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Be careful: (short) trips to sunny destinations can disrupt the skin’s microbiome.

It’s summer vacation – and so we travel en masse to sun-soaked places. But be careful, because too much sun can change the composition of the bacteria that live on your skin, which can lead to infection and irritation.

The sun is shining brightly in southern Europe at this time. It is therefore a popular holiday destination for many people who are tired of the rainy and changeable weather in the Netherlands. We probably don’t need to tell you that you need to apply the right sunscreen to protect yourself from premature skin aging, inflammation or even skin cancer. But what you may not have known yet is that too much sun also leads to a certain skin bacteria that will choose the rabbit path, which can then lead to annoying diseases.

The microbiome of the skin
Billions of microorganisms live on our skin, including bacteria, fungi, viruses and yeast. Together with the epidermis, they form a natural barrier against foreign invaders and protect you from pathogens. “Our skin is colonized by a wide variety of microbes that have an essential job to do,” said researcher Abigail Langton in an interview with Scientias.nl. “The microbiome of the skin is created at birth and its composition is determined by several factors. Consider, for example, your lifestyle, hygiene and the cosmetics you use, but also the climate and your geographical location have an influence. The microbiome of an adult who healthy remains largely stable over time.”

So our skin is full of microbes. The microbe is largely made up of three bacterial communities ie Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria in Firmicutes. The study mainly deals with the second mentioned. “Proteobacteria it’s gram-negative bacteria,” explains Langton. “They occur in large numbers on healthy skin. Disruption of this group of bacteria has previously been linked to various skin diseases, such as psoriasis, eczema and foot ulcers.

It is known that UV radiation from the sun has a negative impact on our skin. In the new study, nonetheless, the researchers wanted to know if the (short) trip to sunny destinations also influences the bacterial composition. To study this, they recruited several vacationers who left sunny places for at least a week. Some of them got a tan during their trip, while others avoided the sun as much as possible. Both before and after the holiday, the researchers studied the microbiome in their skin.

After analyzing all the data, the researchers came to a surprising discovery. “We have shown that finding a time immediately after the holidays is associated with a decrease in Proteobacteria,” Langton said. Because the study was conducted with real vacationers, it provides important new insights into how exposure to the sun for even a relatively short period of time can lead to an acute reduction in the amount. Proteobacteria. “This in turn affects the diversity and composition of the skin microbiota,” says Langton.

The findings indicate that exposure to UV radiation from the sun has an acute effect on the skin microbiome, thereby disrupting it. “For the sun to affect the skin microbiota in such a way was a surprise,” says Langton Proteobacteria Fortunately, it was relatively short-lived. “The skin recovers quickly once the person returns to a less sunny climate,” Langton continued. “About 28 days after the holiday, the skin microbiome has recovered.”

Infection and irritation
nonetheless, the short decrease in the number can Proteobacteria there are some negative consequences. “During the 28-day recovery period, the skin is less healthy,” explains Langton. “This makes it easier for infection or irritation. This is especially true for people who already have an underlying skin condition, such as eczema or psoriasis. Incidentally, the risk of infection is low and not serious for healthy people. We have seen a general change in the balance of the skin microbiota.

Follow-up research
In future studies, Langton wants to further study why Proteobacteria seems particularly sensitive to UV radiation. “It has been suggested that UV radiation can affect bacterial strains, and gram-positive organisms are more resistant to damage than gram-negative organisms,” says the researcher. “We want to study this further in follow-up research. We also want to understand how changes in diversity affect human skin health in the long term.”

Results of the study prove once again how much you have to be careful with the sun. Harmful UV radiation can do more harm than we may know. That’s why Langton reiterates the importance of protecting yourself from the sun’s vagaries. “It’s really essential to give yourself sunscreen,” she says. “In addition, seek shade whenever possible, especially in the middle of the day (between 11 am and 3 pm) when the sun is strongest. In our study, those who avoided the sun the most were those who always had a diverse skin microbiota after the holidays.

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