A skin-microbiome-friendly approach to seasonal skincare

Earlier this month, we shared an article on current scientific understanding around ‘The seasons and the skin microbiome’, exploring existing evidence around how our skin microbiome responds to changing climatic conditions throughout the year.

Here, Brian Grady, Luciana Uttemberque-D-Elia, Martin Pagac and Mathias Gempeler of DSM discuss the changes to the skin that are experienced season to season and share insights from consumer research within this area, as well as providing information around DSM’s own seasonal skin offering.

DSM’s Secret Life of Skin Seasonal Skin Box offers five key formulations specially designed to support the skin and its microbiome throughout the year, along with supporting information around the ingredients and formulation process, to help customers deliver optimized skincare for consumers that spans all seasons and climates.

Read on to find out more.

Seasonality of the skin

The skin must be able to withstand drastic weather changes across the year.

As the seasons change, we see our surrounding environmental conditions evolve and transition. With this comes significant changes to our skin structure and health, as well as behavioural changes and different needs for our skin. 


Spring brings forth a rejuvenation of nature and the skin. The temperature slowly increases, and the days become longer. People take advantage of the good weather and spend more time outdoors. A shift occurs as people now require additional skin care, in the form of more UV protection, and preparation for the upcoming warmer weather of the summer. As outdoor activities begin to ramp up so does the frequency of showering ─ while this helps clear pathogens and irritants, excessive hygiene practices can also cause inflammation and disrupt the skin’s natural balance of moisture by stripping away oils and lipids.


The summer can be a demanding period for the skin, with high humidity and temperatures. Increased exposure to the sun can lead to irritation and oxidative damage, and strong UV rays increase the visible signs of aging (such as fine lines and wrinkles). The skin is more hydrated and transepidermal water loss (TEWL) is reduced compared to winter, but facial skin tends to be oiler during this season. The abrupt shifts from high to low humidity when entering climate-controlled buildings can also lead to abnormal barrier function.


The weather shifts abruptly during autumn. The season is associated with a drastic decrease in temperature, and wind and rain are common occurrences. The days become shorter and there are fewer opportunities to take advantage of warmer temperatures. Skin pH and TEWL vary in response to the changing temperature and humidity conditions. However, as cooler air arrives as we move closer to winter, skin may lose precious moisture and become dryer. 


During winter, skin needs more hydration, as the cold weather and wind remove moisture from the environment. The impact? Chafing, cracking and irritation to the skin. This can lead to skin conditions such as eczema, and making the skin appear tired and dull. The lipid content of stratum corneum of the face, arms, and legs are also reduced and the skin barrier cannot function at full capacity during the winter, so it has limited ability to defend against environmental stressors. Additionally, the skin has reduced flexibility in cold weather.

Fig. 1 summarizes the full effects that these seasons have on your skin, and we recommend reading our ‘Seasons and the skin microbiome’ article for additional information around the seasonality of the skin as well as its microbiome.

Fig. 1 | An overview of the conditions experienced in each season, and the effects on your skin.

Understanding the consumer landscape for seasonal skin

Such seasonal changes influence consumer skin, and therefore could affect consumer behaviour.

To gain a full overview of the consumer landscape for this area, we asked a panel of participants “Does your skincare routine change from season to season?”.

The findings confirmed that consumers do have an understanding of the effects of the different seasons on the skin, and recognize the signals their body shows, such as dry skin, itchiness and higher skin sensitivity in winter.

“My skincare really changes. During the summertime, I do like to add a little bit of SPF moisturizer to my face especially when I’m outside a lot. But that’s the only time, I might add a little bit of moisturizer during the winter months to help prevent drying and peeling, but that’s it.” – Heather, 37

Concerns around moisturization were particularly evident, with many comments around skin hydration, dryness and cracking, as well as unhealthy skin with a lack of glow. Consumers reported that they do adapt, or would like to adapt, their skincare routines depending on time of year, and showed an interest in a complete routine with clear steps to take care of skin.

