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Microbiome – An Overview

by james.runkle@drummondst.com james.runkle@drummondst.com No Comments

The microbiome research has been expanded over the last decade with extensive research published in many fields – including dermatology, oncology, neurology – where some light has being shed on how the microbiome could be beneficial for our health rather than just being detrimental as long believed (1–3).

The microbiome represents the genome of microbiota or microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast, fungi, viruses, mites… that live within us. A recent evaluation estimated the total number of bacteria inhabiting the human body being close to 40 trillion for 30 trillion of human cells, which at the skin level represents 55 billion of bacteria per square meter (4). With these numbers, it is quite hard to imagine that it took us so long to get interested in these little organisms!

But why is the fascination just starting now?

Microbiome research got a kick start about 10 years ago, when the NIH funded a large program aiming to characterize the human microbiome and to understand how it could influence human health. While long being investigated for environment-related applications, the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) helped unravel fundamental characteristics of the microbiome in several organs including the skin (5).

While defining the microbial landscape of our skin, mouth, lungs or intestine, researches highlighted that the microorganisms that live within us are quite unique to one individual even if they can be generally defined as communities found in all human beings (6). What makes everyone’s microbiota so special comes from one’s history: from the way we were born, to the very first exposures to environmental factors, the lifestyle, the medical history. A baby born by natural delivery will have a much richer skin microbiota than a baby born by C-section, who will not be exposed to its mother vaginal microbiota (7). It is even suggested now that microbiota develops in utero (8). Early exposure to antibiotics will have devastating effects on the microbiota community richness and favor what is called scientifically “dysbiosis”, meaning a disequilibrium in the microorganism population with generally one group of microorganisms overpopulating the others. The lifestyle including diet, sleep, smoke habits will favor some microorganisms over others by providing their preferred food source or creating physicochemical conditions that would favor their growth. In addition to these external factors, the host’s genetical background will influence the microorganisms it welcomes, by the physical and chemical environment it provides (9).

The skin microbiome will develop and organize itself as we grow and become site specific with oily, dry and moist areas bearing their own set of microorganisms (10). The same way the host influences the composition of its microbiome, it has been shown that the microbiome influences the host’s well-being. During development, skin commensals (bacteria naturally living on our skin) will instruct our immune system to develop tolerance toward them, while fighting foreign bacteria or pathogens (11–13). The skin microbiota has also been linked to a stronger skin barrier function, with studies showing that skin lacking a microbiome was weaker and could not respond to external assaults as well as a microorganism-populated skin, because it missed some essential structural components (14,15).

When looking at the relationship between the microbiome and diseases of the skin, studies have shown how a dysregulated microbiome can impact and contribute to conditions such as eczema or acne (9). In both pathologies, it appears that one specific specie becomes pathogenic and overcomes all the other microorganisms, starting to trigger skin damage, including uncontrolled inflammation. How such an event can happen is still unclear, but some argue that bacteria can either acquire virulent features by serial mutations or horizontal gene transfer (thanks to an inactive CRISPR/Cas locus) or express virulent toxins and enzymes by the activation of the quorum sensing (a system regulated by population density and enabling bacteria to sense and communicate with their environment through signal molecules) (13,16).

Because of the control the microbiome can have over skin integrity and health, new therapies are emerging to try restoring a lost balance in the microbiome. Different strategies have been proposed with some already being used in clinical trials in the dermatology field. Some researchers are using either commensal bacteria able to inhibit or kill the pathogen (and using what is called quorum quenching – inhibition of the quorum sensing); or bacteriophages (viruses that infect and can kill bacteria) (17,18). Some therapies are also trying to replace the lost bacterial communities by transferring the skin microbiota of healthy individuals (microbiota transplants) (19,20).

But the enthusiasm about skin microbiome research has not been only restricted to the dermatology field, it has also gained traction in the personal care industry, which aims to improve or maintain one’s microbiome as a part of a healthy skin routine. That said, even if health benefits of the microbiome are becoming quite striking, it is still hard to materialize this thought at the consumer level. However, the personal care industry is working its way through by notably taking advantage of all the work that has been done by the food industry. Nowadays, more and more brands (from indie to well established brands) provide products containing food sources for health associated bacteria such as prebiotics and bacteria lysates or ferment extracts – as we can assume that the metabolism of commensal bacteria provides molecules contributing to skin health (21). Unfortunately, the latter two are often improperly labeled as “probiotics” to help the consumer understand the product. Beyond the technical challenges that represent working with real probiotics, i.e. live microorganisms, we have to keep in mind that the consumer might simply not be ready yet to apply consciously live microorganisms on its skin.

