When someone talks about the bacteria that are found in and on the human body, the conversation usually turns to the gut because that is where the majority of these microbes are found. But the skin is an often overlooked habitat for a large diversity of microbes that are only recently being recognized as important for human health.

In a new study published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) journal, researchers found a difference in the bacteria on the skin of people with wounds that heal quickly compared to those on people with chronic wounds. “Our data clearly support the idea that one could swab a wound, profile the bacteria that are there and then be able to tell whether the wound is likely to heal quickly or persist, which could impact treatment options,” stated Matthew Hardman, PhD.

They also found that mice lacking a certain gene had a different array of bacteria that were associated with slower wound healing. The gene has also been linked to Crohn’s disease and is known to help cells recognize and respond to bacteria. “Taken together, our studies in humans and mice offer good evidence that the skin microbiome has a direct effect on how we heal,” noted Hardman.

While the bacteria on skin play a role in skin health, recent research has found that probiotics, when taken orally, also affect skin health. The study, by scientists from L’Oreal and published in the journal Beneficial Microbes, found that two months of supplementation with the probiotic Lactobacillus paracasei NCC 2461 (ST11) decreased the reactivity of skin in people with sensitive skin when compared to placebo. The study will likely lead to the development of a nutritional approach to skin sensitivity—a beauty-from-the-inside-out approach.

The skin is the body’s largest organ and protects us from invaders in a similar way as the digestive tract protects the inside of the body from potential invaders within the digestive system. So it makes sense that bacteria also play a vital role to the health of the skin. We will likely see that the bacteria on our skin also play a role in many different areas of health.