We believe that seasonal skincare is a rising trend which will continue to grow, especially as education around the effects of climatic conditions on the skin continue to expand. The effect of seasons on the skin microbiome, however, is one element where there is still a way to go in terms of awareness and understanding – particularly among consumers. Yet with growing evidence of the skin microbiome’s importance for our skin and wider health, routines that can protect the skin microbiome and help meet its needs year-round should also be a key consideration for seasonal skincare. For example, although the skin microbiome generally appears to be temporally stable, the use of skin-microbiome supportive ingredients can prevent potential dysbiosis linked to seasonal changes.

DSM: delivering microbiome-friendly skincare solutions for all seasons

The findings of the consumer research, along with the current lack of solutions for specialized seasonal skincare routines, drove us to develop our own seasonal offering that also takes the skin microbiome into account.

Based on our new consumer insights, in combination with the full breadth of our team’s experience, expertise and understanding of skin health, we developed our Secret Life of Skin Seasonal Skin Box.  

The Seasonal Skin Box offers customers a package of five formulations for use across the changing seasons, along with information on the ingredients used and guidance around how the formulations can be integrated within your own products, so that you can provide for your own customers all year round. For the development process, we built on our existing microbiome-friendly formulas to create a complementary seasonal set.

Here we will present the following formulations and explore the ingredients of each:

  • Daily Cleansing Mousse
  • Spring Day Cream
  • Summer Serum
  • Fall Breeze Whipped Cream
  • Winter’s Night Ultra Hydrating Butter

Our formulations make used of key ingredients produced by DSM, such as SYN-UP®, ALPAFLOR® -ALP-SEBUM CB (ALP-SEBUM) and PENTAVITIN® – all of which are globally approved and can be used in all major beauty and personal care markets.

All formulations were fully developed and optimized by DSM.  We hope that our Seasonal Skin Box concept serves as inspiration for the market, particularly as consumer interest to the seasonal topic is generally high.

Daily Cleansing Mousse: a gentle cleanser for use every day, in all seasons

Having seen consumer interest in a simple but complete year-round skin routine, we decided to provide our Daily Cleansing Mousse – a gentle and microbiome-friendly formula that effectively removes makeup and other impurities without damaging your skin – as the first step.

This microbiome-friendly formulation is made with 98.6% naturally derived ingredients and is 99.27% COSMOS approved with a high ISO naturality index and skin microbiome-friendly certification, to give confidence that it will clean but not damage. Natural and minimalistic, with less than 10 ingredients, the mousse contains ALP-SEBUM to help regulate the overproduction of serum, helping to achieve visibly clearer and cleaner skin (Fig. 2).

ALP-SEBUM is a sustainable multifunctional organic prebiotic with microbiome-balancing properties that helps combat excess oil, enlarged pores, skin sensitivity and acne. The ingredient works by blocking the key enzyme 5-α-reductase to regulate hormones such as testosterone and dihydrotestosterone produced by sebaceous glands, which has been shown as the most efficient method to prevent excessive sebum production (the main cause of oily skin). Studies have shown that this skin active also strongly modulates key bacteria across all facial areas, including downregulation of lipophilic Cutibacterium acnes to help control sebum production and oiliness, giving skin a healthy appearance. This also provides blemish care by smoothing skin and reducing spots, leading to visibly clearer and cleaner skin. The bioactive ingredient is classified as COSMOS, NATURE Organic and Fair Trade for Life, and is Halal-certified. For more information on ALP-SEBUM, see here.

The formula contains mild surfactants to balance oil and dryness, and is also preservative free – by using preservative boosters, there is less of an impact on the skin microbiome while providing other benefits, such as supporting healthy microbial growth.

The Daily Cleansing Mousse is built for use in every season – it is easy to apply and helps to hydrate and prevent dry skin.

The Daily Cleansing Mousse has been tested and approved by MyMicrobiome (standard 18.10 and 19.10; www.mymicrobiome.info).

Fig. 2 | Daily Cleansing Mousse formula: a gentle cleanser for daily use in all seasons.

Spring Day Cream: a moisturizing gel to protect skin in fluctuating conditions

The Spring Day Cream formula has been designed for milder conditions with fluctuations in mind, where the skin is likely to respond with variation in TEWL and pH relative to the average temperature, humidity and UV levels.

