Why Understanding Your Skin Microbiome Makes all the Difference

Did you know that your body is covered in a diverse ecosystem called the microbiome? 

The skin microbiome covers the full body and consists of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that live on the skin's surface. And though that might sound a bit gross to think about, learning to live (and love) this diverse ecosystem can help provide your skin with the support it needs to thrive!

In this blog, we will explore why it is essential to protect your skin microbiome and how supporting its balance can positively impact your skin.

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  • Understanding the Skin Microbiome
  • How Do You Know if Your Skin Microbiome is Imbalanced? 
  • Factors that Influence the Skin Microbiome
  • A Microbiome-Friendly Skincare Routine

    woman hands on her face

    Did you know that your skin microbiome, an essential part of the largest organ in your body, plays a significant role in common skin concerns such as acne, rosacea, and aging concerns? As a vital defense barrier against external aggressors, maintaining a properly functioning skin microbiome is crucial for optimal skin health throughout your lifetime. 

    Recent skin microbiome research has shown that supporting the microbiome can help with all of these concerns. The composition of your skin microbiome develops from birth and evolves over time, especially during growth stages like the teenage years. These beneficial microbes are categorized into three groups based on body sites—moist, sebaceous, and dry—which means the way we treat our elbows will differ from how we care for our face.

    But what about how traditional skincare advice tells us to kill all the bacteria? It turns out, keeping our skin microbiome intact means we need some of the bacteria we used to blame as the sole cause of acne. Read on to learn how balancing your skin microbiome can make all the difference! 


    woman thinking about skin

    An imbalance in the skin microbiome can cause different skin problems. Research on the skin microbiome has provided the skincare community with valuable insights into new treatment avenues for skin health. 

    When the balance of the skin microbiome is disrupted, it can lead to the following issues:

    • Skin Inflammation: Imbalances can trigger inflammation, causing conditions like dermatitis, eczema, or psoriasis. This can result in redness, itching, swelling, and discomfort.
    • Wrinkles and Signs of Aging: The skin microbiome may have an influence on the formation and progression of wrinkles, although the specific mechanisms are not yet fully understood. Research in this area is ongoing, and the relationship between the skin microbiome and wrinkles is still being explored.
    • Acne: Overgrowth of certain bacteria, especially c.acnes, can contribute to acne development. Imbalances in the skin microbiome can lead to clogged pores, inflammation, and the formation of pimples, blackheads, or whiteheads.
    • Skin Infections: Disruptions in the skin microbiome can make the skin more vulnerable to infections. Harmful bacteria or fungi can take advantage of the weakened defense and cause conditions like cellulitis, folliculitis, or fungal infections.
    • Skin Barrier Dysfunction: The skin barrier is vital for protection, moisture retention, and overall skin health. Imbalances in the skin microbiome can compromise this barrier, resulting in increased sensitivity, dryness, and a reduced ability to defend against pathogens.
    • Body Odor: The skin microbiome also affects body odor production. Imbalances in the microbial composition can lead to an overgrowth of odor-causing bacteria, contributing to unpleasant body odor.
    • Allergic Reactions: Changes in the skin microbiome can influence the immune system, potentially causing allergic reactions or hypersensitivity. This may manifest as skin rashes, itching, or other allergic symptoms.

    Other common skin conditions that are impacted by the skin microbiome are rosacea, perioral dermatitis, and hyperpigmentation

    Understanding the relationship between the skin microbiome and these skin conditions is important for maintaining healthy skin. By prioritizing a microbiome-friendly skincare routine, you can support the balance and health of your skin microbiome.

    This understanding has influenced the formulation of skincare products, including those offered by Apoterra. Instead of solely focusing on potent antibacterial approaches, a microbiome-friendly approach considers the delicate balance of the skin's ecosystem.


    group of natural women

    But did you know that the skin microbiome has many factors that can impact its health? There are both intrinsic and extrinsic factors that can influence our skin microbiome. This is why it’s important to reevaluate your skincare routine not only as you continue to age, but as you go through certain life transitions.

    Internal factors that can influence the composition of the skin microbiome include the following:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Genetics
  • Sleep 
  • Stress
  • Immunity
  • Hormones
  • woman staring

    External factors that can influence the composition of the skin microbiome include the following:

  • Environmental stressors:
    • Rural or urban settings
    • Temperature
    • Climate, including humidity
    • UV and solar radiation
    • Sunlight exposure
  • Hygiene and beauty products (especially those with certain preservatives)
  • Physical Activity
  • Medication use
  • Exposure to various chemicals
  • Availability of nutrients for microorganisms

    woman touching her face

    Adopting a microbiome-friendly skincare routine is one factor within your control that can have a positive impact on your skin microbiome. In fact, maintaining a balanced skin microbiome throughout your skincare practices is crucial for optimal skin functioning!

    Research on the skin microbiome has provided the skincare community with valuable insights into new treatment avenues for skin health. This understanding has influenced the formulation of many skincare products, including those offered by Apoterra. Instead of focusing on harsh antibacterials or pH disruptive products, a microbiome-friendly approach prioritizes maintaining the delicate balance of the skin microbiome while combating various skin concerns. 

