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Researchers discover Potential Microbiome links to Skin Ageing

January 30, 2024

While we know the role of the microbiome’s link to skin health, its role in ageing skin has not been scientifically evaluated. A recent L’Oréal-funded study at UC San Diego may be the first to isolate microbes associated specifically with signs of skin ageing and health rather than chronological age.

Recent findings from a collaborative study carried out by researchers at the Centre for Microbiome Innovation (CMI) at the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego) and L’Oréal Research and Innovation have identified a potential new link to signs of skin ageing: the skin microbiome.


The work was reported in a multi-study analysis that enables the identification of potential microbial features associated with skin ageing signs and was published in the January 11, 2024 issue of Frontiers of Ageing funded through a sponsored research agreement between L’Oreal Research and Innovation and CMI.

To the best of the team’s knowledge, the study is the first to isolate microbes associated specifically with signs of skin ageing and skin health, rather than chronological age.

Data analysis

The study comprehensively examined data collected during 13 studies that L’Oréal had carried out in the past, consisting of 16S rRNA amplicon sequence data and corresponding skin clinical data for over 650 female participants, aged 18-70.

  • While each of the studies included in the analysis had focused on one particular area of interest, such as crow’s feet wrinkles or moisture loss, this multi-study analysis collated the data to search for trends related to specific microbes while accounting for other variables, such as age.
  • “Previous studies have shown that the types of microbes on our skin change fairly predictably with age,” said corresponding author Se Jin Song, CMI director of research.
  • “Our skin also changes physiologically with age; for example, we gain wrinkles, and our skin gets drier. But there is variation in what this looks like in people.  you’ve probably noticed that some people have younger or older-looking skin than many others their age.
  • Using advanced statistical methods, we were able to tease apart the microbes that are associated with these types of ageing signs for the skin, like crow’s feet wrinkles, from those that are associated with simply age as a chronological number.”

Notable trends

  • Two notable trends emerged from the analysis. First, the team found a positive association between skin microbiome diversity and lateral cantonal lines (crow’s feet wrinkles), which are generally viewed as one of the key signs of skin ageing.
  • Second, they observed a negative correlation between microbiome diversity and trans-epidermal water loss, which is the amount of moisture that evaporates through the skin.

In further exploring the trends, the researchers identified several potential biomarkers that warrant investigation as microorganisms of interest.

It would be premature to infer causation or actionable insights, but the study’s results have provided researchers with directions on the next steps to home in on a better understanding of microbial associations with skin ageing, according to the authors.

Microbial biomarkers

According to researchers, future paths of investigation could include metabolomics work to discover chemical biomarkers related to skin ageing, as well as meta-transcriptomics research into potential targets for genetic engineering.

  • Research into other layers of the skin has also been considered, as many studies focus on the outer skin due to the ease of sample collection.
  • “While the study’s findings represent an advance of our knowledge of the skin microbiome, we view them as just the beginning of a new phase of research,” said co-author Rob Knight, CMI faculty director and professor of paediatrics, bioengineering, computer science and engineering and data science at UC San Diego.

“By confirming a link between the microbiome and skin health, we’ve laid the groundwork for further studies that discover specific microbiome biomarkers related to skin ageing, and, one day, show how to modify them to generate novel and highly targeted recommendations for skin health,” Professor Rob Knight confirmed.

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