Our solution is a formula that brightens and renews the skin during the season’s traditional weather, while preparing the skin for the arrival of sunnier conditions.

The microbiome-friendly formulation is made with 96.4% naturally derived ingredients, with a formula that results in a gel-like texture that is easy to apply and fast to absorb, providing a light coating with a soft texture, and an effective product with great benefits and microbiome-friendly certification.

The formula contains STAY-C 50, Niacinamide PC and Allatonin (Fig. 3) – the combination of which has been shown to act synergistically to reduce C. acnes levels in a recent study led by DSM. This is a key quality as skin changes in response to temperature and humidity fluctuations results in increased production of oil, which can promote C. acnes populations and lead to acne. The Spring Day Cream has been tested and approved by MyMicrobiome (standard 18.10 and 19.10; www.mymicrobiome.info).

Fig. 3 | Spring Day Cream formula: a moisturizing gel to protect skin in fluctuating conditions with STAY-C 50, Niacinamide PC and Allatonin to balance sebum production and the skin microbiome.

Summer Serum: a clear, light and smooth serum to refresh and revigorate sun-exposed skin

For high humidity and temperature, and strong UV rays of summer, when the skin experiences increased oil levels and the impacts of UV, we have a developed a clear, light, viscous and smooth Summer Serum.

This formula delivers a steady burst of intense hydration, instantly refreshing skin dried from the summer skin.

The microbiome-friendly formuation is made with 99.8% naturally derived ingredients, and contains three layers of hyaluronic acid from DSM’s HYA-ACT line to help smooth wrinkles, plump tired skin and provide a dewy look with a light and smooth texture. Each layer of hyaluronic acid holds a different molecular weight and provides an added benefit of moisturization as the layers reside in different skin layers. For example, HYA-ACT S has a low moleculer weight and sits in the upper epidermis where it locks in moisture and calms reddened skin, while HYA-ACT XS has an even lower molecular weight and sinks deeper into the skin where it helps to retain moisture from the inside, while also pumping and filling out wrinkles.  

The minimalistic formula contains fewer than 10 ingredients, all of which are mild for the skin and its microbiome, and is preservative free (Fig. 4). The humectants used are again microbiome friendly but also help to boost the preservation without being harsh to skin.

The Summer Serum has been tested and approved by MyMicrobiome (standard 18.10 and 19.10; www.mymicrobiome.info).

Fig. 4 | Summer Serum formula: A clear, light and smooth serum to refresh and revigorate sun-exposed skin. Containing three layers of hyaluronic acid from DSM’s HYA-ACT line to lock in moisture and help smooth wrinkles, plump tired skin.

Fall Breeze Whipped Cream: a light and airy moisturizing cream for fluctuating conditions

Like spring, as humidity and temperatures fluctuate during autumn, TEWL and skin pH varies in response to average temperature, humidity and UV levels, and your skin changes in response.

Our Fall Breeze Whipped Cream formula, with a light and airy texture, delivers intense hydration for skin as it experiences the warm, sunny days and cool, crisp nights of the autumn season. The airy texture ensures effective delivery of moisturization while still accounting for the sunnier days. It is not as heavy as our winter formulation, so that it can support the seasonal transition from summer to winter.

The formulation is preservative-free and contains PENTAVITIN and hyaluronic acid to provide more protection and support for dryer conditions as we move towards winter (Fig. 5). 

Used daily, the skincare ingredient PENTAVITIN (INCI: saccharide isomerate) – a unique 100% natural plant-derived skin-identical carbohydrate complex – provides powerful hydration to all facial areas and relieves itchy, flaky and dry skin. By binding to the skin, PENTAVITIN strengthens its natural defenses and restores skin barrier function, which boosts hydration and prevents dehydration.

Tests have demonstrated that the skin is up to 18% more hydrated 60 minutes after a single application and 34% more hydrated after twice-daily application for 7 days, resulting in visibly hydrated skin as well as reduced sebum. Taking the scalp as an example, in vitro tests have also shown that PENTAVITIN can balance microbial activity in the skin barrier by influencing the equilibrium of species such as Malassezia furfur and S. epidermidis within its microbiome. In addition, in vitro gene expression studies have demonstrated that it effectively stimulates the epidermal building blocks that play a key role in skin barrier improvement. The benefits of this were reduced dryness and irritation, and a softer, smoother and more resilient scalp.