Nevertheless, it is with joint effort and by promoting clear information and education, that this paradigm will change. We are fortunate enough to live in this new exciting technological era enabling us to dive even deeper in our understanding of the microbiome and in the development of appropriate microbiome-related products.



  1. Chen J, Douglass J, Prasath V, Neace M, Atrchian S, Manjili MH, et al. The microbiome and breast cancer: a review. Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2019 Dec;178(3):493–6.
  2. Mohajeri MH, Brummer RJM, Rastall RA, Weersma RK, Harmsen HJM, Faas M, et al. The role of the microbiome for human health: from basic science to clinical applications. Eur J Nutr. 2018 May;57(Suppl 1):1–14.
  3. Byrd AL, Belkaid Y, Segre JA. The human skin microbiome. Nat Rev Microbiol. 2018;16(3):143–55.
  4. Sender R, Fuchs S, Milo R. Revised Estimates for the Number of Human and Bacteria Cells in the Body. PLoS Biol. 2016 Aug;14(8).
  5. Human Microbiome Project – Overview. Available from: https://commonfund.nih.gov/hmp/overview
  6. Lloyd-Price J, Abu-Ali G, Huttenhower C. The healthy human microbiome. Genome Med. 2016 27;8(1):51.
  7. Dominguez-Bello MG, De Jesus-Laboy KM, Shen N, Cox LM, Amir A, Gonzalez A, et al. Partial restoration of the microbiota of cesarean-born infants via vaginal microbial transfer. Nat Med. 2016 Mar;22(3):250–3.
  8. Walker RW, Clemente JC, Peter I, Loos RJF. The prenatal gut microbiome: are we colonized with bacteria in utero? Pediatr Obes. 2017;12 Suppl 1:3–17.
  9. Dréno B, Araviiskaia E, Berardesca E, Gontijo G, Sanchez Viera M, Xiang LF, et al. Microbiome in healthy skin, update for dermatologists. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol JEADV. 2016 Dec;30(12):2038–47.
  10. Kong HH. Skin microbiome: genomics-based insights into the diversity and role of skin microbes. Trends Mol Med. 2011 Jun;17(6):320–8.
  11. Naik S, Bouladoux N, Wilhelm C, Molloy MJ, Salcedo R, Kastenmuller W, et al. Compartmentalized control of skin immunity by resident commensals. Science. 2012 Aug 31;337(6098):1115–9.
  12. Naik S, Bouladoux N, Linehan JL, Han S-J, Harrison OJ, Wilhelm C, et al. Commensal–dendritic-cell interaction specifies a unique protective skin immune signature. Nature. 2015 Apr 2;520(7545):104–8.
  13. Parlet CP, Brown MM, Horswill AR. Commensal Staphylococci Influence Staphylococcus aureus Skin Colonization and Disease. Trends Microbiol. 2019 Jun;27(6):497–507.
  14. Meisel JS, Sfyroera G, Bartow-McKenney C, Gimblet C, Bugayev J, Horwinski J, et al. Commensal microbiota modulate gene expression in the skin. Microbiome. 2018 30;6(1):20.
  15. Chen YE, Fischbach MA, Belkaid Y. Skin microbiota-host interactions. Nature. 2018 24;553(7689):427–36.
  16. Horvath P, Barrangou R. CRISPR/Cas, the immune system of bacteria and archaea. Science. 2010 Jan 8;327(5962):167–70.
  17. Williams MR, Costa SK, Zaramela LS, Khalil S, Todd DA, Winter HL, et al. Quorum sensing between bacterial species on the skin protects against epidermal injury in atopic dermatitis. Sci Transl Med. 2019 May 1;11(490).
  18. Castillo DE, Nanda S, Keri JE. Propionibacterium (Cutibacterium) acnes Bacteriophage Therapy in Acne: Current Evidence and Future Perspectives. Dermatol Ther. 2019 Mar;9(1):19–31.
  19. Perin B, Addetia A, Qin X. Transfer of skin microbiota between two dissimilar autologous microenvironments: A pilot study. PloS One. 2019;14(12):e0226857.
  20. Hendricks AJ, Mills BW, Shi VY. Skin bacterial transplant in atopic dermatitis: Knowns, unknowns and emerging trends. J Dermatol Sci. 2019 Aug;95(2):56–61.
  21. 35 Microbiome Skincare Products. TrendHunter.com. Available from: https://www.trendhunter.com/slideshow/microbiome-skincare


Dr. Carine Mainzer joined Silab in 2016 as a Scientific Support Manager. Before joining Silab, Dr. Carine Mainzer was a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Dermatology at University of California San Francisco under the supervision of Dr. Peter Elias and Dr. Yoshikazu Uchida, where her work focused on the communication between inflammatory cells and cutaneous cells under bacterial challenges. She obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Lyon (France) in 2014 with work focused on the involvement of the Insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1 on epidermal differentiation and aging. Dr. Carine Mainzer has been within the cosmetic industry since several years now, working notably with Johnson & Johnson Consumer France, Natura and Silab. Her current position offers her the opportunity to continue applying her scientific expertise to the research problematics of the cosmetic industry in various domain around skin.

