What’s a biome? Simply put, a biome is any habitat that sustains the flora and fauna that live within it. Biomes exists all over the world, evolving, nurturing and protecting the communities they support. What most of us don’t realize is we all have our own personal biome – and it’s the key to staying healthy, thriving and in harmony with the world around us.
Meet the the dermal biome – it’s nature’s brilliant design that keeps us healthy and protected. The dermal biome is a natural ecosystem made up of our skin, follicles, hair, sebaceous glands, arrector pili muscles (goose bump muscles), proteins, peptides, lipids and the microbes that live symbiotically with us.
Why does it matter? It turns out that the dermal biome plays a big part in in our health and wellness. When your biome is healthy you can see it – skin and scalp is clear and itch-free, and hair feels strong, clean, shiny and vibrant. And when it’s compromised, dryness, irritation and infection can occur and skin conditions can worsen. Follicles can become impaired and hair can become fragile, dull, and damaged far more easily.
Think about it: our skin, hair and their related structures are our first interface with the world. As such, our biomes are like a sentry – and when they thrive, they prevent moisture loss, regulate body temperature, protect against infection, create a healthy habitat for the microbiome, and support the renewal of our skin. It’s a big job to do, and here’s how it happens:
The Biome: Your Natural Self-Defense
First, our biomes create a water barrier on our skin and hair. This means they prevent water from escaping and depleting our bodies, and also keep environmental moisture from permeating and damaging our balance. Cells in the outermost layer of the skin are made of keratin – a waterproofing protein to maintain a moisture balance. The sebaceous glands also produce sebum, a natural oil, which fills the gaps between the skin cells, provides extra water repellent to skin and hair and keeps them supple. Without this protective barrier, skin and hair cells can either dehydrate and crack, or absorb excessive moisture – leading to cell disintegration and bacteria growth. Proper moisture balance is essential for cell renewal, defense and repair.
Next, a healthy biome is our first line of defense against bacteria. Germs constantly challenge our skin and hair. Considering the vast amount of microbes we come in contact with, it’s amazing how rarely we become infected! A healthy biome continually resists attack: our skin produces antimicrobial peptides that not only form a shield on our skin and hair; they are directly hostile to invading bad bacteria. At the same time, these peptides create a healthy habitat for the friendly bacteria (the microbiome) our bodies need to remain healthy and strong. In fact, this is so important that the FDA recently banned the use of antibacterial products that contain chemicals like triclosan, which upset this necessary function.
Our biomes also regulate your body temperature. When it’s hot, your sweat glands activate, allowing your body to cool off as your sweat evaporates to prevent overheating. When it’s cold, your biome contracts the arrector pili muscles causing your hairs to stand on end (think goose bumps) – and this traps a blanket of air close to your body to shield you from colder temperatures.
And it supports healthy skin renewal. Our biomes support the renewal of skin cells through their life cycle, from their creation until they die and are shed (known as desquamation). We shed and regrow skin cells about every 27 days, keeping bad bacteria, pollen and toxins at bay, and allowing pores and follicles to breathe. When skin cells shed, not only does bacteria and pollen fall of too, but the oils in those shed skin cells can reduce the levels of ozone in the air around us – protecting us from irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. Healthy desquamation also keeps pores and follicles from getting clogged, preventing both minor skin irritations and more serious skin conditions.
While our biomes are amazing, modern living has evolved past Nature’s design. Conventional shampoos & conditioners, household products, chemicals, hair color and styling treatments all throw our biomes off balance. We exercise and sweat more than ever, and manmade pollutants contribute to the buildup of dirt and oils. Our biomes fights to maintain, but they simply can’t keep up. The good news is we can help it: by choosing the right products and self care, our biomes can “reset” to their healthy best. When you work with nature, not against it, the results are true healthy beauty.