The dynamic balance of the skin microbiome across the lifespan

Biochem Soc Trans. 2023 Feb 27;51(1):71-86. doi: 10.1042/BST20220216.


For decades research has centered on identifying the ideal balanced skin microbiome that prevents disease and on developing therapeutics to foster this balance. However, this single idealized balance may not exist. The skin microbiome changes across the lifespan. This is reflected in the dynamic shifts of the skin microbiome's diverse, inter-connected community of microorganisms with age. While there are core skin microbial taxa, the precise community composition for any individual person is determined by local skin physiology, genetics, microbe-host interactions, and microbe-microbe interactions. As a key interface with the environment, the skin surface and its appendages are also constantly exchanging microbes with close personal contacts and the environment. Hormone fluctuations and immune system maturation also drive age-dependent changes in skin physiology that support different microbial community structures over time. Here, we review recent insights into the factors that shape the skin microbiome throughout life. Collectively, the works summarized within this review highlight how, depending on where we are in lifespan, our skin supports robust microbial communities, while still maintaining microbial features unique to us. This review will also highlight how disruptions to this dynamic microbial balance can influence risk for dermatological diseases as well as impact lifelong health.

Keywords: host–microbe interactions; microbiome; skin.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria
  • Humans
  • Longevity*
  • Microbiota*
  • Phylogeny
  • Skin