Kristin Neumann holds a PhD in Microbiology, specializing in molecular biology and antibacterial enzymes, with a specific focus on the microbiome. She is the CEO and Co-Founder of MyMicrobiome, a microbiome certification company based in Liechtenstein and Germany. We are super excited to have the opportunity to learn more about the skin microbiome and gain some of her expertise.
Hi Kristin! We are so happy to get the chance to talk to you!
Would you please just start by telling us in short what the skin microbiome is?
The microbiome is described by definition as a characteristic microbial community that exists in a clearly delineated habitat with specific physicochemical properties. This is not only the microorganisms involved, but also their range of activity, which leads to the emergence of specific ecological niches. The microbiome represents a dynamic and interactive micro-ecosystem that can change over time and in terms of its scope. It is integrated into macro-ecosystems, which include eukaryotic hosts, and plays a critical role in their functioning and health.
The definition of ''microbiome'' was first proposed by Whipps et al. in 1988 and, based on recent advances, contains relevant points even after 35 years.
Ok, so to summarize, that means that the microbiome is an active and ever changing set of microorganisms limited to a specific area, such as the foot, face or gut. Which interact with for example fungi living on us. Is that right?
Ok, great, then we’re on the right track :)
So, tell us more about why you are so dedicated to the microbiome. Why is it so important to care for it?
Caring for the skin microbiome is important for several reasons:
1. Skin Health: A balanced skin microbiome helps maintain healthy skin by preventing conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis.
2. Protection: The microbiome acts as a barrier, protecting against harmful pathogens and environmental stressors.
3. Inflammation: A balanced microbiome can reduce inflammation, leading to a more even complexion.
4. pH Balance: Microbes help regulate skin’s pH, keeping it at an optimal level.
5. Skin Aging: A diverse microbiome may slow the signs of skin aging.
By caring for your skin microbiome, you promote healthier, more resilient skin.
Ok, so if we start from the very beginning of each human's life - the womb - how does the microbiome influence the baby when in there?
The vaginal microbiome plays a pivotal role for fertility and a healthy pregnancy. Pre-term birth and miscarriage are correlated with a dysbalanced vaginal microbiome, which means low amounts of the right Lactobacilli, such as Lactobacillus crispatus. In the womb, the baby is still sterile but the metabolites of the mother’s microbiome can already shape the development of the baby’s immune system.
Wow, that is so interesting! So when is the first encounter a child has with microbes?
During birth, a baby's exposure to the vaginal microbiome begins. When it passes through the birth canal, the baby encounters the microorganisms present in the mother's vagina and anus. This exposure is considered as the most crucial moment in early life, as it fosters the colonization of the baby's gut and skin with beneficial bacteria.
So what if you are born by a cesarean section or your mother had a poor microbiome herself?
Research has found that a baby born by cesarean-section will have an altered microbiome compared to a baby born vaginally — and these differences might persist for up to four years.
A study published in 2020 by Andersen V. et al., included 2,699,479 births in Denmark between 1973–2016 and found “an increased risk of diabetes, arthritis, coeliac disease, and inflammatory bowel disease for both girls and boys after cesarean section compared with vaginal delivery”.
Vaginal Seeding is one method to resemble the microbiome that the baby would face at normal birth. Vaginal Seeding means the exposure of the newborn to vaginal fluids of the mother directly after birth. Studies have shown that this kind of engraftment can normalize microbiota development of the newborn (Song et at., 2021).
Of course, the mother’s microbiome is inherited by the newborn, which means that if the mothers microbiome is poor, the baby’s initial seeding is not optimal.
In either case, a healthy lifestyle including exercise, a varied diet low in sugar and processed food, enough sleep and a healthy environment (means rather close to nature then in a big, polluted city) will contribute to a healthier microbiome.
What, would you say, are the worst 5 enemies of the microbiome?
The skin and gut microbiomes are sensitive ecosystems that can be disrupted by various factors. Here are five common enemies of the microbiome:
- **Antibiotics:** While antibiotics can be life-saving, they can also kill both harmful and beneficial bacteria in the gut. This disruption can lead to dye bios is, an imbalance, in the microbiome.
- **Poor Diet:** Diets high in ultra processed foods, sugars, and low in fiber can negatively affect the gut microbiome. A lack of diversity in the diet can lead to a less diverse and less healthy microbiome.
- **Stress:** Chronic stress can impact the gut microbiome. The "gut-brain" connection means that stress can lead to changes in gut bacteria, potentially contributing to gastrointestinal issues.
- **Alcohol:** Excessive alcohol consumption can disrupt the gut microbiome and damage the gut lining, leading to inflammation and other health issues.
- **Lack of Sleep:** Sleep is crucial for overall health, including the microbiome. Poor sleep patterns can affect the composition and balance of the gut microbiome.
And the 5 best things you can do for your microbiome?
The opposite of the above! There is an easy rule: to live as close as possible to nature, from all angles, if it is the nutrition, exercise, sleep, medication, stress, hygiene and so on. Just think of our ancestors that lived in caves, how they lived and try to get there as close as possible.
It's important to note that the specific effects on the microbiome can vary from person to person, and a combination of factors often contributes to microbiome health. Maintaining a balanced diet, managing stress, getting enough sleep, avoid over cleansing and using antibiotics judiciously are some ways to support a healthy microbiome. For the skin’s microbiome it is crucial to avoid harsh ingredients or antibacterial mouth or vagina washes. They are simply not necessary.
Less is more: Sophisticated simplicity applies also for cosmetics which are mildly and minimalistically formulated
So regarding skincare, could you tell us more about the difference between probiotic, prebiotic, postbiotic and microbiome friendly skincare?
In summary, probiotic skincare products contain live bacteria, prebiotic skincare products provide nutrients for bacteria, and postbiotic skincare products use the byproducts of bacteria including inactivated cells. All those ingredients should support skin health.
However, for those kinds of ingredients research is still very young and the mechanisms behind these ingredients are poorly understood. With our current knowledge the products should at least not interfere with the healthy microbiome, which means that they are Microbiome-friendly.
Microbiome-friendly skincare is a holistic approach that considers the diversity and the balance of the skin’s microbiome. A microbiome-friendly product is a product which does not influence the healthy skin’s microbiome and leaves the microbes untouched.
To the last question - do you have a favorite bacteria and why?
I love all of them, only 1% of all microorganisms are really pathogenic, all others are contributing to a healthy environment, if they are at the right place in the right amount.
Thank you so much for your time Kristin, we really value the information you share and the important job you do!