‘Rewilding skin’ is the gentle beauty trend that soothes inflammation and sensitivity
We love powerful skincare: skin smoothing retinol, retexturising chemical peels, brightening vitamin C. We know they work – the evidence is all there in scientific studies and written across our complexions when we’ve gotten into our groove and found our holy grail skincare regimen.
But, on the other hand, our skin wasn’t built to contend with the man-made aggressors like pollution and salon-grade skincare that have developed as we’ve evolved.
As with all things, moderation is key. A little push in the right direction from our skincare can encourage our complexions to shed dead, dull skin cells more quickly for added glow, or supercharge our collagen production to give skin extra bounce. Too much, though, and potent skincare can cause more problems than it solves.
Skin sensitivity is on the rise and it correlates closely with the boom in at-home active skincare. Overuse of harsh acids and retinols can leave skin feeling stripped and reactive. Push skin too far and you can disrupt your skin barrier (the outermost skin defence which keeps toxins out and the good stuff – like moisture – in).
But re-wilding, has emerged as a novel answer to our very modern problem. It focuses on taking skin back to its roots and undoing the intervention of astringent skincare products.
Microbiome-friendly skincare brands like Esse, Aurelia, Mother Dirt and Gallinée have all innovated to create formulas that work with our skin’s natural flora – the community of billions of friendly micro-organisms and ‘good bacteria’ that make up our microbiome. This mini ecosystem, which lives peacefully on our skin, can help to determine things like pH level, product absorption, and ultimately, how healthy our skin is. They help to counterbalance bad bacteria such as such as C. acnes (which causes acne) or S. aureus (which is linked to eczema). When our microbiome is negatively imbalanced by overstimulation from pollution and harsh active skincare, it can directly lead to skin issues.
“We’re working to return the skin’s microbiome to its balanced and ‘wild’ state through science and green chemistry,” explains Trevor Steyn, organic chemist and founder of skincare brand Esse. “Traditional skincare and treatments have adversely affected the skin’s natural microbiome and stripped it of the powerful bacteria that protects and nourishes the skin. This presents itself in the form of modern skin concerns such as pigmentation, acne, rosacea, dehydration and ageing.”
The question is, what ingredients are these brands using to help nourish and acclimate our skin, if it’s not familiar names like retinol or salicylic? “Our products use a high concentration of live probiotic and organic ingredients to deeply hydrate, soothe and renew the skin, shifting the microbiome to a new normal,” explains Trevor.
Probiotics make a smart choice since they are a form of the ‘good bacteria’ our skin needs. And, they can be backed-up by prebiotics, too. “Prebiotics are usually special types of sugars or fibres, and they can only be used by good bacteria,” explains Dr Marie Drago, pharmaceutical doctor and founder of Gallinée. “It’s an amazing ingredient because prebiotics will only feed the good bacteria already on your skin. Not only doe they help to lower inflammation and rebuild the skin barrier, they also grow the good guys and starve the bad ones”. This is particularly important if you have an overgrowth of bad bacteria, causing acne, eczema, irritation or dryness. “It’s such a revolutionary way to see and treat these problems,” says Marie.
Essentially, re-wilding skin “is about restoring the lost ecosystem of the skin and ‘seeding and feeding’ the skin with nutrients to bring it back to life.,” adds Trevor. “Think of it in the same way as looking after you gut by eating fermented foods.”
As for your favourite powerful serums, you can still use them. “Probiotics and prebiotics are very gentle by nature, and I love this approach of being nicer with your skin and yourself in general. But in good measure, a probiotic and prebiotic skincare regime will help soothe the skin if you like retinoids and strong acids. Everything in moderation,” says Marie.