Flora is actually a more pleasant way of saying bacteria. On our skin live trillions of different flora making up our skin microbiome. Think of the skin microbiome as your skin’s very own ecosystem, much like the ecosystems that exist in nature. The ecosystem of your skin operates very much like nature’s ecosystems; different species depend on each other for their existence, but they also keep each other in check to make sure no one species over-multiplies throwing off the delicate balance of the entire ecosystem. We have a variety of good flora and yes, bad flora on our skin, they all exist together. It is the job of the good flora to protect our immune system and help the immune system protect us from illness, infection and even cancer. The good flora help prevent infections from happening on our skin, they help keep eczema, acne, inflammation and other skin ailments in check. But that’s not all they keep in check, just like nature’s ecosystems, the good flora keep the bad flora in check. The good flora make sure that the bad flora don’t over-populate the skin and cause problems.
It’s important to consider from where we get the flora that exists on us. It is there from birth. But different people have different flora and this flora can change throughout the day-every day. Scientists have found that the kind of flora we have on us is largely determined by the people with whom we come into contact, if we have pets in the house, where we spend our time; outdoors or indoors, where we live, and how we live. It is of growing concern that we have become preoccupied with living in sanitized environments. Our children don’t play outside as much anymore, they don’t play in the dirt and walk in creeks, all good sources of flora. If we look to nature, animals roll around in the dirt and take dirt baths. It is thought that one of the reasons they may do this is to populate their bodies with much-needed flora. We have become obsessed with washing hands and we are overusing sanitizers, killing the very flora that help to protect us.
How do we protect our skin flora? This is a conversation that we must start having. Anti-bacterial anything is a big culprit in the demise of flora on our skin. Our skin is not meant to be a sanitary environment. The other huge issue is the use of preservatives in products that we use on our skin, all over our entire bodies . . . every day. The use of preservatives is unfortunately necessary and non-negotiable, but only when there are ingredients in a product that need preserving. If bacteria is left unpreserved in the jar, mold will grow. To get around purchasing and using products that contain preservatives, look for products that do not contain water, goat's milk, honey, aloe vera, witch hazel, apple cider vinegar. These are just a few of the most commonly found ingredients in skin products that require preserving, there are many more. The simplest ingredient to look for is water. It is usually the very first ingredient and many skin products contain it. If there is water, any type of water, in any amount, in a product, a preservative MUST be used . . . again, this is non-negotiable. In a water environment bacteria will grow, the preservative will kill the bacteria in the jar but also on our skin. In a non-water environment, nothing can grow, thus requiring no preservatives. It’s actually pretty simple.