Cosmetic companies have started developing and selling products designed to harness the skin microbiome to help treat a range of skin conditions from acne to eczema. Skeptics, however, warn that touting such an approach is premature because scientists are still working to understand the bacteria that live on our skin and interact with it. The cover story in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, scopes out the scene.

Marc S. Reisch, a senior correspondent at C&EN, reports that cosmetic firms, large and small, are increasingly interested in how the microbiome affects skin health. To see if they can bottle some of its potential benefits, they’re researching skin bacteria and active ingredients to promote helpful microbes and discourage harmful ones.

 However, skeptics caution that scientists don’t yet have a baseline picture of what a healthy skin microbiome would look like, much less know how to achieve a healthy bacterial community.

Undeterred by the limited body of skin microbiome knowledge, at least a couple of companies have already marketed bacteria-based product lines. Yun Probiotherapy says its line incorporates “friendly” bacteria to help correct skin microbe imbalances. AOBiome based its product on results from a study examining why horses roll in the dirt. They found that bacteria in the dirt produce compounds that help regulate inflammation and that could be beneficial to skin. 

Cosmetic heavyweights, including Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and L’Oréal, are also developing microbiome-based products.

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