By Rouah Al-Wakeel, Director, RAW Cosmetics Limited
Skin is a complex organ with a dynamic ecosystem inhabited by bacteria, archaea, fungi and viruses co-existing harmoniously. These microorganisms—collectively referred to as the skin microbiota—are an essential part of skin’s physiology.
This naturally resilient population plays a major role in protecting the skin from external aggressors and is continuously working to maintain a state of equilibrium. However, the delicate balance of our skin microbiota can be disturbed by pollution, excessive UV radiation, chemicals, fatigue, poor diet and stress.
Many of us have hectic, stressful and intense lifestyles; especially during these extraordinary times we are currently experiencing. Stress can cause imbalance throughout the whole body. This state of imbalance within the skin is known as dysbiosis.
A dysbiosis can lead to the deterioration of the normal physiological state of the microbiota; leaving our skin susceptible to cutaneous infection, inflammation and skin ageing. Although each person has their own unique and individual skin microbiota, the need for these ecosystems to remain healthy and be protected is something they all have in common.
Skin protection is an expansive topic. From a consumer point of view, formulators could simplify the task of choosing ‘the right’ product by creating a skin cream targeted at maintaining skin balance and providing a good level of protection.
Formulating a product specifically for this, whilst also taking the microbiota into consideration can seem like a daunting task; especially when you consider all the different ingredients that would need to be incorporated into one bottle.
However, thanks to many innovative companies creating wonderfully diverse ingredients, which are simple to process; we are able to create multi-functional products without compromising skin feel.
Our skin is exposed to a range of different aggressors and in our modern day lives, there are some – blue light for instance – that we don’t yet fully take into consideration.
In order to protect the skin we must include ingredients which maintain and re-balance the microbiota equilibrium to form a natural defensive shield to enable it to fend-off the damage which can be caused by our environments.
The skin nourishes the skin microbiota with dead skin cells, fatty acids, skin lipids and sebum. This nourishment encourages growth and balance. A change in the environment, increasing usage of disinfectants and using harsh cosmetic products will disturb the balance meaning the skin microbiota is no longer in control.
This can lead to skin problems. We can support the microbiota by including probiotics – a live microorganism with a beneficial influence on skin, prebiotics – foodstuff that can be fermented by the residual skin microbiota with a beneficial influence or synbiotics – the combination of probiotics and prebiotics into our formulations.
These types of ingredients work in harmony with your skin microbiota to protect and sustain it whilst reinforcing and revitalising skin.
Sunshine encourages the release of serotonin, which is linked to boosting mood and increasing energy levels. Whilst we are happily enjoying ourselves outdoors, soaking in the sun it is important to remember that UV exposure is a powerful attack on the skin, creating damage that can range from premature ageing, hyperpigmentation to more detrimental conditions like skin cancer.
Using a combination of filters to achieve broad-spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB is essential.
Skin is exposed to a variety of damaging species from the environment and it is a major target for oxidative stress; which has been linked to accelerated signs of skin ageing, fine lines and wrinkles, age spots and even skin cancer.
Adding antioxidants topically helps to protect skin from free radical damage by neutralising them to stop the damaging chain reactions they would usually cause.
When we consider pollution, our minds shift towards air pollution, which is mainly chemical, mostly from industry, vehicle exhausts cigarette smoke, but also paint and pesticides.
However, this Digital Age constantly exposes us to radiation from mobile phones and other screened devices, which is now known as electropollution, or E-pollution. It introduces biologically toxic frequencies into our environment and it has been linked with skin and health issues.
Pollution is capable of penetrating deeper layers of the epidermis causing inflammation, dehydration and can lead to the loss of elasticity and firmness thus increasing the likelihood of prematurely aged skin.
There are a plethora of ingredients currently on the market – many of which are plant extracts – which have been found to be effective in defending the skin from different types of pollution, aggressors and stress.
It has become very possible to create products encompassing the concept of skin protection whilst also considering the essential strategy of strengthening and balancing the skin microbiota to preserve and prolong our skin’s health and beauty.
Skin barrier structure and function is essential to human health. Protecting the skin starts with protecting its microbiota.
Rouah Al-Wakeel, Director, RAW Cosmetics Limited
R&D Tour Leader, in-cosmetics Global & Asia
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