Also living on your skin are bacteria that play an important role in your health: they form a defense against bad bacteria, fungi and viruses and strengthen the immune system. But actually, our skin is not the most pleasant place for bacteria. In fact, it is often dry, acidic and low in nutrients. There are several factors that influence this: your sebaceous and sweat glands, but also how often the skin folds, exposure to sunlight and type of clothing plays a role.
In general, we can distinguish three different zones:
– oily or sebaceous zones (such as the face, back and chest)
– moist zones (such as the inside of the knee and elbow, the groin area)
– dry zones (such as the tops of the arms and hands).
Dry areas of the skin were previously the most frequently examined. To get an even more complete picture of the microbiome on the skin, we asked Isala participants to take swabs from other areas. Isala focused on the skin around the mouth, in the groin area and around the breast.
On the skin of our participants, we found several genera of bacteria. Some of those bacteria we found in the three skin zones, others were more specific. One, the Staphylococcus bacteria, was found in all three zones. So there is a very good chance that your skin also has Staphylococcus. The best-known (or most notorious?) Staphylococcus is undoubtedly the hospital bacteria: methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus aureus, or MRSA for short. But you can rest assured: almost all other Staphylococcus bacteria are not pathogens.
Other commonly found bacteria on the skin were found to belong to the genus Corynebacterium (99% of participants). And then there are other bacteria whose names may ring a bell, as we have previously found variants of these genera in the vagina and/or saliva: Lactobacillus crispatus, Lactobacillus iners, Gardnerella, Prevotella, Streptococcus, Actinobacillus, Neisseria and Veillonella.
By clicking on any of the bacteria on this page, you can read many more details about the skin bacteria we found at Isala. Did you participate in this phase of the study yourself? Then you can log in here for your personal result.
Bacteria around your breasts
On the skin of the breast area, we mainly found Staphylococcus and Corynebacterium bacteria. But what we as Isala team find very interesting, is typical vaginal Lactobacillus bacteria also occur on the breast skin: in 53% we found Lactobacillus crispatus and in 41% Lactobacillus iners. Our research group previously studied the skin microbiome of the face. Then, we also found lactobacilli such as Lactobacillus crispatus and Lactobacillus iners. Lactobacilli are the first bacteria that colonise a baby during natural childbirth. Still, the presence of for example Lactobacillus iners on the skin was rather unexpected, as they are not well adapted to grow outside the vagina. It is also possible that these bacterial species occur here due to having intimate contact. Further research will reveal whether these are on the skin through brief contact or whether they can really survive on these skin zones.
Bacteria around your groin
On the groin skin, we found a lot of typical skin bacteria such as Staphylocccus and Corynebacterium, but also bacteria that we previously saw as vaginal bacteria such as Lactobacillus crispatus, Lactobacillus iners and Prevotella.
Bacteria around your mouth
At Isala, we went above and beyond and examined the microbiome of the skin around your mouth as well. As expected, we could find the typical skin bacteria such as Staphylococcus and Corynebacterium. In addition, we did find several bacteria that we had also detected in saliva, such as Actinobacillus, Neisseria, Veillonella, Prevotella and Streptococcus.