More and more we’re starting to realize that working with instead of fighting against the natural flow and rhythm of our world seems to produce the best in both ourselves and the products we toil to bring to life. From regenerative farming that focuses on climate-friendly, organically-driven agriculture to the birth of the raw food persuasion that aims to reduce consumption of dangerous processed foods, we’re all trying to find a balance between health, happiness, and the environment.
When it comes to our skin, working with mother nature may be the key to healthy, vibrant, and blemish-free skin!
Hence, one of the most popular 2019 trends in skin care: dirt. Yep, that’s correct. People are using dirt to obtain that perfect beautiful glow! Let’s take a step back. There is sound science and reason behind this health trend. The theory focuses on boosting the health of your skin by boosting certain health-promoting skin bacteria. It’s theorized that by exposing your skin to products with naturally bacteria-rich ingredients, it actually helps to build up the good bacteria in your skin that fights acne, as well as more serious conditions such as eczema.
Yet, it’s not just about dirt. Certain bacteria and vitamin-rich clay masks, prebiotic ointments, probiotics supplements, and even cosmetic grade flower products can obtain the same goal. With that said, wouldn’t it be easier to just use dirt?
With that said, let’s get down to understanding the bacteria of our skin and why these methods may work to help clear breakouts and boost the health of your skin!
Getting to Know Your Skin Microbiome
Bacteria thrives in our entire body: from our guts to our mouths to our skin. In the scientific and medical communities, any community of bacteria can be referred to as the microbiome, such as the highly popularized and talked about the gut microbiome.
While the gut microbiome refers to the complex ecosystem of trillions of bacteria that live within your digestive system, skin microbiome refers to the “collection of microorganisms” that are present on the skin. This microbiome is so incredibly important to our overall health due to the fact that “it plays … many key roles in promoting the smooth daily operations of the human body,” so much in fact that scientists have labeled it as a supporting organ. While you may believe that skin microbiome is something acquired through introduction and experience of new and different places, objects, and people, the skin microbiome actually begins developing “shortly after birth with a flurry of immune activity.”
From there, it’s all about taking care of your skin microbiome and building a robust ecosystem of healthy bacteria that will not only help evade acne but will also protect from skin damage.
The Theory of “Dirty” Skin
So, how does our skin microbiome relate to that stubborn acne, those weird dry spots, or those red splotches?
Just as antibiotics and over-the-counter medications can decimate internal microbiome — this is particularly prevalent in the gut microbiome where mood disorders are now linked to unhealthy bacteria — it’s conjectured that harsh, bacteria-killing skincare products may act similarly. This includes overuse of antibacterial soaps or chemically-rich soaps that seek to not only remove dirt and grime but also destroy bacteria.
The colonies of skin-based bacteria exterminated by these harsh, unnatural products are actually there to protect you! Therefore, by removing this protective barrier you may be opening up your skin to more vulnerabilities that lead to skin issues.
In fact, in certain studies, it’s been found that unhealthy, lacking, or changing skin microbiome ecosystems may be connected to some incredibly common skin issues such as eczema and acne. This includes overuse or even simple “use” of “environmental agents, harsh cleansers soaps, deodorants, and even medications and cosmetics.”
Simply put, “our obsession with cleanliness may be doing more harm than good for microbiota balance on the skin.”
How to Boost Healthy Skin Bacteria
Thinking back on my skincare journey, I remember a time when I didn’t use face products. In fact, I didn’t have any of these products until I went away to college, at which time I started using a chemically-heavy facial cleanser. Guess what happened… acne. I never put two and two together until very recently when I switched from these chemical products to all-natural toxin-free soaps and lotions. Guess what happened … my acne got better. Now, I’m not saying my acne is a thing of the past. Hormones play a huge role in breakouts. But working with the tools mother nature gave us, I’ve been able to manage my acne, reduce inflammation caused by acne medications, and, for the first time in years, swim in salt water pain-free!