Sunscreen Monograph Proposed New Rules and its Impact on Formulations-Part II

by james.runkle@drummondst.com james.runkle@drummondst.com No Comments

In my recent blog published in August, changes to the current sunscreen tentative monograph were proposed.  These changes are probably the most drastic changes to the sunscreen monograph since its inception.  In this section, I would like to tackle two key areas related to the changes requested by the FDA.  The first one is the human pharmacokinetics Maximal Usage Trial (MUsT) for sunscreens conducted by the FDA and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in May 2019.  The second is the response from the Personal Care Product Council (PCPC) to the requests from the FDA for additional safety data.

The FDA conducted a MUsT trial on 4 sunscreen formulations.  The products consisted of 2 sprays, one lotion and one cream. A detailed description of the products used in the study and the sunscreens concentrations used is displayed in Table I below.

Table I

Concentrations of sunscreens in all treatments

Treatment Percent sunscreen contents per label
Avobenzone Oxybenzone Octocrylene Ecamsule
Spray 1 3.00 6.00 2.35 0.00
Spray 2 3.00 5.00 10.00 0.00
Lotion 3.00 4.00 6.00 0.00
Cream 2.00 0.00 10.00 2.00

Twenty-four subjects were enrolled in the study and were randomized into 4 groups.  Each treatment was studied on 6 individuals. All subjects finished the study except one.  Products were applied at a rate of 2 mg/cm2 on 75% of the body area.  Products were applied by a trained expert and were re-applied every 2 hours four times a day.  The study ran for 4 days and panelists were kept indoors.  Thirty blood samples were collected from each panelist over a period of 7 days and were analyzed for their concentration of sunscreens using a validated HPLC method.

Mean maximum plasma concentrations for all sunscreens were calculated for the four treatments and are displayed in Table II.

Table II

Geometric mean maximum plasma concentration for all treatments

Treatment Geometric Mean Maximum plasma concentration, ng/mL (%CV)
Avobenzone Oxybenzone Octocrylene Ecamsule
Spray 1 4.0 (60.9) 209.6 (66.8) 2.9 (102) Not applicable
Spray 2 3.4 (77.3) 194.9 (52.4) 7.8 (113.3) Not applicable
Lotion 4.3 (46.1) 169.3 (44.5) 5.7 (66.3) Not applicable
Cream 1.8 (32.1) Not applicable 5.7 (47.1) 1.5 (166.1)

As seen from the table, all sunscreens tested had higher blood levels than the FDA proposed threshold of 0.5 ng/mL.  These levels were also achieved on the first day of treatment.  The levels obtained triggered the FDA to request safety data not only on the sunscreens studied but also on the 12 sunscreens listed in the monograph.  In addition, the FDA requested MUsT studies to be conducted by the manufacturers on several dosage forms to establish proper guidelines for usage based on safety and efficacy.  Regardless of the results obtained, the FDA insisted on the fact that individuals should not refrain from using sunscreens.

In response to the request from the FDA, the PCPC sent a letter to describe the protocols and studies suggested by the council as well as a timeline.  The PCPC suggested to conduct, in addition to MUsT studies, several surveys on usage of sunscreen products to guide the council in designing the MUsT studies.  The timeline extends till 2023 which should give the industry some breathing room in terms of formulations.  Once the studies are received and completed, an additional timeline delineating the safety of the selected molecules will be proposed.  In the council’s response, two sunscreens were not considered for MUsT studies.  These are Cinoxate and Dioxybenzone.  The fate of these two sunscreens is not determined at this stage yet.

The sunscreen monograph has been evolving for the past 35 years to keep up with the advancement in science.  Formulators, and companies in the field of sun care will have to adjust one more time to the changes.  These changes bring a lot of new challenges and opportunities to innovate and lead.



Dr. Fares started his career in personal care studying the effect of solvents on sunscreen chemicals.  His interest in skin drug delivery especially from polymeric matrices grew during his graduate work at Rutgers, where he completed his Ph. D. in Pharmaceutics.

