Maintaining healthy, smooth skin involves a paradox: you need to avoid certain bacteria, but you also need to support your skin’s healthy, natural microbiome. Our cultural standard of hygiene would tell us otherwise, with daily showers, abrasive soaps, and even antibiotics that affect bacteria throughout our bodies, bad and good.
But a diversity of good bacteria is beneficial to keeping your skin hydrated, healthy, and beautiful, and building these 10 habits into your routine will help support a balanced skin microbiome. Whether you’re an over-scrubber who exfoliates 3x per day or you haven’t washed your towels in a month, you’ll want to read all of these tips.
1. Wash your towels
Your own personal bacteria builds up in fabrics like towels, which is fine—your body is used to this bacterial environment. But when towels sit moist in your (often dark) bathroom, all bacteria can multiply—even the disturbing “toilet plume aerosols” that are released into the air each time you flush the toilet. They grow even faster if they don’t fully dry between uses.
The most effective way to prevent development of unsavory bacteria is to wash your towels—both kitchen and bathroom—every 3 days (or 2 days, if you have small children at home). Unlike clothes, which should be washed in cold water to be gentle on the fabric and save energy, wash your towels in hot water and dry them on the “hot” setting to get rid of unsavory germs.
2. Drink water
Dehydration can negatively impact your microbiome and make your skin appear dull, enhance dark circles, and even make fine lines more visible. To stay hydrated, drink around 6-8 cups of water each day (more if you’re losing fluids) and aim to limit coffee to two cups and alcohol to one beverage per day. Both are diuretics, and drinking alcohol can deplete your water supply through multiple other pathways, too.
3. Eat healthy foods
Processed foods accelerate aging, and nowhere does aging show more quickly than in your skin. Front-load your diet with fresh vegetables and fruit, and include plenty of healthy fats and proteins, like fish, seeds, and nuts. Eat to support your general health, and know that your skin will benefit, too.
4. Work up a sweat
The skin’s microbiome is acidic, making it favorable for the right bacteria—and unfavorable for the wrong microorganisms. Sweat helps to maintain this pH and contains antimicrobial elements of its own, so work one up!
5. Choose natural, breathable fabrics
First, synthetic fabrics are typically treated with toxic chemicals, which can irritate skin. Second, these fabrics often don’t breathe. Trapped moisture and bacteria lead to body odor, so look for cotton and other natural fabrics such as silk, linen, merino wool, and cashmere.
6. Rotate your linens
It’s a given that bacteria accumulate on your sheets, but you probably didn’t realize that this can disrupt your skin microbiome. To prevent build-up, change your sheets at least every other week. And if you have pets that sleep with you, or if you have especially sensitive skin or allergies, it may be beneficial to wash them every week. Patients struggling with facial breakouts can take the additional step of changing out their pillow cases every few days.
If it’s difficult to get a load of laundry in that frequently, consider investing in extra sheets or pillow cases so that you can put off the laundry that much longer. When washing sheets and other items that come in close contact with your skin, follow the rules above for towels. Also consider skipping fabric softeners: while they might make items feel a bit nicer, your skin will prefer the purity of clean, untreated fabric.
When developing your laundry plan, note that your pillows need to be washed, too, but not as frequently—consider putting them in the wash every few months along with your mattress protector.
7. Choose your face mask wisely
Masks are designed to trap particles of moisture as we breathe; while that’s good for reducing the chances of virus transmission, it can create a breeding ground for bacteria. The good news is that you can largely mitigate this possibility: choose lightweight cotton face masks, and wash them in hot water between each use.
8. Clean your makeup brushes & applicators
Pro tip: Applicators for soap, makeup, or other products should be washed on a very regular basis. If you’re not sure where to begin, we like this guide from O Magazine. While you’re at it, don’t forget disposable products like plastic loofahs—these should be washed regularly in the dishwasher on the top rack and replaced every 2 months.
9. Boost your complexion with an Rx facial
Feel like your skin’s microbiome needs a reset? Medical-grade facials and other treatments can provide a much-needed boost, whether you need cleaner pores, removal of dead skin cells, or deep hydration. Your aesthetician can recommendation the treatment that is right for your unique skin.
10. Audit your routine with a skincare professional
As a general rule, you want to support your microbiome with a gentle cleanser (not soap, which washes away good bacteria along with the bad) and a hydrating moisturizer, supplementing with other products that meet your skin’s needs.
To find the right products for your skin, skip the beauty counter and schedule a consultation with a licensed medical aesthetician. For those in the Lafayette area, the aestheticians at Dr. Duplechain’s office will be happy to help you find the right routine. We also carry a number of medical-grade skincare and makeup products and offer a range of luxurious facials to support your skin’s health. Call us at (804) 482-5313 or contact us online to set up your appointment.