While each and every one of us is different — including the type and reason for our skin care issues, from acne to eczema to rosacea — I think it’s safe to say that we are all seeking the simplest and safest beauty regimen.
Looking to try out this new “dirty” skin care? Here are a few ways to get in the game! Keep in mind, it’s always a good idea to speak with your dermatologist or general practitioner before changing up your skincare routine. This is particularly important for those interested in prebiotics, probiotics, or if you are changing your diet.
Use Topical Probiotics and Prebiotics
Research linking topical probiotics and prebiotics to healthy skin is still in its infancy — actually being conducted as we speak — yet “initial research and anecdotal evidence indicates that when incorporated into topical skin treatments, probiotics can moisturize, reduce inflammation and brighten dull skin.”
In the journal Gut Pathogens, an older study conducted in 1999 found “skin-specific benefits of lactic acid bacterial application.” While eating a plant-based balanced diet and taking probiotics have also shown impressive skincare results, topically applied probiotics and prebiotics have been found to “reduce inflammation and restore skin’s natural balance, in turn having a calming effect on your face.” Probiotics and prebiotics not only nurture and inspire a healthy ecosystem of bacteria, but their “antimicrobial properties work as a defense system of sorts on delicate skin, serving as a defensive shield against bacterial infection.”
Try a Clay Mask
Beauty masks are not a new concept and clay masks have definitely been in use for some time. With that said, the reason and type of clay can determine the efficacy of said mask. How does clay work? The first thing about certain clay products is that they are naturally antibacterial. You may be thinking this is backward from what we have discussed throughout this entire article. While you want healthy bacteria in order to protect your skin, it’s also important to suss out and get rid of the unhealthy bacteria that may fester and cause skin irritation.
When looking for the right clay, always go 100 percent natural! Natural clay has “been used in ancient and modern medicine,” so we know it works, yet, research has yet to identify “the mechanism(s) that make certain clays lethal against bacterial pathogens.” The mechanism may not be identified, yet research has found that clay minerals offer a buffer against oxidation that can damage the skin.
One of the most popular natural clays is bentonite clay. This wonderful natural ingredient is referred to as Montmorillonite or “healing clay” by cultures that have used for hundreds of years. Bentonite clay is “composed of ash from volcanos,” generally sourced from Fort, Benton in Wyoming, yet was discovered in Montmorillonite, France … hence the alternative name. When used topically, bentonite has been known to heal poison ivy, dermatitis, wounds, and improve teeth and gum health. Some cultures consume bentonite clay and it has been found to support healthy digestion, promote weight loss, improve thyroid function, protect against certain cancers, and support respiratory health. On top of all that, bentonite clay has also been found to kill harmful bacteria, making it one of the best natural protectants for your face!
Get Dirty with Dirt and Flowers
Unfortunately, there aren’t that many products on the market that use dirt just yet, but one of the most well-known is a company called Mother Dirt. They offer a full beauty line of products that focus on using all-natural microbiome boosting ingredients. In particular, they use a component of the soil called Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria (AOB), which is “found everywhere there is life: lakes, rivers, soil, and (formerly) on our skin.” Per Mother Dirt’s website, AOB converts “irritating components of our sweat (ammonia & urea) and turn[s] them into byproducts that bring benefits to the skin.” Plus, Mother Dirt products also focus on the use of nitric oxide, an antioxidant “that helps calm and soothe the skin,” as well as “restore balance to the skin’s ecosystem and in turn reduce dependence on conventional products like soaps, moisturizers, and deodorants.”
While dirt has a long way to come, flower extract has been used in beauty products for some time.
Some flower varieties offer “cell rejuvenating properties that can minimize the appearance of scars, wrinkles and stretch marks.” In fact, most organic and vegan beauty products have some sort of floral extract instead of chemicals and toxins. While the western world is just catching on, for “many cultures across the world … flowers are one of the most sought-after natural remedies for a variety of ailments — from headaches and digestive problems to anxiety and fatigue—and are often used as essential oils, carrier oils and even consumed as food.” Flower extract offers natural fragrance and coloring, potent healing properties, and douse your skin in vitamins and antioxidants.
