How rewilding can work wonders for your skin

Skin microbiome is having a major beauty moment through rewilding, a back to basics approach to protecting and improving the complexion.

Commonly used in conservation circles, rewilding is the process of restoring an ecosystem to its natural state to the point where it can care for itself.

This principle is being applied to the skin microbiome, the delicate ecosystem of microorganisms on our skin.

Rewilding is about nurturing the skin’s microbiota to improve the condition of the skin.

Dr Deshan Sebaratnam, a dermatologist at Liverpool Hospital and senior lecturer at UNSW, says our microbiome plays an important role in maintaining skin health, protecting us from skin infections and tempering our immune system.

“There is evolving evidence that disruption to this might contribute to skin disease,” Dr Sebaratnam says.

“For example, in patients with eczema, areas of active disease often have low microbial diversity.”

Even though it has become a major beauty trend, Dr Sebaratnam says research into the importance of diversity of microbiota is still in its infancy so it is difficult to draw definitive conclusions.

However, some research has found hygiene habits including frequent use of skin cosmetics and detergents and removal of skin lipids have led to a change in the skin microbiome.

What does skin rewilding involve?

If you want to take a walk on the rewild side, here are five ways to do it.

1. Embrace prebiotics

Dr Shammi Theesan, dermatologist and founder of ODE Dermatology, says “what looks to have a beneficial effect is prebiotics, that is where you’re feeding probiotic bacteria with the food that will make them thrive.”

Dietitian and nutritionist Alice Bleathman, says the bugs that make up our microbiome feed off different fibres.

“Having a diet rich in fibre, in particular prebiotic fibre, has been shown to contribute to a diverse microbiome by facilitating a range of bugs to grow and thrive,” Alice says.

“Foods rich in prebiotic fibre include legumes, oats, bananas, berries, and garlic.”

2. Reassess your skincare routine

While extensive skincare routines are common these days, it may not always be beneficial for our skin, particularly when it comes to the ecosystem of the skin microbiome.

“We’ve got this community of living things on our skin and we’re stripping it off,” Dr Theesan says.

If you want to strike the right balance between the good and bad bacteria on your face, Dr Theesan says to avoid harsh ingredients such as antibacterial soaps and don’t overuse benzoyl peroxide or exfoliating pads and harsh mechanical abrasion.

“That changes the composition of your microbiome, and when that goes off, you might have fire skin,” she says.

“You might have irritation that then makes bad bacteria proliferate more.”

3. Adopt a diverse diet

Diversity is key when it comes to a healthy microbiota population, and often a great way to do that is through your diet.

“Generally speaking, the more diverse your diet, the more diverse your microbiome and the more adaptable and resilient it will be to changes within our environment,” Alice says.

“Aiming for a diet rich in plant-based foods, in particular wholegrains, beans/legumes and vegetables, is key to optimising your microbiome diversity.”

4. Wash less

Dr Theesan recommends trying to only wash your face once a day to avoid stripping the skin unnecessarily and disturbing the balance of the skin microbiome.

Also, don’t wash with hot water or in the shower.

“That strips off all your good bacteria,” she says.

“And you’re just removing your natural lipid layer.

“You’re killing off your good bacteria and you don’t want to do that.”

5. Go outside

Interestingly research indicates indigenous, non-urbanised people and farmers have a considerably more diverse skin microbiome.

There is a suggestion that the surrounding living environment could affect the composition of skin microbiota.

Written by Tania Gomez.