Skin: the Forgotten Organ

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

In recent years, more attention has been given to probiotics as they relate to digestion and, by extension, the entire body. Terms such as the “second brain” in reference to the gut pay tribute to the emerging knowledge about the importance of gastrointestinal tract and the vital role probiotics play in overall health. The skin is also becoming more recognized for its function in protecting the body as well as the microbiome living on it.

“Whether for your skin or belly, the probiotics are important,” said Melissa Endres, general manager at Relax The Spa in Rochester.

Her organization uses an all-natural organic skin care line, that offers built-in probiotics in the cleansers.  
Endres said that’s important because “if you put something unnatural on the skin, it’s being absorbed into the body. With probiotics in our cleaners, they help neutralize things attacking the skin and willow bark controls the oil. They work together to help the skin become healthier.”

Physician Nana Duffy, with Rochester Regional Health’s Genesee Valley Dermatology and Laser Centre, said that like the gut’s microbiome keeping the gut healthy, the skin’s microbiome keeps it healthy.

“When that microbiome is disrupted the skin cannot perform its proper function,” Duffy said. “One of the ways you can support your skin’s microbiome is to not overly cleanse the skin with harsh soaps.

“Regarding the skin barrier, products that support the skin barrier often contain ingredients called ceramides. Ceramides are like the mortar in between the bricks of your skin cells. These products are easy to find over the counter and do a great job of keeping the skin supple and well moisturized.”

Ceramides also help form a protective barrier that keeps out bacteria and environmental toxins. By scrubbing these away, people unknowingly injure their skin. People with eczema, psoriasis and advanced age have lower levels of ceramides present in the outer layer of their skin than younger people and those without these conditions.

Lynn Schapp, owner of The Soap Hag in Springwater, began her all-natural line of soaps and lotions because she and her husband, Wayne Schapp, experienced rashes and dryness from commercially produced store-bought products.

Eventually, the hobby grew into a business that uses ingredients such as aloe vera, glycerin, goat’s milk, olive oil and essential oils for bath and body products.

“Glycerin is what’s taken out of commercial soaps,” Schapp said. “We leave it in there and it benefits your skin. We knew all about the gut microbiome for a while now. Who knew there was a microbiome on the skin?”

She added that traditional skin products damage the microbiome, especially antibacterial products.

“They kill off your layer of skin that helps protect your skin from drying out,” Schapp said. “We use food grade ingredients that are back-to-nature.”

Consuming sufficient dietary fats from sources such as fatty fish, nuts, seeds, avocadoes and olive oil can help promote production of healthy skin.

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