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How to take care of your skin microbiome

What is the skin microbiome?

Human skin is home to a rich, active community of microorganisms, including populations of bacteria, archaea, viruses, and fungi. The entire surface is inhabited by billions (BILLIONS!) of biologically active microbes, collectively known as the skin microbiome or microbiota.

Your skin is a “microbial metropolis”

As the body’s largest organ, human skin has nearly 25 square meters of surface area. The skin is covered with diverse microbial life, including bacteria from 200 genera from 19 phyla.1 The surface of our skin is a varied environment for microorganisms to reside, with moist, dry, and oily (sebaceous) sites depending on the body region. Across the body, the skin is decorated with hair follicles, sebaceous glands, and sweat glands. With bustling populations of up to millions of microorganisms per square centimeter, microbial communities across the skin are critical for maintaining skin health and homeostasis.2

The microbes that call your skin home

Scientific research has demonstrated that proper interactions between the skin and resident microorganisms are essential for continued skin health.3

The good: Many microbial inhabitants bring sizeable benefits through symbiotic relationships. For example, the natural skin microbiota contributes to the skin barrier function. Specifically, microbes secrete enzymes necessary for skin desquamation and stratum corneum renewal while also producing sebum and free fatty acids that help regulate the pH of the skin environment. The skin microbiome also interfaces with the host immune system to promote pathogen defense, control inflammation, and train adaptive immunity.

The good: Pathogenic microorganisms can play a role in skin problems, including acne, atopic dermatitis (eczema), psoriasis, rosacea, dandruff, and chronic wounds.

The twist: The relationship between humans and their resident skin microbes can be complicated. It is not always as simple as the “good” or “bad” bacteria. Instead, balance is key.

Dysbiosis driving skin disorders

Everyone has some Cutibacterium acnes on their skin, but sometimes these sebum-loving bacteria wreak havoc and act as the main culprit of acne vulgaris.

So, how does C. acnes contribute to blemished skin?

Initially, one hypothesis proposed that simply too much C. acnes on the skin could cause blemishes, but recent data demonstrates that this is not necessarily the case. Studies have found that healthy and blemished skin both harbor similar amounts of C. acnes as a predominant resident species.4,5

New research has revealed that “acneic” strains of C. acnes are associated with blemishes.

Scientists discovered that blemish-prone skin tends to house variants of C. acnes that are more pathogenic.4 Specifically, these problematic C. acnes strains carry so-called “virulence factors” that make the bacteria more irritating and detrimental to skin health.

  • Higher porphyrin production. Blemish-associated C. acnes produce more of the skin-aggravating compounds called porphyrins. Porphyrins stimulate the generation of damaging reactive oxygen species and inflammation within the skin. Acne severity is correlated with porphyrin levels.6
  • More damaging enzymes. Pathogenic C. acnes strains tend to produce more enzymes that damage the skin’s structural matrix, which is vital for skin strength and elasticity. For example, pesky C. acnes types often have very efficient hyaluronate lyase that breaks down more of the skin’s precious hyaluronic acid.7
  • Increased biofilm formation. The C. acnes variants that cause blemishes have higher expression of bacterial adhesion genes, making them better at forming biofilms on the skin. Biofilms are robust matrix-embedded microbial communities that can protect bacteria from traditional anti-blemish treatments. Once in a biofilm, C. acnes become even more virulent and turn up their most skin-irritating processes. Blemish-prone skin often has more C. acnes biofilm than clear skin.8

C. acnes biofilms are bad news

Pathogenic C. acnes readily form biofilms, secreting various harmful chemicals that drive blemish formation and inflammation in the skin. C. acnes biofilms induce excessive production of sebum that accumulates on the skin. Studies suggest that a combination of biofilm and sebum increases the “stickiness” of shedding epithelial cells, with the resulting substances plugging sebaceous glands to form blemishes.9 The accumulation of these sticky secretions also drives immune responses within the skin, contributing to inflammation and additional tissue damage.