Consumer test panels have also confirmed a user-experienced reduction in flakiness and itchiness caused by dry skin and visible smoother skin following the use of PENTAVITIN. For more information on PENTAVITIN, see here.

Fig. 5 | Fall Breeze Whipped Cream formula: a light and airy moisturizing cream for fluctuating conditions. Containing a combination of PENTAVITIN and hyaluronic acid to provide protection and support for dryer conditions for the transition from summer to winter. 

Winter’s Night Ultra Hydrating Butter: a heavier moisturizing cream to restore, strengthen and boost skin

For the drop in humidity and extreme temperature changes faced in winter ─ where the skin loses structural lipids, flexibility and hydration and experiences a weakened skin barrier, dry skin, risk of dermatitis and an increased pH ─ we have designed our Winter’s Night Ultra Hydrating Butter.

The formula soothes and restores skin, bringing relief to dry, rough and stressed skin to leave the skin feeling calm, smooth, soft and full of moisture.

The night cream contains mild ingredients with microbiome-friendly humectants that also act as a preservative booster, so that the formula can remain preservative free.

Two key active ingredients contained within this formula are PENTAVITIN and SYN-UP – the combination of which helps to restore, strengthen and boost skin strength while preventing dryness and helping to maintain a balanced skin microbiome.

The strong binding power of PENTAVITIN is key here as it helps the formula to provide long-term moisturization, even after exposure to water. The addition of SYN-UP, a natural peptide derivative, improves the resilience of the skin to external aggressors, which is key for this time of year when extreme temperatures and other climatic conditions are faced.

By sinking deep into the skin, the activity of SYN-UP helps to combat dry skin and skin redness by strengthening the skin barrier and supporting a balanced microbiome. Earlier in vitro studies demonstrated that SYN-UP inhibits serine proteases urokinase (by up to 97%) and plasmin (by up to 41%) activity within the epidermis (excessive levels of which can lead to inflammation and dryness through increased TEWL), boosting skin barrier strength and resilience. A recent in vivo clinical study reinforced these results and demonstrated that SYN-UP also has excellent capacity to fight against dry skin conditions and skin redness due to its interaction with common skin bacteria – for example, by boosting levels of Staphylococcus epidermidis and reducing Staphylococcus aureus levels. This helps to break S. aureus-related inflammatory cycles that lead to additional release of plasmin in the epidermis, further weakening the skin barrier.

The studies demonstrated that the peptide also reduces high Corynebacterium kroppenstedtii levels – a novel target for the control of skin redness. After 29 days of using SYN-UP, volunteers showed a significant improvement in skin resilience, smoothness and hydration and reported reduced skin sensitivity. For more information on SYN-UP, see here.

Fig. 6 | Fall Winter’s Night Ultra Hydrating Butter formula: a heavier moisturizing cream to restore, strengthen and boost skin. Containing the biomimetic PENTAVITIN and peptide SYN-UP to increase skin resilience and support the skin microbiome.

Our approach to formulation

With years of research, understanding and experience underlying our approach to developing safe and effective skincare solutions, and continued innovation within the beauty and personal care space, we aim to provide our customers with optimal formulas so that they can achieve the best results possible for their products. We take a holistic approach to address the combined effects of all key influences that contribute to skin health and skin aging. Through our research, we identify the molecular pathways between these different factors, so that we can gain a better understanding of the complex interactions between our environment, the skin and the microbiome. For this purpose, and in order to molecularly translate the impact of the various influences, we create innovative formulations that are both skin and microbiome friendly while achieving the desired personal care and cosmetic effects.

Going forward, as a company, we are committed to staying at the forefront of understanding around the interactions between skin and its accompanying microbiome. By leading the way with new research, engaging with consumers, and through constant innovation, we will continue to develop optimized personal care and cosmetic solutions to benefit producers and consumers alike.

Please get in touch if you would like to hear more about our seasonal skin offering: https://www.dsm.com/personal-care/en_US/contact/contact-technical.html

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