Your skin is a complex ecosystem made up of your skin cells and many other organisms including bacteria, yeasts and viruses. The sum of all of these organisms’ DNA and your own genetic makeup is known as your microbiome.
It’s an environment that’s unique to you, incredibly diverse and barely understood. Nature Reviews Microbiology has an interesting paper that looks into the implications.
Colonization is driven by the ecology of the skin surface, which is highly variable depending on topographical location, endogenous host factors and exogenous environmental factors. The cutaneous innate and adaptive immune responses can modulate the skin microbiota, but the microbiota also functions in educating the immune system. The development of molecular methods to identify microorganisms has led to an emerging view of the resident skin bacteria as highly diverse and variable. An enhanced understanding of the skin microbiome is necessary to gain insight into microbial involvement in human skin disorders and to enable novel promicrobial and antimicrobial therapeutic approaches for their treatment.
The study of genetic material from environmental samples is called metagenomics. It’s no small task, as the metagenome contains about 8 million genes, which is roughly 300 times more genes than humans have. But with whole-genome sequencing (WGS), researchers can better understand the function of microbes in relation to your skin.
What’s really interesting is the way these other organisms and their genetics interact and affect your skin. The future of skincare will involve understanding the way the genetic diversity of this microbiome interacts with your own unique DNA. This will pave the way towards truly bespoke products.