Using microbiome bacteria for cosmetics

Topical cosmetics are widely used for skin care, maintenance, and beauty.  There are entire industries dedicated to providing skin care products to a wide range of consumers, because for the most part, everyone desires healthy skin.  Scientifically speaking, skin is considered healthy if it effectively retains moisture, has a low surface acidity, and has good texture.  Many topical cosmetics act to augment or support these features.  Interestingly, researchers in Japan demonstrated that a microbiome bacterium can also provide these benefits to the skin, introducing the possibility of developing novel skin care therapy.

Staphylococcus epidermis has recently gained attention as a beneficial topical agent due its demonstrated skin care benefits.  Specifically, its metabolic products have been shown to enhance moisture retention and reduce surface acid levels.  Researchers investigated this by creating their own S. epidermidis topic gel and testing it on human subjects in a double-blind randomized study.  Skin was collected from the foreheads of 21 patients enrolled in this clinical trial.  Genetic analysis confirmed that S. epidermidis was removed from the skin.  Once isolated from other cells and bacteria, the S. epidermidis bacteria were cultured and lyophilized – or freeze dried – to preserve bacterial integrity.  The lyophilized S. epidermidis was then mixed in with a gel and continuously applied to patients’ faces in a double blind randomized clinical trial study that included a control population just receiving the gel, no bacteria. 

Patients who received the S. epidermidis had 1.4 times the amount of water in their skin after the trial was completed compared to before they started.  Additionally, a suppression of water evaporation on the skin surface was shown, concomitant to an increase in lipid content.  The increased lipid content was hypothesized to be a direct result of S. epidermidis metabolism, as the lipid metabolites provided an ample surface coat to keep moisture trapped on the skin surface.  Moreover, the S. epidermidis regiment also maintained a low acidic environment on the skin surface.

This study demonstrates S. epidermidis’s efficacy to support healthy skin.  Using certain microbiota as a topical agent is already being seen in practice, as Cambridge-based AOBiome are developing skin therapies using bacteria.  This unique approach has a lot of potential, and it will be interesting to see how bacteria can be used in this health arena.

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