How nurturing the microbiome may be key to unlocking amazing skin.
In our ever-expanding quest to discover new paths towards healthier complexions, it seems the newest frontier is one that’s been there all along—our own skin’s microbiome. This complex biological ecosystem on the skin’s surface, and the commensurate balance this habitat needs, has become ubiquitous to the beauty zeitgeist. And with this, a milieu of products that aim to foster its equilibrium, with the global microbiome skincare market forecasted to grow to $1.9 billion by 2029. So, what’s all this buzz about the biome really about?
The skinny on skin
As our body’s largest organ, our skin protects us from the outside environment, but is also home to trillions of microorganisms. While this may not sound like the sexiest thing, this microscopic universe is actually one of our skin’s first lines of defense, with just the right amount of the “good bacteria” staving off an overgrowth of the “bad” in the most ideal of circumstances. In fact, a well-regulated biome allows the skin to thrive and do what it’s been designed to do like fight against infection, but also maintain moisture and regenerate itself. Conversely, a compromised biome has been associated with dermatological disorders such as atopic dermatitis, rosacea, acne, and psoriasis among others.
And while our skin’s microbiota is determined by such factors as genetics, age and gender, it can also be altered by our external environment, stress, and even our hygiene practices. Harsh cleansers or products with extremely strong active ingredients, for example, may strip the skin of even beneficial bacteria, or alter its pH levels resulting in imbalances. A lot of the same symbiotic organisms present in our skin are also found in our gut, and both can play a huge role in affecting our body’s immune systems and even our mental and physical wellbeing.
Beauty and the biome
While maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a given, products that respect the microbiome and have a reparative quality may indeed be the key to radiant, well-nourished skin. A lot of us are already familiar with the concept of good-for-you probiotics, given all the yogurt, kombucha, and kimchi we’ve consumed over the years, and similar concepts also apply to skincare.
The WHO defines probiotics as “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host.” That said, although it’s commonly used term, most if not all topical skincare do not have live organisms as they would not survive temperature changes, as well as the preservatives needed in these formulations. Thus, these modern potions would instead have postbiotics, or the inactivated microbial cells of probiotics. Alternatively, some may also contain prebiotics, or the “food” that encourages probiotics to grow.
By working with our skin and its unique composition of microbiota, topical application of prebiotic and postbiotic formulas have been shown to help clear up acne, for example, and are leading a movement to holistically nurture our complexions. If you’re new to the concept of microbiome-friendly skincare, we’ve rounded up a few fab Filipino brands to get you started.
From the French word that means “habit,” Habitude is a homegrown brand that wants us to get into more mindful practices, one quirkily-packaged skincare product at a time. Founded by PR maven Romina Nañagas, her sister Noelle Hui, their ninang, Edna Dolores (who is also the founder of a pharmaceutical firm), and friend, writer Nikki Santiago-Rivera, the label is keen on championing Philippine botanicals with a mantra of self-love. “We realized that the Philippines has such a rich backyard, where things so easily grow, and rich oceans, and it would be wonderful to have local, global-quality skincare,” Nañagas shares of their thrust to discover and reap the benefits of our indigenous wonders.
The women’s fascination with natural ingredients has likewise led them towards the path of prebiotics and probiotics and their benefits on the skin. The Hardworking Miracle Water, for example, which is a toner and makeup remover blended into one, contains ginseng—a prebiotic known to reduce inflammation. On top of that, it also has a healthy amount of galactomyces from the Oryza Sativa (rice water) ferment filtrate, which Nañagas notes has been clinically proven to brighten skin, control acne and blackheads, and has anti-aging properties to boot.
Equally fun is the Seriously Revitalizing Serum with extracts from five kinds of seaweed, aloe, and witch hazel, plus other hydrating ingredients to imbue one with that much coveted “glass skin.” It’s also infused with Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) derived from lactic acid, to gently exfoliate and energize.
Then there’s of course the Go-Getter Moisture + Sun Stick, a sunscreen whose ingredients list could very well be mistaken for one of your grandmother’s recipes. It’s got fractionated coconut oil, as well as tons of other natural ingredients, including tomato and carrot seed extract which are known to have SPF. As an added plus, it’s completely plastic-free. It’s something the brand wants to expand on.
If you’re keen on getting that post-lockdown glow-up, then True Story, the gender-neutral skincare brand founded by husband-and-wife team Mutya and Jinggoy Buensuceso might be just what you need. Touting nature-derived active ingredients in biocompatible formulations, its soothing tonics are formulated with all skin types in mind.
