The skin microbiome: Quarterly review Q1 2020

The skin microbiome landscape is ever-evolving. To help you stay up to date with the latest research, industry developments and news we are introducing a new review series published every quarter to help you focus on the news that matters.

To kick us off, we share our top recommended reads comprising highlights of the latest and greatest research on the skin microbiome and then reflect on the key trends that are driving the growing microbiome market.

Must reads:  

1. Your skin microbiome may not be quite as unique as we first thought

We often speak about how the skin microbiome is unique to each person; this has repeatedly been shown to be true for the skin’s outer layer, the epidermis. However, it now seems that the second layer of skin lying beneath the epidermis – the dermis – tells a very different story. New research has shown that the same bacteria are found in the dermal layer regardless of a person’s age or sex (see more on age and the microbiome below)! This knowledge may have implications in our understanding and treatment of skin disorders such as atopic dermatitis (eczema) and psoriasis.

Available online:

2. Your skin microbiome gives away your age

While our dermal layer on its own may not give much away, the skin microbiome has been shown to be the best predictor of age compared to the microbiomes of the gut and mouth. A large-scale analysis of nearly 9,000 gut, mouth and skin samples found that individuals’ skin microbiomes provided estimates of age accurate to within about 4 years. Previous research had already shown the gut microbiome to collate with age, but the new findings revealed that the association between microbiome and age is even stronger in skin! It is thought that this may be due to acknowledged aging-related skin changes, e.g. increased dryness.

Available online:

3. Understanding the impact of cosmetic products on the skin microbiome

Widely recognized as one of the key underexplored areas of the field, this paper delves into the impact of skin care products on the skin microbiome. Over a period of 9 weeks researchers evaluated how four beauty products (facial lotion, moisturizer, foot powder, and deodorant) impacted the skin microbiome of 11 volunteers. While the path to true personalized skin care will require much more research, the results are telling: compounds from beauty products last on the skin for weeks – even after showering – and alter molecular and bacterial diversity. This variability is product, site and person specific, illustrating the potential for a product made with your needs in mind.

Available online:

Find this interesting? For a deeper dive into the skin microbiome and its place within the cosmetics industry, check out this review article which provides a wider perspective:

4. The identification of a new fungal taxon on the scalp

Up to half of the world’s population is familiar with the annoyance of pesky white flakes and irritation caused by dandruff. Whilst the precise role of the microbiome in the condition is not yet known, the skin condition is typically treated by anti-fungal therapies. Previous research identified the correlation between dandruff and the presence of Malassezia Restricta and Staphylococcus, yet this recent research has made an intriguing discovery: the identification of an unclassified fungal taxon that could represent a novel Malassezia species.

Available online:

5. Revealing the secret life of skin – with the microbiome, you never walk alone.

Last but certainly no means least, a paper by DSM that reviews the current knowledge on the skin microbiome, the available sampling and analysis techniques, and the current approaches in the skincare market that are focused on restoring the balance of the microbiome. Touching upon a number of the papers highlighted above, it provides a healthy touch of pragmatism to the expanding market, with a clear view of the priority areas of further research required.

Available online:

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Aside, from the developments in the research landscape, a recent article summarized four key drivers that are shaping the microbiome market – for the skin care industry and beyond.

Innovation: Rapid scientific innovations are facilitating an explosion in microbial research, with novel methods making research faster, larger scale and more cost-effective. As a result, new avenues for product development are opening up with the discovery of new strains generating huge potential for future research.

Expansion: The focus has been drawing slowly away from just the gut with a greater spotlight on the skin microbiome, but research is now also expanding into new areas, such as the mouth, the nasal passageway, the vagina and more!

Personalization: As our understanding around the microbiome continues to grow, so does the potential for products to become more personalized to the individual (in both health & cosmetics).

Information: Consumers are increasingly becoming more informed, more empowered and more health-conscious and new products are reflecting this. While findings reach wider audiences than ever before, individuals look to incorporate positive lifestyle changes to support the health of their microbiome

If you are interested in reading more on the skin microbiome, take a look at the best of The Secret Life of Skin here.

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