The potential of microbiome biodiversity for skin care: a deeper look

By Lucy Whitehouse

- Last updated on GMT

The potential of microbiome biodiversity for skin care: a deeper look
We take a look behind the headlines and go right to the science of skin in this mini-series with JooMo, a microbiome-inspired skin care player.

In this mini-series​, Kit Wallen, Russell Research Director JooMo Ltd., explains the science that drives the brand, and why they are steering clear of ‘probiotic’ and ‘prebiotic’ skin care claims.

In this part, we hear why biodiversity is the only focs that JooMo makes in this field, with the brand rejecting ‘probiotic’ claims completely.

Biodiversity is key, not ‘probiotic’ claims

When it comes to healthy skin, microbial biodiversity is everything - that was the conclusion of my first peer reviewed published paper on the skin microbiome (Wallen Russell 2017).

This research revealed a complete lack of conclusive findings linking the presence or abundance of particular species of microbe to skin disease or health.

This phenomenon is replicated throughout nature, where researchers across every field of biology and ecology agree that a high biodiversity corresponds to increased healthiness and functionality within an ecosystem.

From the plains of Yellowstone Park (macro) right down to a millimetre of the human skin (micro), a decreased biodiversity negatively impacts on the ecosystem.

Latest research from JooMo into biodiversity

In my 2017 research, I use the example of the re-introduction of the wolves in Yellowstone Park to explain the issue of biodiversity on the skin.

The park had fallen into disrepair in their absence, and the biggest contributor to the Park’s rapidly deteriorating conditions was the swelling of Elk numbers.

1997 saw Yellowstone with “some of the worst overgrazed willow communities in the West”.

Just by re-introducing the Wolves, increasing the biodiversity, the entire landscape of the park changed in ways which no one could have imagined.

Direct & indirect effects

Direct and indirect changes were observed; the Elk populations decreased back to a safe level, rivers changed direction, and grizzly bear populations exploded, to name but a few.

To this day, the park’s health has never been better.

This highlights a crucial point of the fragility of ecosystems. It can take the addition or removal of just one out of thousands of species of organisms in an ecosystem to have dramatic effects.

So on the skin, if this delicate balance is upset, organisms not associated with pathogenic behaviour can become damaging to the host/system.

The Elk, when there were no wolves to keep their numbers down, became pathogenic to the ecosystem, just like a ‘pathogenic’ microbe on the skin.

So microbes are not inherently pathogenic, but become so when the delicate balance is upset, and biodiversity is decreased.

This shows the single most important thing on the skin, and for all ecosystems, is to preserve the natural biodiversity.

Academia and the industry have been looking in the wrong place; their obsession with types of bacteria will never lead to any conclusions whatsoever.

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