We are eyeing it’s Hi-Res Molecular Foaming Cleanser, a mild cleansing product which tackles impurities at a molecular level and has hyaluronic acid and madecassoside (cica plant extract) to hydrate. It’s also infused with a cocktail of prebiotics and postbiotics that “helps in the maintenance of a healthy, balanced skin microbiome, [as well as address] inflammation problems, such as rosacea, eczema, and acne,” according to the brand.
And to take the guesswork out of crafting your routine, this local brand has come up with the “The Total Glow-Up” regimen, which allows users to make the most of the synergistic properties of its products. There is of course the cleanser, the Hydracushion Gentle Exfoliating Essence Toner, and the Plan C Glow Serum Transfusion, with Vitamin C for dark spots and adzuki bean extract for firmness and hydration. Of course, we all need to finish it off with a good moisturizer. In this case it’s the SPF-packed Skinvisor Daily Multi-Ray Protection for day, and All-Nighter Face & Eye Reviving Cream for the evenings.
Manufactured in Sydney Australia, True Story’s products are formulated without added fragrances and colorants, are even vegan and cruelty-free.
Another F-beauty brand making waves with its unique take on biome-friendly skincare is Pure Culture. Using sustainably-harvested natural actives with a blend of prebiotics and postbiotics, the brand aims to “rewild” our skin and enhance its barrier integrity with calming natural nurturers.
Co-founder and former beauty editor Kim Reyes-Palanca shares that all of their products have Philippine green caviar, also known as lato, to provide youthful vibrance, as well as heat-inactivated lactobacillus to nourish the biome. The Wild Algae line is a must-try, which is also infused with New Zealand Marine algae, and cica to soothe the skin. Start with the Wild Algae Super Skin Tonic that works as both essence and toner, and move on to the Wild Algae Quench Crème to nourish skin with a dewy finish. And for a bit of brightening, there’s the Wild Algae Glow Up Serum, which is packed with Vitamin C, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide.
Another benefit of having well-regulated skin, the brand notes, is that it ages better, and such is the principle behind their Bulgarian Rose line. With Rosa Damascena (Bulgarian Rose) oil as well as flecks of 24K gold, the products help boost collagen production and inhibit dark spots and blemishes. As an added bonus, the Bulgarian Rose Sublime Serum and the Bulgarian Rose Gold Satin Crème impart a subtle sheen, and can be used with makeup to give one youthful glow.
The brand also believes in protecting the earth, opting for eco-friendly packaging, and is a part of 1% for the Planet, an international organization whose members commit to donate at least 1% of sales to environmental causes.
With all the attention our faces have been getting, it’s high time our bodies got a huge dose of TLC too. Bodycare brand iota, which launched just last September, is here to do just that. Co-conceptualized by Filipina-American and former beauty editor Monique Menenes, iota believes in the power of nurturing the skin’s microbiome. “Skin health is arguably the key pillar [of wellness] most overlooked today. Just like sleep, eating right, and exercise, it is essential for whole body health, and more studies are finding its connection to autoimmune disease and heart health,” Meneses elaborates.
Their science-based approach has birthed two hero products, the Supervitamin Body Wash+ and the Superplant Body Serum+. Both products have a proprietary blend of biome-balancing goodies, like prebiotics derived from chicory root, as well as postbiotics, particularly Lactobacillus Ferment Lysate, which “can act like an anti-inflammatory [agent], help repair the skin barrier and balance the skin microbiome,” shares Meneses.
Their products are also enriched with a host of multivitamins and essential actives to give skin a radiant glow. We’re talking collagen-boosting, hydration-enhancing territory with the serum infused with 2% niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, squalene, and ceramides, among others. The body wash on the other hand comes in three iterations—Soothing, Brightening, and Detoxifying—and was carefully developed (they worked with 72 different formulas to get just the perfect ones) to address different skin concerns. We love that beyond just cleansing, the body washes also have tons of skin-restoring treats, like passionfruit extract with Vitamin A, sugarcane extract for Vitamin B12, pineapple and blackcurrants for Vitamin C, and much more.
It’s only currently available Stateside, but Meneses has big plans for iota. With such unique offerings, we hope it’s only a matter of time before this innovative brand lands on our shores.
For more information about the brands, follow Habitude on Instagram or visit habitude.ph; follow True Story on Instagram or visit truestoryskin.com; follow Pure Culture on Instagram or visit purecultureph.com; and follow Iota Body on Instagram or visit iotabody.com