Interest in the skin microbiome – an ecosystem made up of fungi, bacteria and viruses – has exploded in recent years, spurred by the expansion of scientific research and knowledge, the development of new products and consumer interest. for skin health. But as the beauty and personal care industry continued to research, innovate and educate in this area, where exactly were the greatest targeted opportunities? And what kind of goals did beauty majors like L’Oréal have in mind?
“The skin is there to protect us”
Dr. Magali Moreau, Principal Scientist and Head of the Microbiome Laboratory Group at L’Oréal Research & Innovation, presented at this year’s IFSCC Congress in London to exactly the group that believed the skin microbiome could be harnessed.
“Today, we need to consider the microbiome when considering applying anything to our skin, regardless of our intention, as it is an integral part of the skin barrier function,” Moreau told attendees during his presentation at Congress.
“The skin is there to protect us from the external environment, as well as the exogenous environment, and the microbiome is part of this barrier function – it directly regulates our protection by releasing antimicrobial peptides; maintain an acidic pH; it interacts with and educates our immune system. From birth, we know that exposure to certain microbes will teach our immune system to differentiate between tolerated pathogens and pathogens that need to be controlled.
And because of all that, she said it was an organ worth protecting, she said.
The beauty toolbox – control, imitate or add
From a cosmetic point of view, she said that the existing “toolbox”The way beauty and personal care topicals could be used to protect the skin microbiome was to either: control the presence of beneficial microbes and limit the growth of others; mimic the overall function of the skin microbiome; or supply live bacteria to the skin.
And from an ingredient perspective, she said it offered clear opportunities for prebiotics, postbiotics and bioderived materials, but also phages (live viruses) and probiotics (live bacteria) – the latter two being the opportunities. the most complex because of the difficulty. to select, formulate and ensure action with them in current affairs.
But knowledge and research continued to advance in both of these areas, Moreau said, and L’Oréal was also strongly committed.
Research had previously mapped the composition of different phages found on human skin, for example, and results showed that a range of “very common phages”co-existed with their bacterial target and that humans shared many of the same phages, indicating how there were common ways to regulate the skin microbiome. “It’s quite interesting in terms of knowledge, but it also offers opportunities in terms of modulating the microbiome”,she says.
The opportunities to work with live bacteria, such as probiotics, was also a fascinating area, she said, and one already widely considered in academia.
“The dream, as we see it in the gut, is the proposal to supply live microbes when indicated to provide a benefit”, said Moreau.
However, there were clear challenges for beauty in this space, she said, as designing specific formulations tailored to these ingredients, ensuring the stability of live bacteria and being able to assess its effect on the resident microbe were very complex.
Human skin microbiome models
“There’s so much more to come” the scientist told the participants. “We’ve seen a lot of papers pushing the boundaries in terms of what we know about acne, barrier function, etc., but we can dream of where we can go; dreams of building real skin microbiome models.
Gut microbiome scientists were “ahead of the game” here, she said, having very recently succeeded in creating the first model of the human intestine combining 119 bacterial species naturally present in the human body.
“It’s the dream, so that we can provide solutions for healthy skin – against aging, environmental aggressors, hormones – so that we can push the benefits in barrier function, pigmentation disorders and the immunity. And it is already a territory that is already very active in academia, but also inspiring a lot of startups as well as large groups, of which I represent one”, said Moreau.