The inflammation seen in blemished skin is triggered primarily by C. acnes biofilms. Skin inflammation contributes to discomfort and an undesirable appearance. Clinically significant inflammation is seen in moderate to severe acne, but subclinical inflammation may be present even in very mild blemishes. In severe cases, inflammation leads to significant tissue destruction and scarring.

Taking care of the microbiome for optimal skin health Restore balance with Grandiciin®

A potent Epimedium sagittatum extract, Grandiciin® restores balance to the skin microbiome and reduces associated inflammation. Grandiciin® also protects skin cells from oxidative stress and degradative enzymes.

Grandiciin® disrupts C. acnes biofilms to minimize their populations on the skin. In a four-week clinical trial, Grandiciin® diminished C. acnes-produced porphyrins on the skin by 36% while also reducing sebum production.

In addition to disrupting these tough C. acnes biofilms, Grandiciin® also reduces the inflammation that causes redness, discomfort, and scarring. With twice-daily use, Grandiciin® visibly reduced redness and inflammation in a clinical trial, remarkably improving the appearance of blemished skin.

Directly target C. acnes with DermaPhage® CA

Researchers have discovered that in addition to an excess of pathogenic C. acnes, blemished skin can also have imbalances in other microbiome members.

Blemished skin is often deficient in C. acnes-killing bacteriophages compared to healthy skin. DermaPhage® CA is a unique bio-active ingredient that replenishes the skin with anti-C. acnes bacteriophages to restore the natural balance of blemish-prone skin.

Extensive bioassays demonstrate that DermaPhage® CA safely and effectively controls C. acnes growth in a highly species-specific manner, preserving neighboring beneficial microbes associated with a balanced, healthy skin microbiome. DermaPhage® CA potently reduces the formation of pernicious C. acnes biofilms and the production of a primary inflammatory mediator common in irritated skin.

In clinical trials, DermaPhage® CA significantly reduced porphyrins and sebum on the face. By controlling the harmful C. acnes populations on the skin, DermaPhage® CA addresses microbial imbalances to reduce blemished features significantly.

Are you interested in learning more? Contact the Biocogent team at

Keywords: Skin microbiome, active ingredient, biofilm, anti-blemish, anti-inflammatory

References & additional reading

1 Grice, E. A. et al. Topographical and temporal diversity of the human skin microbiome. Science 324, 1190-1192, doi:10.1126/science.1171700 (2009).
2 Kong, H. H. & Segre, J. A. Skin microbiome: looking back to move forward. J Invest Dermatol 132, 933-939, doi:10.1038/jid.2011.417 (2012).
3 Chen, Y. E., Fischbach, M. A. & Belkaid, Y. Skin microbiota-host interactions. Nature 553, 427-436, doi:10.1038/nature25177 (2018).
4 Barnard, E., Shi, B., Kang, D., Craft, N. & Li, H. The balance of metagenomic elements shapes the skin microbiome in acne and health. Sci Rep 6, 39491, doi:10.1038/srep39491 (2016).
5 Dreno, B. et al. Cutibacterium acnes (Propionibacterium acnes) and acne vulgaris: a brief look at the latest updates. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 32 Suppl 2, 5-14, doi:10.1111/jdv.15043 (2018).
6 Johnson, T., Kang, D., Barnard, E. & Li, H. Strain-level differences in porphyrin production and regulation in Propionibacterium acnes elucidate disease associations. mSphere 1, doi:10.1128/mSphere.00023-15 (2016).
7 Nazipi, S., Stodkilde-Jorgensen, K., Scavenius, C. & Bruggemann, H. The skin bacterium Propionibacterium acnes employs two variants of hyaluronate lyase with distinct properties. Microorganisms 5, doi:10.3390/microorganisms5030057 (2017).
8 Jahns, A. C. et al. An increased incidence of Propionibacterium acnes biofilms in acne vulgaris: a case-control study. Br J Dermatol 167, 50-58, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2133.2012.10897.x (2012).
9 Coenye, T., Spittaels, K. J. & Achermann, Y. The role of biofilm formation in the pathogenesis and antimicrobial susceptibility of Cutibacterium acnes. Biofilm 4, 100063, doi:10.1016/j.bioflm.2021.100063 (2022).