How to test for Microbiome-friendly certification

By Julia Wray | Published: 20-Apr-2022

What experiments are used to ascertain if a cosmetic is kind to the microbiome? Asks Dr Kristin Neumann from MyMicrobiome

Consumers are more aware of their skin's microbiome than ever before, whether this be on the skin of their face, scalp, armpits, feet or elsewhere. And prebiotic and probiotic products for inside and out are big business.

But how can we ensure that a cosmetic or toiletry 'does no harm' when it comes to the delicate, invisible ecosystems on our skin?

Here, Dr Kristin Neumann, CEO of MyMicrobiome talks Microbiome-friendly certification and the methods used to ascertain if a cosmetic is truly kind to the microbiome.

How to test for Microbiome-friendly certification

Until recently, the community of microbes that lives both on and in all of us didn’t attract much attention. But this has changed dramatically over the last two decades. Research has opened up a huge cosmos with myriad possible and established connections to our health: our microbiome. The microbiome is the sum of all microorganisms, such as bacteria that live in a defined space.

Our body, or parts of our body, such as our gut, are examples of such spaces. And the microorganisms are many: there are about as many microbes on and in a human being as there are human cells.

Therefore, we stand to gain from staying friends with this plethora of co-inhabitants. If the skin microbiome is dysfunctional, the result can be psoriasis, eczema or acne. In order to not act against the skin microbiome, cosmetics and skin care products should be Microbiome-friendly.

MyMicrobiome is the world’s first and renowned independent control body for Microbiome-friendly cosmetics and personal care products with a proven certification mark.

The key skin microbes known to be most abundant are cultivated in the laboratory.

The Microbiome-friendly certification distinguishes the different body sites when it comes to choosing the microbiota to be included in the test. Since each body site harbours a specific microbial ecosystem, different standards were developed to take this into account: MyMicrobiome Standard 18.10 – 24.10 for Face, Body, Scalp, Infant Skin, Vaginal Area, Feet, Mouth, and Nose.

The product undergoes four different experiments. All tests are performed in vitro. This is the worldwide gold standard to test the activity of substances against microbiota.

This way of testing gives digital results under controlled conditions for replicable and standardisable methods, an indispensable prerequisite for any certification.

Following a quality control, which ensures that the product is free of contamination, the Microbiome-friendly testing proceeds as follows:

Balance test

In this test one common skin microbe is co-cultivated with a pathogenic bacterium which is associated with skin disease. In most of the standards these are S. epidermidis and the harmful germ S. aureus. The product must not change the balance in favour of S. aureus.

Diversity test

The microbes typical of the respective body site are cultivated in a co-culture which is then mixed with the product to be tested. The ratio of the microbes towards each other should be preserved in presence of the product, in comparison with a control.

Vitality test

  • Direct contact

A Microbiome-friendly product should not only preserve diversity, but must not be detrimental to the growth of our key-microbes either. In a test-model skin contact is simulated. Here, each key microbe is directly exposed to the product.

  • Indirect contact

In another approach, the microbiota are covered with an agar layer and the product to be tested is placed on this layer. This simulates the potential penetration of the product into deeper layers of the skin. The microbial growth of the two batches is compared to the untreated control group. The growth must not be significantly inhibited.

Due to these strictly and clearly defined criteria, the Microbiome-friendly certification ensures security, traceability and comparability of results plus validation of claims.

The seal of MyMicrobiome guarantees a Microbiome-friendly product for the customer and entails a clear competitive advantage for the manufacturer.

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