Re-inventing the skin microbiome: industry patents round-up

In our third On the Pulse review for 2020, we’re taking a look at the latest industry patents granted to some of the biggest brands and innovators in the personal care sector.

Despite the many challenges of 2020, there are still new inventions and discoveries emerging. Some companies have exploited existing processes to improve the skin’s appearance e.g. L’Oréal using C. acnes’ ability to produce fatty acids to reduce the effects of ageing. Meanwhile, others have developed proprietary methods of modulating the skin microbiome – whether that be transplantation of a young microbiome (Dermala) or using a balancing agent to refigure the ratios of bacteria present on the skin (Kimberly-Clark).

Further, we take a dive into how microbes are being upregulated with probiotics (Microbiome Labs) or suppressed (Unilever) to treat a variety of skin disorders and infections.

Here, we break down each of these novel inventions based on their individual benefits:


Exploiting C. acnes

Patent application filed by:
L’Oréal with Nanyang Technological University and The National University of Singapore

L’Oréal have applied for a patent on the cosmetic use of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) for the prevention and treatment of dry or aged skin. SCFAs are products of metabolism by many of our commensal (beneficial) bacteria. The patent refers to SCFAs produced by C. acnes bacteria and had not previously been considered an active ingredient for use in such cosmetics.

C. acnes bacteria live predominantly deep within follicles and pores but are also found on the surface of healthy skin. C. acnes has received notoriety for its link to the development of acne but it is important to know that several commensal strains are actually beneficial for skin health. Here, the patent exploits the metabolism of this skin bacterium to actually benefit skin health.


Patent application filed by:

Dermala’s patent describes the use of the microbiome to slow down the process of ageing of the skin. The company has identified components of the skin and gut microbiomes as well as their metabolites that exert several benefits related to skin ageing. Such effects include: reducing the appearance of skin’s fine lines and wrinkles, increasing hydration, improving skin barrier function (through increased ceramide and collagen production, improved wound healing and reduced inflammation).

Dermala developed products comprised of such microbiome components combined with other anti-ageing compounds – such as retinoids.

Further, this patent covers two key methods by which Dermala have leveraged the skin microbiome to aid anti-ageing:

  1. Transplantation of skin microbiomes isolated from young (18-28 yrs old), healthy individuals with radiant, wrinkle- and blemish-free skin to ageing (40+ yrs old) skin
  2. Applying a skin microbiome complex to treat skin ageing. A young microbiome complex was developed from bacteria taken from the young microbiome (as above) and cultured. A complex of epidermidis bacteria from the young microbiome was also used to prepare a complex. The formulated complexes were applied twice a day to volunteers aged 50+ resulting in a noticeable improvement in skin appearance after 7 days.

Healthy skin microbiome

Balancing bacteria

Patent application filed by:

A healthy skin microbiome is composed of multiple bacterial species living in distinct proportions in different skin regions. Kimberly-Clark’s surprising discovery identified various compositions for topical application, that could support and maintain a healthy, balanced skin microbiome.

Notably, the patent covers the use of a skin microbiome ‘balancing agent’ in the composition to enable balanced growth of commensal (healthy) skin bacteria by providing the following desired bacteria ratios:

  • Corynebacterium to Staphylococcus = 1.3
  • Corynebacterium to Micrococcus = 1.4
  • Staphylococcus to Micrococcus = 1.1


Anti-fungal shampoo

Patent application filed by:

Unilever has filed a patent application on the cosmetic use of piroctone olamine – a compound used in anti-fungal treatments – with coconut oil in a shampoo with the aim to decrease the levels of genus Malassezia on the human scalp (more on the scalp microbiome here).

Malassezia is a naturally occurring fungi genus present on the scalp in both healthy and dandruff-afflicted scalps. Malassezia feeds off oils on our skin and hair, producing oleic acid – an irritant in some individuals which triggers an immune response leading to rapid turnover of skin i.e. dandruff.

As such, this patented composition could be used as an anti-dandruff scalp treatment.

Acne & rosacea

Probiotics to benefit skin health

Patent application filed by:
Microbiome Labs

Microbiome Labs have developed a method of modulating skin properties by administering a spore-based probiotic composition – comprised of Bacillus bacterial strains.

The beneficial effects of the probiotic include increased skin hydration, reduced appearance of wrinkles, reduced sebum content, reduced skin inflammation, alteration of lipids. Further and related to the aforementioned results, the probiotic can reduce the appearance and frequency of acne and rosacea.

Microbiome Labs’ invention works by exploiting the gut-skin axis, wherein oral administration of the gut bacteria, Bacillus, exerts its benefits to the skin via this route.


New research and developments are continuously emerging and here we’ve highlighted just a few of some of the latest skin microbiome-related discoveries and inventions.

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