    Here is an outline of a microbiome-friendly skincare routine:


    In most cases, an oil cleanser is considered non-disruptive to the skin microbiome. Traditional cleansers, especially those containing harsh chemicals or antibacterial agents, can disrupt its delicate balance by stripping away the natural oils and beneficial microorganisms, leading to imbalances and potential skin issues.

    An oil cleanser, on the other hand, is designed to cleanse in harmony with the  natural oils in your skin. It typically contains gentle, plant-based oils that effectively dissolve and remove dirt, makeup, and impurities without disturbing the skin's natural protective barrier. By preserving the moisture and oil levels in the skin, an oil cleanser helps maintain ideal conditions for a healthy microbiome.

    Try our Vetiver Illuminating Oil Cleanser

    Vetiver illuminating oil cleanser


    Next, work on hydration to help support the pH of your skin’s acid mantle with a pH balanced toner such as our certified microbiome-friendly Neroli Clarifying Complexion Mist.

    The Neroli Clarifying Complexion Mist also uses an upcycled natural preservative, banana plant extract, avoiding those risky hidden chemicals in some skincare products. Banana plant extract is a 100% plant derived preservative produced through a fermentation process. Made from upcycled banana tree leaves and trunk, this preservative is rich in bioactive compounds such as flavonoids, tannins, alkaloids, glycosides and terpenoids—all while helping reduce waste! This preservative was tested within our Neroli Mist Formulation and was certified microbiome-friendly.

    neroli clarifying complexion mist microbiome friendly


    Adding in healthy fats to your microbiome-friendly skincare routines will help feed our skin’s microbes and balance your overall lipid barrier. For dry, irritated skin we suggest the Sea Berry Balancing Facial Oil for clogged pores and hormonal breakouts, or the Rose Nourishing Facial Oil for dry, sensitive skin.

    Include Omega-6 for Acne Support

    Along with the overall benefits of feeding the skin healthy fats, many facial oils contain the ever-crucial Omega 6, which many acne sufferers have a deficiency in

    Omega 6 (linoleic acid) is the most prominent essential fatty acid in the epidermis. It becomes incorporated into our plasma membranes and informs the health of our skin barrier. Without essential fatty acids, and specifically Omega 6, the skin's ability to combat inflammation weakens. 

    Omega 6 is a less common Omega found in skincare formulations, but it is known to support acne cases. Our acne-fighting facial oils contain a high percentage of Omega 6 for this reason; find it in the Sea Berry Balancing Facial Oil and the Herbal Clarifying Facial Oil.

    sea berry balancing oil


    Having breakouts? Recent developments have found that the C.acnes bacteria in our skin that was traditionally linked to breakouts is actually a commensal bacteria—meaning its presence is not inherently harmful to our skin. Most of the time, C.acnes is beneficial because it protects us from pathogenic bacteria in exchange for feeding on lipids in the skin. However, the skin has many different strains of C.acnes—some some of which can cause painful breakouts. 

    The solution to managing these breakouts without disrupting the skin microbiome is to use gentle antimicrobial ingredients that won’t tamper with the skin’s pH. This includes ingredients like tea tree oil, thyme, and blue chamomile, which are also found in the Sea Berry Balancing Facial Oil and the Herbal Clarifying Facial Oil

    herbal clarifying oil


    A microbiome-friendly skincare routine doesn’t mean you have to eliminate exfoliating. In fact, you can exfoliate on a weekly basis if your skin tolerates it well, as long as you choose microbiome-friendly ingredients such as fruit enzymes and gentle AHAs. 

    Oftentimes, exfoliating agents such as alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs) can have a low pH which can lead to a disrupted skin microbiome if used in excess. The pH level of skin plays a crucial role in maintaining the balance of the skin microbiome, as it can influence the growth and composition of beneficial and harmful microorganisms. Your best bet is to aim for gentle, pH balanced exfoliation about 1-2x a week instead of a daily use of a more neutral pH AHA or BHA exfoliator. 

    The Hibiscus Exfoliating Mud offers multiple skin microbiome-friendly benefits. Natural AHAs and enzymatic exfoliants from sugar extract, hibiscus, and pumpkin gently remove dead skin cells and enhance circulation. 

    Along with gentle exfoliation, this formula comes with colloidal oats, raw honey, and aloe vera to improve skin hydration and soothe the skin for a microbiome-friendly outcome

    When choosing exfoliating products, it is important to check the concentration and formulation of exfoliating ingredients. Mild concentrations and gentle formulations are typically more microbiome-friendly and less likely to cause disruption or irritation. Additionally, it is essential to follow proper exfoliation guidelines and not over-exfoliate, as this can lead to skin damage and imbalance in the microbiome.

     hibiscus exfoliating mud


    Caring for your skin goes beyond surface-level treatments. By embracing a microbiome-friendly skincare routine, you can support the health and balance of your skin microbiome. Understanding the importance of the skin microbiome opens up new possibilities for personalized skincare and highlights the need for products that respect and nurture this delicate ecosystem.

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