Dr. Fares worked at Block Drug and GlaxoSmithKline where he held positions in research and development in the areas of skincare and oral care.  After that, he joined L’Oreal where he held several positions of increasing responsibility leading to AVP of skincare.  He is currently the Senior Director of skincare and oral care at Ashland Specialty Ingredients.  Dr. Fares is the author of many publications, and patents and made many presentations in national and international meetings in the areas of suncare, skincare, and oral care.


NYSCC Suppliers’ Day Partners with Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW) on New Beauty Award for Supplier’s Innovative Ingredients and Formulation

by james.runkle@drummondst.com james.runkle@drummondst.com No Comments

All Things Beauty to Be Celebrated May 2019 in NYC


(New York, NY, December 2018)—The New York Society of Cosmetic Chemists  (NYSCC) has renewed its partnership with CEW by sponsoring a new category in its prestigious Beauty Awards program the “Supplier’s Award: Ingredients and Formulation.”  Mirroring the Academy Awards Science and Technical Achievement awards, the winner of the Supplier’s Award will be announced in advance at the 40th Annual Suppliers’ Day taking place May 7-8, 2019 at the Javits Convention Center in New York City. The winner of the Supplier’s Award will also be recognized at the CEW Beauty Awards luncheon on May 17th at the New York Hilton that attracts more then 3,000 attendees.

Any ingredient and formulation provider that has demonstrated innovation and new technology can submit to the CEW Supplier’s Award.  The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2019.   The submissions can only be entered from a supplier, there is no year limitation, and natural and synthetic ingredients can be entered.  For the submission form and more information click here or email: beautyawards@cew.org

A curated panel of judges from leading beauty and personal care brands including members of the NYSCC Scientific Advisory Committee will select the finalists of the “CEW Supplier’s Award: Ingredients and Formulation.”  Finalists will be announced on April 2, 2019.

“Increasingly, the line between marketing and formulation is being challenged and blurred in product development and this award highlights how all the elements and departments—ingredients, formulation and new technology—need to work together for successful product launches,” said Cathy Piterski, Chair, NYSCC.

The NYSCC Suppliers’ Day is the main trade show and conference for beauty

ingredients, formulations, and delivery innovations.  New educational programming, expanded features and enhanced industry alliances taking place at the event in 2019 include:

-“Fragrance: The Invisible Art,” an all-day, in-depth Fragrance Program, co-produced with the American Society of Perfumers featuring experts in perfume, scent, essential oils, consumer trends, and more.


-Spotlight on the important topic of “Safety & Testing.”  Suppliers’ Day will be collaborating with IKW, a leading European Association for German Cosmetic, Toiletry, Perfumery and Detergent, to create a program that addresses important safety and lab testing topics in the industry today.


-Suppliers’ Day 2019 has also added a new exhibit hall at the Javits Center, making it the largest event in the show’s history.  This hall will also feature presentation theaters and an innovation hub that will experientially complement specific theater presentations.


-Enhanced student engagement with an expanded Future Chemists Workshop that will include college students from Florida, Illinois and other states across the country, as well as a segment for bench chemists who are new to the industry.


“I am looking forward to Suppliers’ Day 2019 being the most immersive and experiential event in cosmetics chemistry and product development for our attendees.

Being our 40th Anniversary, we will also look back at the evolution of our industry over the decades and explore current trends that are elevating the importance of formulation and ingredients in beauty innovation,” said Sonia Dawson, Chair-elect, NYSCC.

For more information on NYSCC and Suppliers’ Day visit: https://nyscc.org/suppliers-day or email: suppliersday@nyscc.org.   Companies interested in exhibiting or sponsoring the NYSCC Suppliers’ Day in 2019 should contact Jane McDermott, jmcdermott@nyscc.org or call 212.786.7468.



About New York Society of Cosmetic Chemists (NYSCC)

Dedicated to the advancement of cosmetic science, the New York Society of Cosmetic Chemists, www.nyscc.org, strives to increase and disseminate scientific information through meetings and publications. By promoting research in cosmetic science and industry, and by setting high ethical, professional and educational standards, we reach our goal of improving the qualifications of cosmetic scientists. Our mission is to further the interests and recognition of cosmetic scientists while maintaining the confidence of the public in the cosmetic and toiletries industry.  Connect with NYSCC on Twitter and Facebook at @NYSCC and Instagram: @NYSCCMAIN


About CEW:

CEW is an international organization of 9,000 individual members representing a cross section of beauty and related businesses. The composition of membership includes leading brands, indies, retailers, media and suppliers. CEW’s primary purpose is to provide programs online and in person to develop careers and knowledge of the beauty industry. CEW provides opportunities to connect and gain industry knowledge through networking events, trend reports, industry newsletters, interactive workshops and industry leader talks. For more information, please visit https://www.cew.org/.