Researchers identify links between skin ageing, skin microbes in a new study

Researchers have identified links between skin ageing and the millions of microorganisms that live there – the skin microbiome.

Researchers found a positive association between the microbiome diversity and lateral cantonal lines, better known as “crow’s feet wrinkles”, which show at the outer corner of our eyes, especially when we experience emotions that influence facial expressions such as laughter or grief.

The collaborative study between the University of California San Diego (UC San Diego) and L’Oral Research and Innovation also observed a negative relationship between microbiome diversity and the amount of water or moisture evaporating through the skin.

The study results have provided researchers a future direction to better understand the links between skin microbes and skin ageing, the team said, even as they acknowledged it would be “premature to infer causation or actionable insights.”

“While the study’s findings represent an advance of our knowledge of the skin microbiome, we view them as just the beginning of a new phase of research,” said Rob Knight, professor of pediatrics, bioengineering, computer science & engineering and data science at the UC San Diego, and co-author of the study published in the journal ‘Frontiers in Aging’.

For the study, the researchers examined data collected from 13 studies carried out by L’Oral in the past, consisting of these microbes’ genetic sequence data and corresponding skin clinical data for more than 650 women participants, aged 18-70 years.

Even as each of these studies was focussed on one aspect of skin ageing, such as crow’s feet wrinkles or moisture loss, this multi-study analysis compared all the data to look for microbe-wise specific trends, while accounting for other variables like age.

“Previous studies have shown that the types of microbes on our skin change fairly predictably with age,” said corresponding author Se Jin Song, director of research, Center for Microbiome Innovation (CMI) at the UC San Diego.

“Using advanced statistical methods, we were able to tease apart the microbes that are associated with these types of aging signs for skin, like crow’s feet wrinkles, from those that are associated with simply age as a chronological number,” said Jin Song.

Upon further exploring the trends that emerged out of their analysis, the researchers have also identified several potential biomarkers that they said warranted investigation as “microorganisms of interest”.

“By confirming a link between the microbiome and skin health, we’ve laid the groundwork for further studies that discover specific microbiome biomarkers related to skin ageing, and, one day, show how to modify them to generate novel and highly targeted recommendations for skin health,” said Knight, who is also the CMI’s faculty director.