If you’ve been keeping up with our beauty features, you’ll know there’s always something new being discovered or implemented. Whether it's trends in formulas or store environment, other industries can learn a lot from beauties drive for innovation. Last edition we delved into organic beauty, a somewhat confusing aspect of product branding that can leave consumers scratching their heads – don’t worry, only out of confusion. For our Green & Wellbeing Issue, we decided to explore one step further. Going passed the product, although we will get to those, to the growing wealth of research being conducted regarding the skin itself. We’re talking about bacteria.
Bacteria? And beauty? It's ok you’re forgiven for turning up your nose. But put aside your predispositions for a second as we tell you why a lot of them are probably wrong; and why you’ll be grabbing for the good bacteria during your morning routine soon enough.
The concept of ‘good bacteria’ began to enter public consciousness only a few years ago and still isn’t exactly what you’d call mainstream. This emerged as scientists furthered their understanding of the human microbiome: ‘the combined genetic material of the microorganisms in a particular environment.’ In layman's terms, this is a group of bacteria, parasites, and yeasts that live in and on the body, and they are an essential part of your body’s ecosystem – without them, there’s no us. Scientists have even gone as far as to say that the microbiome can be considered an organ that helps to maintain life. To put things into perspective, we all have approximately 10 trillion cells in our bodies. The microbiome is made up of approximately “100 trillion bacteria, yeasts, and single cell protozoa (representing thousands of different species), and 1,000 trillion viruses in and on our bodies” according to wellnessmama.com.
Many of us have grown up conditioned to think that any bacteria on the skin in bad or dangerous as we scrub our hands with antibacterial soap. Terms like ‘friendly bacteria’ are moreover associated with our insides, these friendly microbes are referred to as probiotic and yoghurt drinks chopped full of them are advertised to balance the body and restore a healthy gut. But a balanced biome is just as important on the outside; the skin is your largest organ after all. With consumers growing more familiar with the concept of probiotics and scientists making new leaps in research all the time, the beauty industry has to take notice.
Your skin is constantly under attack from external forces, be it environmental or manmade: pollen, harsh cleaning materials, cosmetics, you name it! The skin is a protective barrier, but it also needs protecting. If the balance is disrupted it can lead to serious implications. As a result, the trend for many cosmetic scientists is to stop focusing on the ingredients per se, and more so on the entire skin ecosystem. It’s called whole-system thinking. Suppliers such as BASF and Givaudan are already exploring microbes’ potential in skincare products and hope that in the future their bacteria infused skin models will be able to treat ageing, pigmentation, and pollution damage. AOBiome is another company trying to re-educate consumers, advising that the addition of friendly bacteria can dramatically reduce the number of products required to maintain happy and healthy skin. Their line Mother Dirt is already starting to pick up high praise across beauty and wellness blogs. Even mainstream brand L’Oreal is experimenting in this field. Cosmetic science is definitely benefitting from synthetic biology; keep an eye out for more biome-friendly products as they make their way to a shelf in your local store.