Do You Know What Your Skin’s Exposome Is — Or Why It Matters?
You know your height, your weight and maybe even your cholesterol score, but we’re willing to bet you haven’t heard of another body measurement: the exposome. While it’s not something you can quantify in a number, it’s a key evaluation that dermatologists pay attention to when they examine your skin. We sat down with neuroscientist and Vichy consulting dermatologist Erin Gilbert, MD, PhD, FAAD, to get a better understanding of what the skin’s exposome is and the effect it has on your complexion.
What Is Your Exposome?
According to Dr. Gilbert, the exposome is an interesting discovery based in cancer research that takes into account the external aggressors we all face in our daily lives that cause us to age. While there’s not much you can do about internal factors (i.e., genetics), the good news is that they only contribute to about 20% of skin aging. The other 80% comes from external aggressors like UV light, pollution, stress, lack of sleep and diet, all of which are things in your control.
Why Are We Suddenly Hearing More About the Exposome?
The exposome is a familiar topic in foreign countries but is only now becoming a relevant discussion in the U.S. “I think this is because we as dermatologists have been thinking about the skin in many other areas, but not taking a more holistic approach to aging skin,” says Dr. Gilbert.
The evolution toward more holistic dermatology makes sense when you consider all the buzz around the skin’s barrier and microbiome in recent years. Both actually come into play when discussing how the exposome affects your skin, too. Dr. Gilbert explains what each one is below and breaks down how they’re related to what’s going on underneath your epidermis.
So What Is the Skin Barrier?
The skin barrier is exactly what it sounds like — a shield that helps protect the skin’s surface from daily aggressors. “One very effective way to keep your skin barrier healthy is to make certain lifestyle changes that relate to your own personal exposome theme,” suggests Dr. Gilbert. This means if you are getting a lot of UV light or sun, do your best to use sunscreen daily. Staying away from smoking and pollution and even making sure to take off your makeup at night to remove any dirt or debris lingering on the skin’s surface will all contribute to maintaining your protective skin barrier as well.
And What About the Microbiome?
The microbiome, on the other hand, is the study of all the bacteria, fungi and commensals that live on the skin. “They can be incredibly helpful when they coexist in a healthy balance — or, they can be a nuisance when one type of bacteria overgrows and causes problems such as acne or a skin infection,” says Dr. Gilbert.
How Does the Skin’s Barrier and Microbiome Relate to the Exposome?
Think of the barrier and microbiome as two parts of your skin that need constant care. The more TLC that goes into your skin-care routine, the more it can help promote a healthy skin barrier, which will also help promote a balanced microbiome. In turn, if you take care of all of these factors combined, you can help reduce your exposome lifestyle and combat the appearance of premature aging skin.
How to Choose Skin-Care Products to Combat Exposome
So, what products can actually make a difference to your exposome? Hydrating ingredients to help strengthen your skin’s barrier and antioxidants to protect your skin’s surface from damaging free radicals. “I’m a big fan of Vichy Mineral 89 — it contains 89% Vichy mineralizing water and hyaluronic acid,” says Dr. Gilbert. “It’s only made from 11 ingredients and is suitable for all skin types.” We also love a hydrating water-gel cream formula to hydrate and condition, like the Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream.
An antioxidant serum go-to for Dr. Gilbert is the Vichy LiftActiv Vitamin C Serum, which helps to smooth and soften skin. “This contains 15% pure vitamin C as well as hyaluronic acid to hydrate and plumps the skin, and it has the ability to provide a more even-looking complexion and skin that’s brighter and illuminated after continued use.” Another affordable editors’ pick is the L’Oréal Paris Derm Intensives 10% Vitamin C Serum.
All in all, protecting your skin from external factors measured by the exposome comes down to paying attention to what pollutants affect your skin every day, avoiding UV light and using the right skin-care products. “The take-home message here is that you don’t have to break the bank to get your hands on excellent skin-care products — they can be found at the drugstore,” says Dr. Gilbert. You can afford to improve your exposure to external factors and decrease your exposome, it’s just about getting started.