Updated: Feb 3
“We are more bacteria than human" declared Ruairi Robertson, PHD, one of the leading experts in the human microbiome.
The human microbiome is now more heavily researched and has received a lot of attention in the past few years as we are finding the impact it has on our overall health and wellness including our immune system and possibly various mental health issues.
So, what is the human microbiome?
Our body inside and out is the home of an ecosystem of trillions of bacteria and microbes as diverse as the Amazon rain forest. Our health depends on the balance between the good and bad bacteria living on and inside us.
The gut microbiome resides inside our digestive system, but we also have a skin microbiome affecting our health as well, from proper skin healing to our immune system.
Now with COVID-19 and our drastic change in lifestyle, several Dermatologist doctors, such as certified dermatologist Keira Barr, MD in a recent blog post on "Mind and Body Green", voiced their concerns about our heavy use of sanitizers. It is, of course, very important to follow CDC guidelines to avoid the spread of COVID-19 but it is important to also be aware of the negative effects of regularly using sanitizers and what we can do to avoid skin damage while still respecting CDC guidelines.
The microflora living on our skin is protecting it by keeping it permeable and creating a barrier to avoid harmful agents to seep through. It is also healing our skin wounds, protecting us from environmental damage, and most importantly communicating with our immune system through the subcutaneous fat layer.
We do not know at this point the extend of the damage caused by the consistent use of sanitizers which kills all good and bad microbes and destroys the natural lipids and fatty acids that create the skin barrier. However, Cate Shanahan, MD declares in a "Mind and Body Green" Blog post that " We'll see a lot more people with skin rashes, a lot of people with weird skin infections". Another concern is the antibiotic resistance as dermatologist Barr declares that " Even though the sanitizers generally don't contain antibiotics, when microbes become resistant to some of the sanitizers, it becomes easier for them to be resistant to important antibiotics".
So, what can we do to counteract the damage? Luckily, Dr Barr reassures us that our skin is resilient, and the microflora can repopulate itself easily. However, investing in a good moisturizer is crucial. Favoring a natural hand cream that we can use right after we use a sanitizer to lock in moisture back into the skin is important. Always carrying a sanitizer and trying to also carry a good moisturizer should be our new routine. Use a moisturizer with traditional fats such as vegetable and seed oils. Now some skin products also contain pre- and probiotics further helping to rebuild the good bacteria responsible for a healthy skin barrier.
Stay safe and healthy and remember, sanitizers and moisturizers go together!
By Sophie Terrillon Webster, MBA
Certified Health and Nutrition Life Coach, CLC, CHC
Laureavida Wellness LLC