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Your skin microbiome through the aging process

By: April Carson

Our skin - the body's biggest organ, operates as a defensive shield from outside influences. Bacteria, viruses, and fungi all populate our epidermis and gut.

The skin microbiome, otherwise known as the commensal microbial communities on the skin, can be either fixed or transient. Nevertheless, they are not responsible for disease and instead offer numerous advantages to our bodies. Furthermore, these microbes interact with our immune system in a continuous cycle of regulation: The immune system affects them while they alter their functioning simultaneously.

The skin microbiome is quite dynamic, and its composition shifts during the aging process. Hormonal changes can also modify bacterial diversity over time, which might contribute to age-related diseases such as skin cancer.

As we age, our body undergoes several changes that impact the structure and function of our skin. Intrinsic factors such as hormonal shifts, metabolic alterations, or immune system modifications play a role in these developments. Additionally, extrinsic variables like smoking tobacco or being exposed to direct sunlight and extreme temperatures may also influence the rejuvenation process of our skin's structures.

Aging can cause a multitude of skin changes, such as wrinkles deepening, elasticity decreasing, wound healing slowing down and barrier function deteriorating. Each of these processes is highly dependent on the composition and function of our skin microbiome which includes microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other organisms.

Reduced sebum production, decreased water content, and immune inefficiency are all potential causes of alterations to the skin microbiome. Sebum is an important part of protecting skin from bacteria since it serves as a protective oily layer on top. When this barrier fails due to changes in any of these factors, we often see disruptions within the skin microbiome occur.

Altering Microbiomes as we Age

Recent technological progress has made it possible to employ state-of-the-art scientific techniques such as 16S ribosomal RNA gene and metagenomic sequencing to measure the alteration of skin microbes caused by aging.

Studies have found that the skin microbiome of an aging individual typically displays a decrease in Staphylococcus and Corynebacterium species, as well as other microbes. This is thought to be due to both an increase in endogenous antibiotic compounds released by the body and environmental factors such as increased dryness caused by decreased sebum production and a decrease in the number of sweat glands.

Enduring research has proven that various types of bacteria, such as Staphylococcus, Cutibacterium, Corynebacterium, and Acinetobacter consistently exist in the skin microbiomes of all humans.

Age, body region, gender, and geographic location have all been found to alter the composition of the skin microbiome. Previous investigations had uncovered transformations in its makeup associated with aging but until now it wasn't clear what was driving these modifications.

Recently, researchers from NIZO Food Research in the Netherlands conducted a study to better comprehend the relationship between our body's metabolism and aging. Partially funded by Estée Lauder, a leader in skincare products, this exploration delved into how genes and bacterial functionalities play an integral role in skin deterioration over time.

To start, researchers explored existing scientific studies to find shared biological pathways between humans and skin microbes relevant to the natural aging of the skin. By employing 16S ribosomal RNA testing from cheek samples taken from female participants with a variety of age-related changes in their skin, they were able to verify the alterations in microbial composition seen within chosen reports.

Scientists collected skin swab samples from two age groups of 25 healthy women with European ancestry residing in Belgium. The first group was comprised of ladies aged 20-28, while the second consisted of those between 59 and 68 years old.

The results concluded that the elderly group displayed an increased number of Proteobacteria species.

The scientists searched the gene sequences database of the National Center for Biotechnology Information to source reference genomes related to skin aging and subsequently validated them through tests.

Subsequently, the research team developed graphical models from microbial pathways to study reference skin organism genomes and 16S ribosomal RNA sequencing results collected from the direct analysis of skin samples.

An examination conducted by the group discovered that the microbial makeup of elderly individuals' skin microbiomes differed significantly from those of younger people. Bacterial diversity decreased as much as 40%, while bacteria most commonly associated with aging were found in larger numbers among older participants.

The alterations could be attributed to age-related physical and immunological changes, including a decrease in sebum production. The results of the study suggest that it is essential to consider changes in the skin microbiome when formulating strategies for the management and treatment of chronic diseases associated with aging.

When sugars attach to proteins such as collagen and elastin, it is known as protein glycation in the skin. The increased accumulation of by-products from these glycated collagens and elastins can lead to a decrease in elasticity and sagging of the skin. The increased presence of advanced glycation end products can also lead to an increase in inflammatory markers, further exacerbating the aging process.

As we age, our skin is naturally more fragile and prone to damage and infection due to a weakened immune system. This makes it even more important for us to maintain a healthy microbiome on our skin to help fight off bacterial and fungal infections.

This study was published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology and found that our microbiome remains relatively stable over time, but with an increasing population of pro-inflammatory bacteria as we age.

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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav



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