The microorganisms on the skin consist of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. They’re tiny and invisible to the naked eye, yet it’s estimated that 1.5 trillion microbes live on each of us. As researchers continue studying these microscopic living organisms, they’re uncovering that the composition (including the diversity and population size) of various types of microbes living on the skin correlates with your skin health status. It’s worth understanding, then, the basics of microorganisms that live on your skin and make up your skin microbiome.
Types of Microorganisms on the Skin
The microbes on your skin can be divided into two main categories: resident and transient microbiota.
Transient microbes are less permanent microorganisms. They can only be cultured from skin samples occasionally, as they’re more easily removed from the skin surface through routine hygiene practices. These bacteria, fungi, and viruses can be transferred to the skin from coming into contact with another person or object.
Resident microorganisms live under the surface level cells of the stratum corneum (outermost layer of skin) and on the skin surface. Resident microorganisms include:
Because these microorganisms live under the surface level cells, they stick around longer and are harder to remove. Resident microbes can still, however, be impacted by hygiene practices, antibiotic use, and so forth.
Location of Microbes
Everyone’s body has three different physiological skin environments: dry, moist, and sebaceous (or oily), even if one environment may be more obvious to you
Dry areas of the body include the hands and feet, legs, and forearms. Interestingly, the dry environments on the body typically have the greatest diversity of microorganisms. Moist environments include the groin, under the breasts, in between the toes, and elbow creases. Oily sites are the torso, neck, and head.
Microbes are present on the skin across your entire body. The location and physiological skin environments determine what kind of variety is present and in what quantity the microbes live.
Function of the Microorganisms
Microbes have different functions in the body depending on whether they’re commensals, symbionts, or pathogens. Those are words you may not be familiar with, but they are worth learning about so you can tell your microbiome friends from your enemies.
Commensals are the most common type of bacteria in the skin microbiome. These are the microbes that benefit from living on your skin but don’t cause any benefits for you or ill effects. Symbionts are the microorganisms that also benefit from living on your skin, but they benefit you in return as well. Pathogens are the microbes that cause harm, such as disease or infections.
So let’s take a deeper dive into how bacteria in your skin microbiome can both help and harm you. We’re covering the good, the bad, and the ugly — starting with the ugly!
There’s one type of bad bacteria you’ll hear us talking a lot about around here, and that’s Staphylococcus aureus.
One third of people actually have Staph living in their nose, and in many cases, it won’t cause any issues. But when overgrowth occurs, it’s the type of germ that can cause infections. It can throw the epidermis and its microbiome off balance and produce symptoms like redness, dryness, flakiness, itching, and even painful red boils or abscesses.
Staphylococcus aureus needs to breach the skin to cause an infection, but unfortunately, that’s not hard to do when you have itching, cracked skin for the bacteria to enter into. S. aureus is also able to adhere to surfaces due to the makeup of its bacterial cell walls… All of this to say, S. aureus is a pesky bacteria that’s been scientifically proven to cause eczema, and it definitely makes the top of our “Ugly List.”
- S. aureus is just one of many bad bacteria. It even has a partner-in-crime. Propionibacterium acnes produces a small molecule that helps the aureus stick to the skin surface.
Propionibacterium acnes is also one of the bacteria behind those unwanted zits and blemishes. This bacteria thrives on the skin oils, lives at the hair follicles, and is known to trigger acne-causing inflammation in the skin.
Understanding how bad bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus affect the body helps to highlight the importance of the good bacteria that’s living on your skin. When the amount of good bacteria is in a proper, healthy ratio to the bad bacteria on your skin, it’s able to fight off the bacteria trying to cause havoc to your health.
Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and it’s the protective barrier of your body to the outside world. The tiny good bacteria living on your skin are the very first line of defense. It’s beneficial that they’re there! So, despite the fact that the word “bacteria” typically conjures up images of microscopic creepy crawlies, not all bacteria are bad!
The microorganisms living on your skin all play an important role in determining your health. Some live happily on the skin surface without causing disruption, while others are working on your side to help ward off and crowd out the other bad bacteria, viruses, and fungi that try to cause harm to your skin and overall health.
Without proper balance of all of these microbes, your skin microbiome is at risk. Healthy skin helps you feel your best, sleep well, and be confident and calm, all of which affect total wellness. To help support a healthy balance of the bacteria in your skin microbiome, it’s important to practice microbiome-balancing lifestyle habits — and you can even try Gladskin Eczema Cream.
If you’re suffering from red, itchy, flaking, or dry skin, Gladskin Eczema Cream can help work with your body to restore balance to your skin microbiome through our patented smart protein, Micreobalance®.
The tiny microorganisms on your skin may be invisible to the naked eye, but there are 1.5 trillion of them — and they play a huge role in the health of your entire body.