In our previous post, we discussed the cause of oily skin and pimples. We would be remiss if we didn’t also discuss bacteria.
Let’s Dive In
At any given moment there are hundreds of types of bacteria living on your skin. Are these microscopic critters helpful or problematic? The skin’s microbiome (environment), also known as microflora (flora), is an essential aspect of normal, healthy skin. These bacteria are typically non-harmful and offer positive benefits.
It is important to try and achieve a healthy balance of oil and bacteria on your skin. Over-washing and using too many antibacterial products can harm your skin by disrupting the normal flora and leading to the overgrowth of harmful organisms. Roughly washing your skin can create tiny cracks in the stratum corneum, the uppermost skin layer, leading to water loss and the invasion of harmful bacteria. This article explains various types of skin bumps and gives you suggestions on how to care for them.
Our body is an ecosystem; it contains dry, moist, and sebaceous (oily) environments where different microorganisms can live. The face, neck, back, and chest are rich in sebaceous glands, making them common sites for acne.
Skin flora bacteria, such as Staphylococcus epidermidis (non-harmful), produce antibiotic-like compounds called bacteriocins that prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi. This type of staph is not to be confused with Staphylococcus aureus which causes staph infections including abscesses, boils, and sepsis.
The role of these bacteria, however, can change depending on their location and the person’s immune system. Pseudomonas aeruginosa, for example, is harmless on the skin but can cause respiratory and GI infection upon entering the bloodstream.
Using Antibacterial Products
There are so many ads and products describing antibacterial properties and how we need to rid our skin of bacteria and oil; how do we figure out which products to use and how often?
There are three main ingredients that you’ll find when researching antibacterial products: benzoyl peroxide (BPO), salicylic acid, and sulfacetamide.
BPO is highly effective in treating acne due to its ability to quickly kill bacteria, unclog pores, and decrease sebum production. It helps to unclog pores by breaking down excess keratin, allowing for the drainage of sebum. However, BPO is not recommended by most estheticians due to its unpleasant side effects; many people experience skin irritation in the form of redness and dryness.
Salicylic acid is a more gentle acne treatment; in addition to its antibacterial properties, this compound helps to regulate cell turnover and promote exfoliation. Salicylic acid is highly keratolytic and comedolytic, meaning it is able to enter the pore and dissolve keratin, oils, and cellular debris. It also has anti-inflammatory properties which help to minimize redness and inflammation.
Sulfacetamide is a sulfur-containing antibacterial agent that is used for the treatment of acne and seborrheic dermatitis. It is very effective in killing a wide variety of bacteria and fungi. However, this product is less commonly recommended due to its side effects, which include irritation, burning, and stinging. People who are sensitive to sulfur should avoid products containing sulfacetamide.
There are other ingredients to look for like Commiphora myrrha oil and benzyl alcohol found in the S4 Skincare line, like Face + Body Toner. The Simplified Facial Cleanser is formulated with cranberry extract to provide antibacterial and antioxidant properties. These products offer antibacterial benefits without the harsh side effects.
In the final post of our 3-part trilogy, we will discuss internal bacteria and describe what happens on the inside and how it affects the outside.