The internet tells us a lot about the world, the people in it and even the microbiome trends. Whether it’s for news, social media or online shopping, the worldwide web is where a lot of us go to find answers. This past year, as our lives have switched to become more virtual, the online conversation has become busier than ever.
We have perused the online conversation to see what people were most interested when it came to all things related to the skin microbiome. Let’s break down what was trending in 2020…
Of course, we couldn’t talk about the year’s trends without first acknowledging the one topic that dominated in 2020: the Covid-19 pandemic. No doubt it wreaked havoc on our lives – and the same could be said for our microbiomes.
Here’s what themes emerged as a result.
As our standards of hygiene hit an all-time high, so did concerns around the impact on our skin of overloading our hands with hand sanitizer and thoroughly scrubbing our hands in 30-second increments throughout the day.
Often talked about online was the increase in dry skin concerns and exacerbation of common skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis. Overwashing ‘strips’ the skin of its natural oils and commensal (healthy) bacteria, causing an imbalance of the microbiome which can worsen symptoms of inflammatory skin conditions.
Many articles emerged outlining counteractive measures, including but not limited to: substituting hot water for warm water to avoid drying the skin out, using moisturising soaps, and applying moisturisers or skin balms – such as Vaseline – following washing.
When it came to washing more generally, some even recommended skipping – or at least reducing – our showers. In fact one of the top reads was on this exact subject: Doctor suddenly quit showering – and gave his skin a new lease on life
Mask acne (maskne)
Many of us have grown accustomed to wearing masks when we leave the house. An unwanted side effect of frequent mask wearing has been the development of acne, dubbed “maskne”. Wearing a mask for long periods of time supports the build-up of oil and dead skin cells, clogging pores and contributing to acne development. It can also trap humidity, caused by breathing and sweating and amplified by external environmental factors, creating optimal conditions for pathogenic bacteria to thrive, further increasing risk of acne.
Maskne was one of 2020’s hottest skin health topics, with many articles and influencers highlighting methods for prevention and treatment. The implications for the skin microbiome did not go unnoticed – one company have even developed a nanoparticle reusable face mask to treat acne and the skin microbiome.
More time spent at home without long commutes for many has meant more time spent in bed. Add to that widespread concern of catching the virus and a question emerges: how often should I be washing my bedding?
The answer: probably more than you are. Not washing bedding frequently enough can also negatively affect the skin microbiome, potentially leading to skin irritation, inflammation, skin infections and worsening of existing skin conditions like acne or rosacea.
Here’s one article that explains all: How Often You Should Wash Your Sheets During The Coronavirus Pandemic
Cleaning our clothes
Similar to bedding, people pondered how often they should be washing the clothes they wear; both come into close contact with the skin. Importantly, clothes are also exposed to the environment when we leave the house and so can bring bacteria – both healthy and harmful – back into the home with us.
All textiles we use should be regularly washed to reduce the risk of infection and exacerbation of skin symptoms – special attention should be given to washing reusable masks.
For a quick overview, read our blog on the topic here: Clothes and microbes: how to deal with the microbes we wear
Stress and isolation
Undoubtedly, the ongoing pandemic has increased stress on a personal and global scale for a myriad of reasons related to health and financial stability as well as the isolation that so many are facing. The impact of stress on physical health had previously been well documented and the past year has amped up this topic in online conversation.
Like wearing a mask, stress has been a contributing factor to the increase in acne. The effects of elevated stress causing changes to body odour (linked to the skin microbiome – read here) and hair loss, has also been noted.
Read one such article here: The isolation of 2020 is doing weird things to our bodies.