Antibiotics and the Skin You’re In

| March 31, 2017 | Comments (0)

By Trevor Steyn – Esse Cosmetics

Beautiful smiling woman with clean skin, natural make-up, and white teeth on grey background

If you’re reading this, then I’m pretty sure that you’re human. I’m equally certain that you aren’t entirely human.

Life on earth is divided into 6 kingdoms … Plants, Animals, Fungi, Protists, Bacteria and Archaea. All of these kingdoms, except plants, colonise your skin.

Let’s take a quick look at the relationship between you and your microbes.

Your Microbiome

What is your relationship with your microbiome? Would you be better off without all those freeloading microbes? Should you get rid of them all and realize your true potential?

Or … are they contributing some valuable goods and services that you can’t do without? Perhaps you’re better off together?

Big Picture

The planet that we live on is about 4500 million years old. Life on earth got going back when the sea still boiled every now and then (about 4100 million years ago) … and it started with microbes. Microbes dominated the planet for the next 2 700 million years. Some would say that they have never lost control. Humans make up about 100 million tons of the earth’s biomass … bacteria make up at least 130 times more.

Multicellular life started around 1400 million years ago and it got going in a sea of microbes. Microbes set the rules for all multi-cellular life.

So … you’re multicellular and you’re outnumbered by microbes in your own body. What does this mean for you?

One thing is certain … it certainly puts a question mark on “germ theory”.

In the late 1800s, Robert Koch and his rival, Louis Pasteur managed to prove to their peers that a few types of “germs” were linked with specific diseases. Around this time, TB, cholera, typhoid and the plague were all correctly assigned to microbial species.
Once microbes were fingered as the units of disease transmission the medical community took action.

By the early 1900s, efforts to avoid transmission of contagious disease in hospitals led to huge improvements for patients. By employing basic cleaning practices and preventing doctors from acting as the perfect disease vectors, the developed world was able to nearly double life expectancy from 38 years in 1850 to 66 years in 1950, just before the mass production of antibiotics started.

By the 1920s, the public’s view had shifted – germs were the invisible enemy and doctors were the heroes that killed them.

It wasn’t long before a neat set of linked ideas was proposed to the public by companies seeking to profit from these new revelations.

“Germs come from dirt and they cause disease (even though you can’t see them). Buy our antiseptic / disinfectant / antibacterial product to keep you and your family safe from this invisible danger. Sanitize your bathroom, your kitchen, your cutlery and crockery, your telephones, yourself and … your baby. Think of the children … be a responsible parent. Be patriotic and join the war against germs.”

Did the migration of sterile culture from hospitals to the home prevent disease? Not really .…


In 1942, the first dose of penicillin was administered. Since then it has saved millions of lives … there is no doubt that there is a place for antibiotics in health care. Again, though, the marketing engine behind the producers of these drugs has gone into overdrive and prophylactic antibiotics are now routinely used by physicians around the world. “Take this course of vancomycin … just in case there is a secondary bacterial infection”. Antibiotics are also used in continuous, lower doses to increase the growth rate of cows, sheep, chickens and pigs … so unless you’re eating organic, they’re in your food.

Antibiotics kill microbes … bacteria in particular. But if you’re an ecosystem that is mostly microbe … then … what are you doing to yourself?
When you take an antibiotic, the chemical moves through your intestinal wall and permeates your entire body – your skin, your lungs, your mouth, your blood and your intestine. You can’t tell an antibiotic where to go, so your whole microbiome is affected.

What Will The Result Be?

Your microbiome helps to protect you from opportunistic and pathogenic microbes. Antibiotics seriously compromise that ability. There are some really nasty bacteria and viruses out there and we need our resident microbes to help protect us. They form an invisible armour against invaders, both on your skin and in your gut.

In a recent Salmonella outbreak in Chicago that affected 160 000 people, people who had disrupted their resident microbes with antibiotics in the previous month were 5 times more likely to get ill.

This basic principle was known more than 50 years ago when researchers found that it took 100 000 Salmonella bacteria to infect normal mice but the same mice required only 3 of these bacteria to suffer an infection a few days after a single dose of Streptomycin. This research was replicated for many other antibiotics and it was shown that the effect held for weeks after a single dose.

More recently, a group of researchers studied the effect that an antibiotic (clarithromycin) would have on your microbiome. They looked at the skin and the intestinal microbiome over time, using metagenomics and whole-genome sequencing. After a single course, they showed that there was a massive drop in the diversity of the skin microbiome and that it remained partially destabilised for at least three years. In the gut, it was four years. In both skin and gut, the researchers found clarithromycin resistant bacteria (Staphylococcus epidermidis and Enterococcus sp.) immediately after the treatment and these resistance genes persisted for years.

It’s clear that it is worth reconsidering disturbances to your skin’s microbiome with frivolous use of antibiotics. When you lose your microbial armour, it could have an impact on your skin’s ability to protect you for the rest of your life.

About Esse Cosmetics:

About Esse Most people associate probiotics (good microbes) with maintaining a healthy gut, but new research has shown that microbes are also essential for perfect skin. There are ten microbes for every human cell in your body and this finding has turned the conventional view of skin on it’s head. Skin is a complex ecosystem – an intricate, intermingled mix of human and microbial cells that work together to optimise barrier function and keep moisture in. Esse has used this new revelation to formulate products that maintain a balance of microbes to slow the ageing process. To do this, Esse uses prebiotics to selectively feed good microbes and they’ve used probiotic microbes in some products to deliver specific results.

For more information:
033 212 3506

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