Increase Consumption of Plant-Based Foods
Last, but definitely not least, are plant-based foods. If all of the above is not for you, maybe switching up your diet to include more plant-based products will be the right fit. While plant-based foods are rich in healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients, probably the largest benefit is the reduction in consuming processed foods. If you’re filling your day with natural, raw, plant-based ingredients, then you most likely won’t have time for that frozen lunch or boxed dinner.
How is this related to skin issues?
First off, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals are essential for building up a healthy skin microbiome. Not only will this collection of nutrients balance pH, but those robust antioxidants will help defend against bad bacteria buildup. Secondly, eating plant-based foods will drastically reduce the consumption of sugar. While research regarding the link between diet and skin issues is still ongoing, preliminary data has found that certain foods may increase or aggravate skin issues. Topping the list is refined grains, sugar, dairy, and fast food, all of which are highly present in processed foods.
DIY Bacteria Boosting Face Masks
Beauty products can quickly empty your bank account! This is especially true when you’re purchasing high-quality, environmentally-friendly products from small startup businesses. If buying products simply isn’t in your budget right now, but you’re still trying to do your best to boost healthy bacteria, try making your own bacteria-boosting product at home! One of the easiest products to make yourself are masks. Not only can you infuse personal favorite ingredients — I love raw cacao! — but it’s easy to make smaller quantities to try out and grow from there. Here are a few DIY masks to get you started on your journey.
We’ve talked the talk, now let’s walk the walk! This DIY Bentonite Clay Mask by Chene Whittington is completely do-it-yourself, all-natural, and only requires three easy ingredients and four easy steps. Along with bacteria-boosting and healing bentonite clay, this DIY recipe uses the soothing powers of aloe vera juice and the moisturizing qualities of jojoba oil.
Let’s say that you either don’t like clay, are a little weary of clay, or maybe you react badly to clay. You’re in luck! This Green Tea Matcha Face Mask by Seanna Cohen is a great alternative option that infuses your skin with bacteria-friendly antioxidants. Matcha is basically a potent powdered green tea, offering all of the benefits in an easy-to-use form. This mask mixes matcha powder with moisturizing and rejuvenating coconut oil, plus a splash of water. That’s it!
This Homemade Chocolate Coffee Face Mask by Emily von Euw is great for introducing your skin to being “dirty” without actually smearing dirt all over your face. Organic coffee and raw cacao are both incredible anti-inflammatory agents and are filled with wonderful antioxidants! This recipe also calls for raw agave, almond milk, and a bit of water.
A note on this one… if you know that chocolate already makes you break out — chocolate happens to be one of those aggravators for certain people — try one of the other non-cacao masks first.
All-Natural Bacteria Boosting Products
Don’t have the time to whip up a DIY mask at home? Luckily, there are products available to purchase that can help you along your way to a healthy skin microbiome. Here are a couple of products to give a try!
When it comes to probiotics, the more strains the better! This LiviaOne Topical Probiotic Spray not only offers 12 different strains of probiotics, but it also happens to be USDA certified organic and chemical free. This particular blend focuses on reducing and preventing acne, eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, athlete’s foot, cold sores, and even fever blisters, to name just a few. The antimicrobial properties create a protective barrier that will boost the current health of your skin and prevent further damage. A 4-fluid ounce bottle costs $37.95.
Looking for that perfect all-in-one supplement? This Ora Organic Probiotics with Prebiotics supplement may be the perfect option! Ora Organics focuses on organic, vegan, non-GMO products that are free of gluten, soy, preservatives, artificial colors and fillings, and with zero added sugars. This particular formula has 16 billion CFU per serving with 6 probiotic strains! A 60-capsule bottle costs $33.24.
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 15,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
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