Science Nature Beauty

The skin microbiome – not a trend, a movement

The cosmetic market is awash with literally hundreds of skincare brands. Each and every brand tries to be different from others so that it can find its niche and be commercially successful. Brands are always trying to find new angles, new marketing concepts. But to make a real difference, to find an actual niche and keep that niche in the overpopulated cosmetic market, brands have to be disruptive. They need to find a way of offering a product to the consumer which she really needs, which really works and is really relevant to her.

Scientific breakthroughs in cosmetic research

Worldwide, thousands of cosmetic scientists are working on making the best cosmetic products. Large multinational companies, but also active ingredient suppliers, have specialists for all the different aspects of the interaction of cosmetic raw materials and, for instance, the skin. They try to find out how the cosmetic raw materials and active ingredients can positively influence the skin, but they also want to find new ways of interacting with skin and obtain beneficial cosmetic effects. In many cases these scientists work together with scientists at universities and independent research institutes. They are really conducting basic research, all with the goal to learn about the skin and find new and relevant ways of positively influencing it.

Real breakthroughs are rare. Maybe once in ten years a discovery is made which can really make a difference for the skincare industry and for its consumers. When these breakthroughs are applied in the skincare industry, they lead to movements, not to trends.


The importance of the microbiome

A good example of such a scientific breakthrough which has led to a sustainable and irreversible movement in the industry is the skin microbiome. The microbiome project was started in the US in 2007. Previously we vaguely knew that our body was host to bacteria and that probiotic drinks or yoghurts might do something good for our intestines. Now we know that we carry three to four kilograms of bacteria with us and that they play a hugely important role. Most of them live in our gut, but many of them live on and in our skin.

Our skin is our body’s largest organ and, after our brain, the most intelligent and dynamic organ we have. It is constantly renewing itself and, while doing so, has an essential protective role to play for our body.

Microbes play a hugely important role in the health of our skin. We really cannot live without them. Without the skin’s microbes, it is not able to perform its vital functions. In return the microbes also profit from the biological processes which take place in the skin. We truly live in symbiosis with each other. If you closely look at the composition of the skin microflora, you will find that literally thousands of microbial species live on the skin. They do not just inhabit skin, they have also found ways of living together. They interact with each other and with our skin cells, making our skin an ecosystem in itself.


Rethinking skin as an ecosystem

Healthy skin has healthy skin microflora. This is a basic yet very important insight. In certain cases, though, you can see that the composition of the skin microflora, and the interaction with our skin cells, changes. This happens for instance when you have acne, dandruff or atopic dermatitis, but also during the aging process, or when your skin is sensitive. Then the skin microflora is out of balance, as is the skin itself. Our skin’s relationship with its microflora has changed from a symbiotic one to one which is harmful to both us and them. They essentially start fighting each other. You can actually see this in the mirror and feel it. The skin becomes sensitive, irritated, dry, scaly and red, and can form pimples.

Up until recently, when we had a problem with our skin which was related to microbes, we tried to kill these microbes and hoped for the problem to be solved. In the meantime, we have learned much more about the intensive relationship between our skin and its microbes. Much more elegant and, mostly, more effective and sustainable solutions for skin problems can be provided by both addressing the skin microflora and the skin. But how does this work?


Supporting the skin microbiota

The skin microflora is under constant stress. With our daily hygiene routines, we wash the microbes present on the skin’s surface away and we are killing them when we use a deodorant, for example. Despite the above stresses and although we are shedding them together with our dead skin cells by the billions, they can still thrive on and in skin. They have found a smart way of dealing with all these challenges. They occupy the deeper layers of our skin. These deeper layers serve as a nursery. The microbes living there produce new microbes. These microbes then get attached to the dead skin cells, with which they slowly move upwards and, as soon as they reach our skin’s surface, are shed or killed. This does not matter, though. The microbes which do matter to us are those in the deeper skin layers, the nursery. Here we need to make sure that the microbes feel well and are not stressed or killed.

If we can help the skin to become healthier, in other words, to function better, the skin microbiota will also profit from that. This approach is a very effective way to really return to the symbiotic relationship which is so beneficial for us. One very effective and scientifically proven way to achieve this is our ingredient ProRenew Complex CLR™ (INCI: Lactococcus Ferment Lysate). This product contains bacterial molecules from Lactococcus lactis, a probiotic bacterium which is part of our body’s natural microflora. These molecules interact with our skin cells, which profit from this interaction. They are triggered to produce more molecules which are important for the quality of our skin. The skin’s essential barrier properties are improved, for instance.


Microbiome skincare opportunities

The quality of the barrier function of our skin is an important measure for how healthy it is. With its beneficial effects, ProRenew Complex CLR™ makes the skin healthier and, therefore plays a very important supporting role for the skin microflora and the symbiotic relationship between the two. This was proven in a clinical study in cooperation with the Universities of Munich and Augsburg.

In our studies we saw that ProRenew Complex CLR™ supported the healthy skin microflora in dealing with severe stress. This is exactly what is needed to keep it in balance.

Cosmetic products addressing the skin microbiome are still niche and there is a lot of education needed to convince consumers. But for brands who want to make a real difference and who want to be sustainably successful it’s worth the effort: The skin microbiome is not another trend, it’s a movement.



Harald van der Hoeven

Director Product Design & Development