Two to three weeks later, consumers receive results on their skin type, key microbial levels, recommended products, general skincare guidelines, and dietary advice. The recommended products already carry the Labskin stamp of approval – the company offers two: microbiome friendly (meaning no adverse effects on the skin microbiome) and microbiome rebalancing (providing benefits for different levels of microbes) – or are validated as microbiome-friendly by a Scientific Skincare Advisor to the Skin Trust Club Board of Directors. “We will accommodate consumers at different ends of the price spectrum, so our customers can choose how much they want to spend. Talking to them, one of the things they really appreciate about us is the fact that we’re brand independent,” comments O’Kennedy.
Brand founders and beauty journalists have raised the point that the majority of skin sensitivities and other issues are actually created by using the wrong products. Whether it’s poor viral education via social media or confusing terminology, the consumer education aspect of microbiome skincare remains “the biggest hurdle” according to O’Kennedy.
In order to help overcome this obstacle, it is useful to dive deep into the bacterial microcosm that is the skin. In the Skin Trust Club’s microbiome scan, results can show between 200 and 1,000 different types of microbes on the skin. The most predominant are: Staphylococcus, dominant in moist parts of the body, which also produces antimicrobial peptides and reduces inflammation; Propionibacterium, which favors sebum-rich parts of the face but can also cause acne in some people; and Lactobacillus, which can also be found in the gut and vaginal microbiome, and whose absence on the skin is associated with psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.
The microbiome is unique from person to person, but everyone needs the right balance and level of strains to maintain a healthy skin barrier. The prevalence of bacterial strains informs our skin type. Propionibacterium can be high in one skin type but not create acne, but produce comedones and other problems in another. However, using cosmeceutical weapons of mass destruction on the Propionibacterium strain is also not an option, as our skin needs a certain level of it to produce porphyrins, which help protect the skin against radiation. UV “It’s a balance. You might have pathogenic species in my skin, because I have a combination of other species that balance each other out, and for others it will be more problematic,” says Dr. Caballero-Lima.
That’s why getting the full picture is so important for consumers to develop the ideal skincare strategy for their microbial needs. “Using this information, you can alter their growth. You can use certain ingredients that will change the amount of bacteria from one type versus the other,” says Dr. Caballero-Lima.
And while one might assume that the best TLCs for the skin microbiome are the mildest products possible, exfoliating acids or retinols aren’t out of the question either. “The microbiome is quite resilient. You can have an anti-aging routine with actives like glycolic acids or retinoids and still have microbiome-friendly products, without creating long-term damage,” says Tracey Ryan, Skincare Scientific Advisor at Skin Trust Lab, emphasizing the importance of choosing more. a cleanser with the right kind of surfactants and mild additives for the skin type. She points out that overall composition trumps any ingredient when it comes to assessing microbiome compatibility. “Any decent formulator, if they put a retinoid or AHA or BHA in a nighttime product, will make sure it also has plenty of emollients and occlusives in it to compensate,” she adds. . “The idea of an ingredient being good or bad for your microbiome comes from the whole clean beauty trend. But it’s about getting the big picture of the composition of the ingredient in the formulation, it’s is much more complex.She recommends a minimalist routine, not necessarily minimalist formulas, in order to best measure the effectiveness of the products.
Internal factors such as genetics, age, hormones and diet can also affect the skin microbiome, which means there is still more research and data to collect, a challenge the management team of the Skin Trust Club responds enthusiastically. They are currently working on integrating gene expression and metabolomics assessments into their methods of obtaining data. Future prospects also include increasing marketing to postmenopausal audiences and expanding vaginal, oral, and scalp microbiome research, as well as expanding DTC into other retail avenues.
“The feedback has been phenomenal. I’m blown away by the reaction we’re getting talking to the consumer and the industry. There seems to be huge interest,” says O’Kennedy. It’s also evidence of the underlying shift in consumption patterns focused on science and ingredients, rather than hype and marketing. As O’Kennedy proclaims, “We want to give people the knowledge to look and feel their best.”