B is for: Bacteria, barriers, (pro)biotics and biomes

Bugs, bacteria…not the most glamorous of subject matter admittedly.

We are conditioned to think of bacteria as a negative, that it is dirty, that we must rid ourselves of it. In today’s world of sterilising, anti-bac gels and fear of bacteria, we would be forgiven for not wishing to consider the fact that our skin actually plays host to a multitude of different bacteria.


Invisible to the eye, our skin is a complex home to a community of trillions of microbes, bacteria or skin flora that creates an eco-system to work in harmony to keep the balance of health on the skin surface. 

Together with the skin, the microbiome forms the acid mantle that helps to manage pH, support skin barrier function and protect from bad bacteria. As with so many elements of healthy skin, environmental factors such as UV exposure, age and lifestyle aggressors play a significant part in whether the microbiome remains balanced. If imbalance occurs, the result can be skin dehydration, sensitivity, inflammation and dermatological reactivity such as eczema and psoriasis flare-ups.


The role of probiotics in skin health balance is continuing to gain momentum within research for the skincare industry. Long understood for their benefit in balancing the gut health flora, their role in optimising healthy skin are fast becoming a key focus.

Probiotics perform a key role in helping maintain stability within the microbiome:

  • Strengthens skin barrier function and resilience to external aggressors and ageing free radicals
  • Supports hydration maintenance
  • Suppresses inflammation, soothes and calms skin reactivity
  • Restores and maintains healthy pH balance


While probiotics are live microorganisms, prebiotics are bacteria that feed the probiotics.


The global pandemic situation has, over the past year, created some skin considerations that we otherwise would not perhaps have been tackling to the degree we have in the lockdown lifestyle.

  1. Over-cleansing – this destroys the equilibrium of the skin barrier, altering pH levels and creating pathways for pathogens through to the deeper skin layers as skin cellular structure is damaged through over stripping.
  1. Masks – while an absolute necessity for the foreseeable, face coverings have caused a whole host of additional issues for our facial skin health. The humid environment that a mask creates, has shown to cause breakouts as the skin balance is thrown out of kilter.

Barts Accessories Leopard Print Face Mask

  1. Bedlinen – let’s face it, we aren’t going anywhere far right now. Commuting from the bedroom to the kitchen table to work is less time intensive so we are spending more time in bed. The answer to how often should you change your bedlinen is always going to be ‘more often than you do’. This lifestyle change, again, will harbour negative bacterial influence and disruption to the barrier function of the skin.
  1. Isolation and stress – there is no doubt that the impact of stress on the skin has a huge influence on the proliferation of ageing free radicals released into the skin, causing breakouts, structural degradation and dehydration as the barrier is impaired.

I wrote about skin stress in lockdown 1.0, almost a year ago, and I definitely suffered then with breakouts and dehydration as my lifestyle changed so dramatically overnight. I think we are all a little more accustomed to the situation now, but without doubt many of us will be seeing our skin compromised and having to work harder at maintaining the status quo in the face of all the pressures of the state of our modern world.


When I was first asked to review the Clinique iD Base 1 Hydrating Clearing Jelly and Active Cartridge Concentrate Imperfections as part of this piece on the skin microbiome, I admit I was perhaps a little ‘meh’. The reason being that really, for me this would not be the profile of product I would choose for my skin at all.

Clinique iD Base 1 Hydrating Clearing Jelly and Active Cartridge Concentrate Imperfections

My skin tends to err on the thirsty, dry side and as I, like anyone else in their mid-40s has pigmentation from blemishes and so on, I wouldn’t actively seek this product out. But, in the interests of a fair trial, I embarked positively, pausing other hydration solutions to give this room to do its thing.

It took a while to get used to a gel format for my hydration system. I really prefer a rich cream, so this was a step-change for me. But I have to admit, after a couple of weeks I find it refreshing in the morning to apply and I do feel it is sufficiently hydrating for my skin, which surprised me. For night, I still prefer to follow with a richer moisturiser to lock in hydration.

Clinique iD bottle and texture

In line with this article’s topic, both the base and the cartridge contain the probiotic Lactobacillus Ferment. This probiotic helps soothe, calm and comfort the skin, helping alleviate reactive inflammation, which supports the skin’s natural repair and protection responses.

The formula also includes hydration specialist Hyaluronic Acid, alongside clarifying Salicylic Acid and Glucosamine leading to a brighter, more even toned complexion.

Without any doubt, my skin looks clearer, more even, pigmentation marks seem less defined, so I have to mark this as a success.


To nurture a healthy Microbiome, avoid harsh cleansing products which aggravate the skin response. Keep cleansing temperatures lower to avoid shocking and causing trauma to the skin. Oh, and super important – hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.