Small Yet Mighty: Why the Skin Microbiome Could Change Skincare Forever

At L’Oréal we’ve been developing industry-changing methods for over 100 years. Consequently, research and development are at the heart of what we do. That’s why, since 2006, we’ve been studying the incredible world of the microbiome, the microscopic skin flora that lives on each and every one of us. It’s thanks to this unique research that we’ve discovered that we all carry a unique ecosystem with endless possibilities for enhancing skin care.

The Overview Effect is a cognitive shift experienced by astronauts when they view the world’s complex ecosystems and megacities from outer space. A similar experience is felt by researchers when viewing human skin through a microscope, and viewing the wonders of the skin microbiome. This minute universe is a unique colony made up of a thousand different species of bacteria, fungi, and virus. Together, they call your skin their world and offer researchers endless potential for cosmetic developments.

Like fingerprints, no two universes of microbiomes are the same. An intelligent ecosystem, every area of the body houses its own unique and protective microbiome all influenced by your mother’s microbes at birth. How do we know this? Well, the genetic influence has been proven, as twins and siblings have similar skin cultures.

However, like all flourishing ecosystems, the body flora adapts to environmental changes, so nurture outweighs nature. A L’Oréal study that focused on air quality concluded that factors such as air pollution have an effect on our skin microbiome, while at the same time inducing premature ageing. The fact that this vibrant environment is so prone to outside influences means we could be at the dawn of an exciting new age of personal dermo-cosmetics.

After 13 years of dedicated research, we’re now mapping skin microbes to launch a new era of personalised, targeted skincare products. This concept may seem like science fiction, but the effects of studying the skin microbiome are benefiting us today. Our team has already researched how the skin microbiome can be manipulated to combat skin or scalp complaints such as atopy and dandruff.

Just two years ago, we made a giant leap towards a targeted cure for dandruff, a scalp condition that afflicts half of the global population. Another of our studies found that three microbes in scalp microbiota decreased even before the symptoms of dandruff became apparent. These findings may lead to the use of specific materials directly derived from bacteria in future products to put an end to the condition and help us give even better advice to our customers.

With so many exciting possibilities discovered already, the future for skin microbiomes is endless and heralds the beginning of a permanent change in the cosmetics industry. Now, companies can create personalised products with targeting ingredients for the most effective results.

Who knows where the future will take us. Bacteria found on the skin adapt quickly to environmental changes, so we may one day be able to “teach” bacteria to build a stronger defence against conditions such as eczema. The culture living on the skin of those in hotter climates have adapted to protect skin from sunlight. Could this bacteria one day be the key ingredient in a sunscreen range? Through this research, we now understand that there’s an entire universe living upon us. The more we learn about this incredible ecosystem, the more we can create products that will change skin care forever. We’re excited to see what the future holds. We hope you are, too.

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