Interview with Dr. Kristin Neumann, CEO at MyMicrobiome
Dr. Kristin Neumann
Dr. Neumann, why is the skin microbiome important for humans?
An intact skin microbiome is key for a healthy skin. Our skin hosts some 1 million micro-organisms and they have an essential role to play, fostering our immune system and promoting skin health and beauty. A highly populated, balanced, and diversified skin microbiome builds a strong barrier that actively prevents normal skin from being colonised by adverse microbes. A healthy skin is vital for our immune system, healthy ageing and our general health condition.
How can cosmetic or personal care products influence the skin microbiome?
A healthy skin microbiome is a balance of many different organisms, which varies from person to person and across the different areas of the body of each person.
There is a natural equilibrium between all organisms that colonize our bodymostly bacteria, fungi and yeasts. The presence of commensal bacteria protects against pathogenic microorganisms via two mechanisms. They compete for nutrients and space, which reduces the risk that pathogenic microorganisms will proliferate. They may also produce bacteriocins that can kill other bacterial species. Cosmetics may have a deleterious effect as some ingredients may upset the skin´s equilibrium, allowing colonisation by pathogenic organisms. If this balance is disturbed it is termed dysbiosis and it can lead to acne, eczema, dry skin, psoriasis, dandruff, alopecia, skin allergies and asthma. Not only preservatives but essential oils, surfactants, alcohol or fragrances may also cause dysbiosis.
For now, the best and the least a cosmetic can and should fulfill, is not to change the existing microbiome of a healthy skin. The majority of cosmetics is still harboring strong non-selective antimicrobial properties, which can have some effect on the skin´s microbiome over time. Not only that, but the customer is layering several products a day. Ideally we would use less and only mild products which are ‘Microbiome-friendly’ and thus do not interfere with the existing microbiome. When looking at cosmetics from the microbiome perspective, we need a paradigm shift: instead of searching for the most effective, active ingredient, we have to look for low activity on the microbiome, given the background that any interference is potentially harmful.
You offer certification for microbiome-friendly cosmetic products. How does this certification work?
We have different body sites with different ecosystems. We also have different key species on every body site and we can actually take them, cultivate them in the lab and bring them together with the products and see if the product is having an impact on those or not.
Our standards utilize in vitro assays to determine which products influence the growth of these key species, keeping the experiments standardized and within a controlled environment. The testing involves co-cultivation as well as single-organism plate assays, and certification is based upon a diverse set of experiments. If the tested product does not change the in vitro grown skin microbes, it is assumed to be safe and to be Microbiome-friendly.
A Microbiome-friendly certified product does not interfere with the skin´s key-microbiota. It simply leaves it untouched. A Microbiome-friendly product respects the balance both on the surface and in the deeper layers of the skin and thus fosters the basis for a beautiful, healthy skin.
What impact will the topic of the microbiome have on the future development of cosmetic products?
The microbiome is a hot topic and finally accepted as one main influential factor on our overall health. This is a positive movement and goes hand in hand with an increasingly health-conscious customer. It is also clear that our skin harbours a microbiome, in fact it harbours many different microbiomes, and that skin problems are always correlated with an imbalanced skin microbiome.
To avoid imbalances that could lead to skin concerns, it’s important to keep interventions in the skin microbiome to a minimum. So, we should strive to make personal care products as microbiome-friendly as we can.
Formerly, the cosmetics industry did not take the microbiome into account, when formulating products, the focus was on making products stable and good smelling instead of minimal and mild. Luckily, this is changing now.
By supporting the cosmetic industry to create and certify Microbiome-friendly products, we act as a change maker in this previously unmonitored market - for a better, Microbiome-friendly world.
In addition to a microbiome-friendly skin care product, is nutrition also crucial for a healthy skin microbiome?
There is emerging research on the skin microbiome and its connection with the gut, referred to as the gut-skin axis and its effects on dermatologic conditions. It is regulated through several mechanisms such as inflammatory mediators and the immune system. Dysregulation of microbiota has been seen in numerous inflammatory skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, rosacea, and psoriasis.
Across the spectrum, the Mediterranean diet is highly regarded as a healthy balanced diet. It is distinguished by a beneficial fatty acid profile that is rich in both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, high levels of polyphenols and other antioxidants, high intake of fiber and other low glycemic carbohydrates, and relatively greater vegetable than animal protein intake. Specifically, olive oil, assorted fruits, vegetables, cereals, legumes, and nuts; moderate consumption of fish, poultry, and red wine; and a lower intake of dairy products, red meat, processed meat and sweets characterize the traditional Mediterranean diet .
The microbiome will play a key role in defending against diseases in the future. Be it depression, psoriasis, asthma, dementia, cancer - research shows that a healthy microbiome as new super organ might be a large proportion of the solution.
MyMicrobiome created the information platform mymicrobiome.info in 2018 and, spearheaded by the founder Dr. Kristin Neumann, the world's first and independent certification for Microbiome-friendly products, the "Microbiome-friendly" quality seal with the B2B portal microbiome-friendly.com.
Sources/References (129) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5385025/