protective layer or shield that feeds on the oils, salt, and moisture found naturally in your skin. This creates an environment where helpful bacteria thrive and harmful pathogens have no room to live or survive.

Recent research even suggests that certain bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus are associated with conditions like eczema, suggesting that managing the microbiome’s balance could help with such conditions.

The exact makeup of your skin microbiome depends on several factors, such as your age, genes, diet, medications, the climate you live in, and even your hygiene habits.

However, this makeup can be easily thrown off balance by using harsh skincare ingredients, cold weather, what you eat and even certain medications. This can lead to issues like dryness, acne, eczema, and irritation.

What is microbiome-friendly skincare and makeup?

Microbiome skincare and makeupShutterstock

A whole host of changes in recent decades, from the greater understanding of the spread of bacteria, and Covid to the huge boom in skincare and makeup brands generally, has resulted in an almost perfect storm for our microbiomes.

Many of us are overwashing our face and hands, or using sanitiser more. Others are jumping between skincare and makeup products in the hope that they live up to their promises.

All of this increased use of strong chemicals and aggressive scrubbing can harm our skin. Namely because they can remove the natural oils and good bacteria on our skin, leading to problems like dryness, irritation, and even making conditions like acne and eczema worse.

Microbiome-friendly skincare is developed with the health of the skin’s microbes in mind. They often include ingredients like prebiotics, which feed the good bacteria on our skin; probiotics, which are live microbes that can add to the skin’s natural collection of organisms; and postbiotics, which are beneficial substances produced by bacteria.

They avoid ingredients that could disrupt this balance, such as harsh exfoliants and chemicals.

In makeup, microbiome-friendly products are designed to not disrupt your the skin’s natural state. They avoid harsh preservatives and other ingredients that could upset the skin’s microbial balance. Instead, they can feature skin-friendly ingredients that support a healthy microbiome.

The interest in microbiome-friendly skincare and makeup is part of a larger trend towards more natural and health-conscious beauty routines.

It reflects a growing awareness of the skin as an ecosystem that needs balance and diversity to function correctly.

Best microbiome-friendly beauty products

When shopping for microbiome-friendly beauty products, always look for gentle formulations that support the balance of your skin’s barrier and microbiome. In particular, look for:

  • Prebiotics: These ingredients act as “food” for the good bacteria on your skin, helping them thrive. Look for ingredients like oligosaccharides, beta-glucan, and chicory root extract.
  • Probiotics: These are rare and even though some skincare products boast probiotics, true live probiotics are difficult to formulate into products that can sit on a shelf for while. However, some products contain probiotic derivatives or lysates which can be beneficial.
  • Gentle cleansers: Avoid harsh soaps and sulfates that can strip away natural oils and disrupt the microbiome. Look for cleansers that are “fragrance-free” ideally with ceramides or hyaluronic acid.
  • Minimalist ingredients: Look for products with fewer ingredients, especially those free of artificial fragrances, colours, and alcohol, which can irritate the skin.

Below we’ve picked our favourite microbiome-friendly skincare and makeup. As you can see, microbiome beauty products don’t come cheap unfortunately!

Microbiome skincare

Kinship's Self Reflect Moisturising microbiome SunscreenKinship

Microbiome Makeup

  •  Microbiome foundation: The Esse Foundation (£57) offers medium coverage, SPF30 and contains probiotics that leave even sensitive skin looking natural while supporting a healthy skin microbiome.
  • Microbiome CC Cream: By incorporating prebiotics and probiotics into their products, IsaDora offers gentle, effective makeup that support the skin’s health, such as its CC+ Cream and the Wake Up The Glow Fluid Serum Foundation.

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