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Skin aging - do our bacteria play a decisive role?
Just like everything else on our body, the skin changes as we age. This is due, among other things, to collagen levels in the skin going down, which makes the skin less elastic and fine lines and eventually wrinkles appear. Incredibly exciting new research, both from us at Skinome and other research teams, demonstrates a link between our skin microbiome and skin aging. How can we take care of our good bacteria so that the skin ages in the healthiest way possible?

In addition to the skin losing elasticity as we age, the skin's oil production decreases and it is common for it to become a little drier. Our pigment cells are also affected and we often get a slightly uneven skin tone and pigment spots. These changes can feel difficult and an entire industry focuses on making us fight against signs of aging, but remember that getting older is a luxury! It's a privilege not everyone gets. Despite this, most of us probably want to feel and look as good as we can, regardless of our age, and there are several factors we can influence when it comes to our skin.

Some notice the skin change more than others and this is simply due to what we usually call intrinsic (inside) factors and extrinsic (outside) factors.

The internal factors are about genetics and the external factors are about how we treat our skin throughout life.

One of the cornerstones of Skinome's view of the skin and how we best take care of it is based on our knowledge of our skin microbiome, which consists of the good bacteria, viruses and fungi that live on our skin and which are the basis of our skin health. Incredibly exciting is that there also seems to be a connection between skin health when it comes to skin aging and our microbiome. More and more studies show that skin aging is related to changes in the skin's microbiome (our skin flora).

In 2019, Professor Elisabeth Grice and her team at the University of Pennsylvania made the interesting discovery that a certain type of bacteria is linked to skin rejuvenation . Many of the skin's bacteria are important "factories" that manufacture nutrients, vitamins and lipids that are crucial for our skin's health, and we know that many of these processes decrease as the skin ages.

Professor Grice and team discovered that bacteria linked to younger looking skin contribute to and are important for lipid and ceramide production. Previous studies show that the lipid and ceramide concentration in the skin decreases by up to 30% in the skin during the aging process. Grice's study provides the explanation that the bacteria that help with ceramide production in the skin decrease as we age.

In another recent study from 2022, American and Chinese researchers show that it is the skin bacterium S. epidermidis that produces ceramides in the skin and thus accounts for an important part of the skin's barrier function. The skin barrier is the outermost layer of the skin which is important for keeping out dirt, pollution and bad bacteria and which "locks in" the moisture in the skin and an intact skin barrier is crucial for our skin health. S. epidermidis is a bacterium that we and others are particularly looking at whether it can be added to the skin through skin cream to reduce the rate of the aging process. Grice and his team also saw that there are bacteria that are also responsible for pigmentation, the skin's firmness, elasticity and wrinkle formation.

In another new study, also from 2022, they compared the skin in different age groups, women between 19–28 years and 60–63 years. In the study, it was seen, among other things, that the younger women had more lactobacilli (lactic acid bacteria) in their skin compared to the older women. This is of course interesting in terms of probiotics in skin care, as lactic acid bacteria is something we can include in skin care.

Researchers are currently studying whether the bacteria that we have more of when we are young can be added to counteract and slow down skin aging. We already know that our skin microbiome is incredibly important to our skin health as a whole, but it is very interesting that more scientific studies are now also focusing on understanding the link between skin aging and our microbiome.

How can you influence the skin's microbiome and thus perhaps the aging of the skin?

Microbiome supporting skin care

In our own studies in collaboration with Linköping University, we have seen that the diversity of bacteria increases in the skin when you switch to preservative-free skin care. This happened after a month of use, which led to less irritated and red skin but also smoother skin. The conclusion is that a microbiome in balance, which is not disturbed by, among other things, preservatives from skin care, leads to better skin health with an improved skin tone and smoother skin.

Probiotics in skin care

A relatively new area in skin care focuses on including live bacteria, so-called probiotics, in the product. But what not many skin care consumers know is that it is very unusual for there to be "real" probiotics in skin care, i.e. bacteria that are alive, even if it says probiotics on the packaging. Only 1% of all skin care products marketed as probiotics actually contain live bacteria. Instead, they are ingredients such as pre- and postbiotics, which are not live bacteria. We think this is misleading, but unfortunately there is no regulatory framework that regulates how to communicate about different types of biotics.

Live bacteria can only survive in completely water-free formulations (ie in oil solutions). Currently, there are only a handful of products on the European market that keep their promises and contain live bacteria.

So do probiotics really work and are there benefits to applying live bacteria to the skin? Yes, more and more studies point in this direction. Even our own studies show positive effects such as increased hydration, better texture and less fine lines after using live lactic acid bacteria on the skin.

This has led us to launch our first night concentrate with probiotics in the autumn, something we will tell you more about shortly!

References

Kim, HJ et al. Segregation of age-related skin microbiome characteristics by functionality. Sci. Rope. (2019) doi:10.1038/s41598-019-53266-3.

Shibagaki, N. et al. Aging-related changes in the diversity of women's skin microbiomes associated with oral bacteria. Sci. Rope. (2017) doi:10.1038/s41598-017-10834-9.

Hye-Jin Kim, Han Na Oh, Taehun Park, Hanbyul Kim, Hyun Gee Lee, WJS Aged related human skin microbiome and mycobiome in Korean women. Sci. Rope. (2022).

Yue Zheng 1, Rachelle L Hunt 1, Amer E Villaruz 1, Emilie L Fisher 1, Ryan Liu 1, Qian Liu 2, Gordon YC Cheung 1, Min Li 2, MO 3. Commensal Staphylococcus epidermidis contributes to skin barrier homeostasis by generating protective ceramides. Cell Host Microbe (2022).

Marhuenda-Muñoz M Hurtado-Barroso S, T.-RAL-RR A review of factors that affect carotenoid concentrations in human plasma differences between Mediterranean and Northern diets. Eur J Clin Nutr. (2018).

Danby, FW Nutrition and aging skin: Sugar and glycation. Clin. Dermatol. (2010) doi:10.1016/j.clindermatol.2010.03.018.

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