Expert Advice: The benefits of bacteria in supporting the skin’s immune system
Skin care expert Kathy Wilcox explains how maintaining the skin’s microbiome can reduce inflammatory skin conditions such as Acne and Rosacea.
Did you know your skin has its own immune system? Yep! The skin has an immune system that protects the body against infection from pathogens, toxins, free radical damage and acts as a physical barrier against the external environment.
The skin is a dynamic organ that contains different cells comprised of the innate and the adaptive immune systems which are activated when your skin is under attack by invading pathogens.
The key immune cell in the epidermis are Langerhans cells. Langerhans cells are present in all layers of the epidermis, this is the thin outer layer of skin we see on the surface. They help to protect you by keeping dangerous microbes (bacteria and viruses) from entering your body.
Langerhans cells do this in two very different ways: by protecting your skin from infection and by stimulating allergic reactions. When there is a dysfunction in the Langerhans cells this can be associated with inflammatory skin diseases, such as Dermatitis, Acne Vulgaris and Rosacea.
The dermis is the layer that lies beneath the epidermis, it has blood and lymph vessels and numerous immune cells, including Lymphocytes: T cells, B cells, natural killer (NK) cells and Mast cells. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that are also one of the body's main types of immune cell. These cells work together to defend the body against foreign substances, such as bacteria and viruses that can threaten its function. There is always continuous communication between our immune cells and the skin.
The skin also supports a diverse community of microorganisms that train and support the immune system, this is known as the Microbiome. The skin's microbiome plays a huge role in the balance of the skin's immune system. The microbiome of the skin is as individual as a fingerprint, and is made up of various good bacteria, bad bacteria and fungi/yeast. Together they create a protective barrier on the skin to fend off pathogens.
What can you do to help your clients?
To boost the immune system of the skin and re-establish a healthy microbiome there are few simple things clients can do.
Suggest that clients have a diverse diet containing plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, legumes and beans and staying hydrated is a great place to start. This will not only help gut health but will also reflect positively on the skin's Microbiome. Many fruits, vegetables and whole grains contain prebiotics which we know are beneficial for a healthy gut.
Including fermented foods like yogurt, soybean milk, kombucha and tempeh can benefit the health, as these foods contain Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria which can reduce disease causing bacteria while promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria.
Suggesting clients identify any food triggers they may have, such as dairy or gluten, will also help keep internal inflammation at bay.
Using the wrong skincare can totally throw off the microbiome of the skin. It's best to avoid harsh cleansers and soap, and advise clients look for products that have a neutral pH or contain topical probiotics.
There is a growing range of Microbiome friendly skincare products available on the market, and for those suffering with dermatological skin issues or flare ups of inflammation these products can be very beneficial when used on a daily basis. They are formulated to re-establish a healthy microbiome and encourage our good bacteria and bad bacteria to live in harmony.
Taking these steps will not help clients' skin aesthetically but can also help protect to their body.
Kathy Wilcox is National Trainer for DMK skincare, available from Chleo Enterprises.