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How does soap affect your microbiome?

So right away you are probably wondering, what is a “microbiome” and what does it have to do with me?  It is a comparatively new term, having been coined by a Nobel Prize-winning microbiologist, Joshua Lederberg in 2001, and it is becoming increasingly talked about. A simple definition of the microbiome is the collection of microorganisms and conditions that live in a particular environment. Our skin, our gut, and our mouths all have different populations of these microbes and they have their own roles in maintaining a robust immune system.

You may have heard that the skin is the body’s largest organ

Our body’s largest organs are not all internal, like the brain, the kidneys, or the heart. The skin is an organ that we wear on the outside. It is actually rather huge – most adults carry some 8 pounds of skin covering 22 square feet. Not all of our skin is the same either. Skin under our eyes is thinner than paper, whereas the skin on the soles of our feet is thick. Human skin is composed of three layers of tissue:


Layer 1: Epidermis – the top layer that we can see is constantly shedding dead skin cells and renewing itself. The principal roles of the epidermis are:

      • Making new skin cells. New skin cells form underneath and it takes about a month for them to reach the top layer as old skin cells continuously flake off.
      • Providing skin with color– the epidermis contains cells that produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color. It is also responsible for suntans and freckles.
      • Protecting skin – Keratin is a protein made by cells in the epidermis which gives skin its strength and prevents drying.

Layer 2: Dermis – the middle and thickest layer of skin that contains nerves, blood vessels, sweat glands, and hair follicles. It is mostly made up of a protein called collagen that makes skin elastic, strong, and flexible. The dermis has all of these amazing functions:

      • Sensing pain and touch – Nerve endings live in the dermis and receive and transmit sensations like touch, pain, pressure, itchiness, and temperature.
      • Producing sweat and oils – Our sweat glands cool the body, and sebaceous glands make beneficial oils that keep skin soft and moist.
      • Bringing blood to the skin – Blood vessels found in the dermis nourish the skin and help control body temperature. When skin becomes too hot, blood vessels enlarge to release heat from the skin’s surface, while cold constricts blood vessels so they retain body heat.
      • Fighting infection – Lymphatic vessels, which drain fluid from the tissues and that are an important part of the immune system, are housed in the dermis. They help ward off infections and other harmful substances.

Layer 3: Hypodermis. This layer of mostly fatty tissue helps to insulate your body from heat and cold, helps cushion internal organs, and protects the body from injuries.

All these vital functions are assisted by a community of microorganisms and microbial populations that help keep your skin doing its important work. It is a unique ecosystem that offers specific habitats to these microbes. The fact that these exist is the subject of new and intriguing research. 

Your skin has a microbiome that you can’t see but you can’t live without

Not to get too deep or creepy about it, but our skin is home to a diverse array of microorganisms; most of them are beneficial and harmless to their host. Depending on the location on the body – which could be described as a habitat – different microbes help our immune system responses to adapt and educate the rest of the immune system, they even communicate with our gut and protect us against invasion by harmful organisms. Most of us now know that having beneficial flora and fauna in our gut helps promote a healthy balance, the same applies to our skin.

There’s nothing unclean about skin bacteria

As we said, these microbe communities have evolved over centuries and are fundamentally good for us. So their presence is nothing to be concerned about. In the past 100 years or so, the state of our skin microbiome has been increasingly threatened. Our diet, central heating, and harsh detergent-based soap are all factors to be considered in the protection of our skin microbiome. Dr. Richard Gallo, who leads the Gallo Lab studying the skin microbiome at UC San Diego, said of his current research on the relationship between the microbiome and eczema and dermatitis. “We’ve discovered that some of the bacteria that live on the skin help prevent dermatitis, and that people with eczema are missing these good bacteria.” The Gallo Lab has shown how the normal community of bacteria on human skin contains strain-specific functions that help limit skin inflammation and protect against infection.

What SallyeAnder’s Gary Austin discovered about protecting the skin microbiome with soap

In the early 1980s, Gary Austin’s son Aaron was fiercely allergic to grocery store soap. Intuiting that the harsh detergents were at the root of the problem, Gary reached back into history to create a simple, hand-made Castile soap. Castile soap uses olive oil as its base instead of animal fats. Aaron’s skin recovered and Gary and his wife Karen began the SallyeAnder company to help people with similar skin sensitivities. He may not have called it a “microbiome,” but Gary understood that the skin is a natural ecosystem that should be nurtured, not stripped of its protective support system. 

SallyeAnder’s natural Castile soaps are natural for skin microbiome protection

Giving up detergent-based soaps that “strip” the skin of its microbiome has long-lasting benefits as we have heard from thousands of contented customers. Over the years Gary Austin has taken a purposeful but minimalist approach to formulate SallyeAnder products. Because he uses an olive oil blended base, and pure essential oils customers can feel the difference in how their skin responds. It is softer, not irritated, supple and it feels good. 

You’ve heard the term of someone being “comfortable in their skin”? Using Sallyeander soaps regularly results in skin that people feel comfortable in.  By only choosing simple, natural ingredients for a specific purpose and not adding anything that doesn’t need to be there, there are simply fewer reasons for skin to be irritated. By adding less to our soaps, we take less away from your skin. For instance, palm oil or coconut oil is not only harmful to the planet, as we mentioned in a previous blog, they actually reduce the skin’s natural moisture. So we leave them out and there’s no need for an array of moisturizers! Less is definitely more. SallyeAnder soaps perform their task extremely well and, while cleansing gently, they allow the skin to function naturally. To say it protects your skin’s microbiome is fancy language, but it is true.

We invite you to visit

Your skin will thank you!

1 thought on “How does soap affect your microbiome?

  1. […] we said in a previous blog, the skin on the human body is a remarkably intricate system and not all skin looks, feels, or is […]

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