The skin is the largest organ of the human body and the most exposed to the outside world. It helps protect people against the invasion of infections and germs but contains an array of bacteria of its own, which help maintain the health of the skin and also defend against more harmful strains of bacteria that have the potential to cause disease. However, the skin is also subject to chemicals from everyday life including from our clothing, beauty products and chemicals from the outside world like dust, dirt and pollution. Researchers have conducted research to see what chemical residues can be found on the skin and whether or not this affects the type of bacteria that live on the skin.
Two healthy volunteers were asked not to shower or apply any beauty or hygiene products for three days. Swabs were then taken from over 400 places across the surface of the skin and analysed.
Large numbers of chemical residues were found on the skin from shampoos, sunscreens and deodorants. The results showed that the most contaminated areas of the skin were the scalp and upper shoulders. The analysis suggested that the types of chemicals found on the skin could change the bacteria that live there.
Further research is needed to tease out the link between skin bacteria, chemicals and health outcomes however this provides interesting insight into the potential affects of different everyday products on our skin and how this could influence the health of our skin and overall wellbeing.
For reference: Bouslimani, A et al. Molecular cartography of the human skin surface in 3D. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 2015; 112:2120-9.