The question of how to effectively target, treat and prevent the formation of acne (think pimples, blackheads and whiteheads) is a tale as old as time and involves understanding what causes acne, differentiating between the various types of acne and figuring out the best acne treatment for your specific skin type and concerns. But lately, the ongoing conversation surrounding acne has evolved to include the concept of the skin’s microbiome—how to take care of it to ensure that it stays healthy and how its health affects the state of your skin and the formation of acne blemishes. But before we get into all of that, it’s crucial to understand what your skin’s microbiome is in the first place. Continue reading to learn how the skin’s microbiome can affect your overall skin health and complexion.
What is a microbiome?
A microbiome is the collection of genetic material that lives in and on the human body. It’s made up of trillions (yes, really) of tiny particles that can’t be seen by the human eye—things like bacteria, viruses and fungi. Traditionally, the microbiome was most often brought up in conversations about gut health. But, in fact, microbiomes are found all over the body, including in and on the skin’s many layers. So, while you’ve no doubt heard about how the gut contains both good and bad bacteria, now we know that the same can be said about skin.
Why is the skin’s microbiome so popular right now?
We’ve been disrupting our skin’s microbiome with things like harsh cleansers, overly complicated regimens and the overuse of chemical exfoliators for years, so it’s no wonder that it has unfortunately taken a real hit and is reacting by becoming, well, reactive. Skin concerns like rosacea, eczema and—you guessed it—acne blemishes can be exacerbated, or even caused, by a disrupted, off-balance microbiome.
How does the microbiome affect the formation of acne?
The health of your skin’s microbiome can affect many things—including sensitivity, reactivity, inflammation and acne. When your skin’s microbiome is weakened and disrupted by overusing a chemical exfoliant, for example, this can increase the natural levels of bacteria living on the surface of the skin and lead to the formation of acne blemishes. This is especially true of Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes), the most prominent type of bacteria that live on the surface of the skin, particularly in areas that are prone to excess sebum (oil) like the T-zone (i.e., the forehead, nose and chin). P. acnes is one of the leading causes of skin acne, and a weakened microbiome can cause an increase in P. acnes bacteria on the surface of the skin.
How can the microbiome be properly cared for?
Aside from avoiding harsh cleansers and exfoliating ingredients, choosing gentle, nourishing skincare products that are specifically formulated to rebalance the microbiome is the most effective way to care for your skin’s microbiome and prevent the formation of all types of acne, from whiteheads to cystic acne to blackheads to excess sebum (which leads to oily, acne-prone skin). Ingredients like Aqua Posea, which is found in La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar Duo (+) Global Acne Treatment, are made for the very purpose of maintaining a healthy microbiome. You can also reach for products that are formulated with proven acne-fighting ingredients such as salicylic acid—a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that is known for its ability to get deep into the skin and dissolve anything that’s clogging your pores (such as dead skin cells, a buildup of oil and particulate matter, all of which lead to acne). Salicylic acid can be found in many forms, from serums (La Roche-Posay Effaclar Ultra Concentrated Serum) to cleansers (La Roche-Posay Effaclar Micro-Peeling Purifying Gel) to moisturizers (La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo (+) Global Acne Treatment), all of which can dismantle the bond between dead skin cells, allowing them to more easily detach and release from the pores, while simultaneously breaking down oils (thus combatting the aforementioned issue of excess oil).
So, if you’re concerned about the health of your skin’s microbiome and the subsequent formation of acne that may result from its disruption, fear not: It’s possible to improve the health and function of your skin’s microbiome and therefore treat and prevent acne in each and every step of your skincare routine.