It’s the protective layer of good bacteria that keeps you healthy and radiant. Here’s how to make it stronger.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

SUPER SHIELD The skin microbiome protects you inside and out. 

Your skin acts like a bouncer for your body, keeping out viruses and other organisms that can make you sick. experts used to think the skin cells were that first line of defense, but we now know it begins with the skin’s microbiome. Like your gut, your skin has good bacteria that fight infection. Ideally these bugs are abundant enough to overpower the harmful microorganisms you encounter, says Jessica Richman, the CEO and cofounder of ubiome, a biotech company based in America that recently partnered with L’Oréal to study the skin microbiome. but things like the soap you use or the clothes you wear can throw off the skin’s microbiota, possibly leading to acne, skin inflammation, and other issues. We asked top experts for the best science-backed ways to feed your skin’s healthy bugs and boost your immunity and glow. 

Cleanse a little less

“Dermatologists have started advising against overcleaning,” says Anne Chapas, a dermatologist in New York City. Washing your skin too often (skip those trendy triple-cleanse routines) or using harsh soaps strips away good bacteria, she says. Clean only when you really need to – before bed to remove makeup, after a workout or an especially sweaty day – and avoid antibacterial soaps.

Add water

Regularly underhydrating can negatively affect your skin’s microbiome, Jessica says. Drink at least 2 litres of water a day, says Melissa K. Levin, a dermatologist in New York City and a clinical instructor at NYU Langone Health. She also suggests using a microbiome-pampering moisturizer: “Look for one with hyaluronic acid or glycerin, humectants that draw water into the skin, plus ceramides or squalene, fats that restore the skin barrier.”

Go natural

Whenever possible, wear clothing made from natural fibers such as cotton and bamboo, especially if the fabric will be close to your skin for a long time, like underwear. Synthetic fibers can irritate the skin barrier, changing the ratio of good to bad bacteria, says Dr. Levin.

Man-made fibers, like polyester, also provide a more welcoming environment for odor-causing bacteria than cotton, the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology reports.

Supplement your skin

The probiotics you take for your gut may boost the skin’s microbiome too. “Some data shows they can decrease inflammation that occurs with conditions like acne and rosacea,” Dr. Levin says. the probiotic strains with proven skin benefits include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, both of which are found in best Naturals probiotic 30 billion CFU's (

As for topical probiotics, “more research is needed to confirm their effectiveness,” says Y. Claire Chang, a dermatologist in New York City, “but early lab studies suggest they may regulate the skin microbiome and restore barrier function.”