What is Skin Microbiota?
We are covered in germs, both externally and internally. In our body there are more germs than cells.
More than a million microorganisms of at least 100 different species colonise every square centimetre of skin. They live in perfect symbiosis, they communicate with us using our own immune system, and they help develop it. This group of microorganisms is known by the name skin microbiota.
We receive this mantle of microorganisms that cover our skin from our mother at birth, and it is different if we are born naturally or by Caesarean birth. With natural birth our mother gives us all the skin microbiota; with Caesarean birth we receive an influence from the environment.
Skin microbiota evolves with age until it stabilises and becomes typical of each individual. It is like one’s fingerprint, it varies depending on the area of our body because the environmental conditions are not the same. For example, in the underarm or in the face is not the same as in an arm or in the feet, and all of this conditions the amount and type of microorganisms that live on the skin’s surface.
These microorganisms can be classified into two large groups:
1.- Resident microorganisms: that are always restored although they disappear, they have the capacity to multiply and live adhered to the skin. They are not harmful, and even can have beneficial effects.
2.- Undesirable microorganisms and/or pathogens: they are placed on the skin from the environment, they are opportunistic, they only stay a few days or hours and can be disastrous or generate disorder or an infection on our skin.
From a bacteriological point of view our skin is considered a culture medium and its composition derives from our heritage, the diet we follow, our lifestyle and the area where we live. Consequently each skin is unique.
Why is the microbiota important?
The epidermis is an essential element of our defences and its barrier function is an essential component of the skin’s immunity:
- In a first defence line, it is a physical and chemical barrier that prevents the invasion of substances, molecules or foreign microorganisms.
- In a second defence line is the immune system, a complex system that protects us and defends from infections.
The resident skin microbiota participates actively in the double protective function of the skin, as a physical and immune barrier:
- Obstructs the development of opportunistic bacteria, generating a hostile environment for them: bacterial interference.
- Helps degrade the lipids of the skin’s surface, favouring the barrier function.
- Protects against the immunosupression that UV radiation generates on our skin.
What factors can affect or alter the skin microbiota?
Age, diet, lifestyle, some drugs, the type of cosmetics, most of all hygiene cosmetics, when we use shampoos or bath gels that are very aggressive we eliminate dirt, but also we eliminate this defensive barrier. They have to respect the skin’s pH.
At the skin level it is important to maintain a balanced composition of the microbiota to prevent the colonisation by undesired bacteria. When this balance is broken, there appear inflammatory diseases, infections, allergies or autoimmune diseases.
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Discover if you have sensitive skin or how to detect it in the following post.