Bacteria, Acne, & You
The Key to Your Skin's Health
During and immediately after birth, we are exposed to a wide variety of microbiota which colonize our bodies and integrate with dozens of natural functions. They help us digest food, teach our immune system how to fight infection, and even play a role in brain development. Microbes are so abundant on our bodies, they actually outnumber our human cells and account for 0.3% of our body weight!
Humans and our relationships with other life follow the laws of nature. We seek out sunshine and water, we experience shifts and cycles like the seasons, we live in constant interaction with other organisms, and our microbiomes - like any ecosystem - thrive on one principle: balance.
Your microbiomes, the colonies of microorganisms that live on and in your body, are as diverse and crowded as a Miami beach during spring break. And they like it that way! Too much of any one group and things get a little overwhelming. Too few of another and, well, the party just isn’t the same.
Take Staphylococcus, for example. You’ve probably heard of staph infections, a potentially life-threatening condition associated with skin wounds and urinary tract infections. Yet both of the strains associated with those conditions, Staphylococcus epidermidis and Staphylococcus saprophyticus, are also considered part of the normal skin and vaginal flora. How can bacteria be ‘bad’ and ‘normal’ at the same time? Well, all things in moderation.
“The truth is, saying ‘good’ bacteria and ‘bad’ bacteria has been very confusing…it’s not about good or bad. We need balance.” - Dr. Cindy M. Duke, 1st Dual Certified Virologist & Fertility Specialist
In numerous studies dating back to the 60s(!), strains of staphylococci have been found on the skin of healthy adults with no history of skin disease. And Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes, has long been associated with adult acne, yet it’s also found on skin without acne. More than that, P. acnes can actually prevent pathogenic bacteria from colonizing the skin and maintain the skin’s naturally acidic pH. These examples indicate that the mere presence of a particular microbe doesn’t always lead to disease. Instead, an abundance of a particular strain over others is the cause for concern.
Acne and other inflammatory conditions like rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis are increasingly linked to dysbiosis, or an unbalanced microbiome. Sterilizing soaps and detergents are pretty indiscriminate in which kind of bacteria they kill, which makes them great for stopping the spread of disease. It’s also why they so easily throw your biome out of whack by eliminating healthy, helpful microbes while allowing others to reproduce unchecked.
When it comes to our health, it’s important to focus on the big picture and not get lost in the tiny, microscopic details! By understanding that our bodies are a series of deeply interconnected and interdependent ecosystems, we can address our health holistically. And by prioritizing homeostasis, we can cultivate practices that value whole body health - inside and out.
Let go of the good versus bad thinking and embrace this:
Less is more and balance is better.
Choose skinimalism to let your flora thrive!