Human Microbiome – Whats it all About?

Recently I have seen the term microbiome pop up in blogs, articles and discussions.  Slightly skeptical after 35 years, I wanted to know what it was all about and what its real importance is to us in the spa and permanent cosmetic industries.

Time for research – my favorite pastime…

Definition:  microbiome is defined as “the microorganisms in a particular environment (including the body or a part of the body).”

We knew that the human body was covered in microorganisms but that the stratum corneum did a great job of keeping them on the outside. We also knew that our gut had to have microorganisms to digest food.  Now we have a new name for these groups of workers – microbiomes.

Internally, if the microbiome group is out of balance we have digestive disorders or even disease.  Each of us has 10 – 100 TRILLION microbiotic cells in our bodies.  These are found in the greatest numbers in our gut and allow for the proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. When the microbiome is out of balance disease, obesity, personality disorders and many other problems occur.  When microbiomes are in balance we “live long and prosper.”

With new technology, microbiome studies have blossomed all over the world.  Study of the human microbiome date back to the late 1600s but the human geome project completion, and expanded abilities of computers, has launched us into far greater understanding.  It has also created even more questions.

Of greatest interest to those who have direct physical contact with clients is understanding the microbiome of human skin.  The surface of the skin has 100 trillion microorganisms living on it. That is 10 times the number of skin cells. Hand hygiene is of crucial importance to reducing transfer of microbiome from one person to another.

In our industry practicing good hand hygiene and regular hand washing are the best defense to prevent contracting or sharing of disease. Routine use of gloves when there is the risk of exposure or transfer of OPIM (other potentially infectious materials), is the best practice.  If we need to touch something and there is a risk our gloves may be contaminated – change gloves!  Wash hands before work, between clients, before eating, after using the restroom and before going home.

Scientists are just learning about the hand microbiome and its relationship to health outcomes. Better control and studies will expand our knowledge. In the meantime, keep practicing good hand hygiene.

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