top of page
Skin Microbiome & Personalized Skin Care
Microbiome Skin Care

By Lauren Keating

Thanks to the rise of personalized skincare, we are at the start of a skincare revolution. The industry is seeing a shift from surface-level treatments and trends to a holistic approach to beauty, with an emphasis on elevated skincare routines and personalized skincare treatments.
   Personalized skincare is a game-changer for the beauty industry. No longer limited to generic products, practitioners cater to each person’s unique skin needs, considering factors such as skin type, concerns, lifestyle, and environmental influences.
   Through advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and genetic testing, skincare brands now offer formulations tailored to address specific issues and optimize results. For example, L’Oreal offers a device called Perso, which uses AI. The device allows users to take a photo of their skin in its app to reveal skin conditions, allowing them to customize products for their needs. 
   Brands like La Roche-Posay and Vichy also offer similar options, and there are even brands like Pure Culture Beauty that offer at-home test kits with personalized skincare sold at Target.
According to Grand View Research, the global market for personalized skin care products is expected to grow eight percent from 2023 to 2024. In 2022, this market was estimated at 26.20 billion. The continued rise of technology combined with the prevalence of skin diseases like acne, dermatitis, and the like is helping this market grow.
    “The A.I. in dermatology is becoming more and more impressive,” dermatologist Dr. Abigail Waldman said. 
She believes that it can help with diagnosis and treatment. 
   “I do see A.I. playing a role in helping kind of identify ingredients that share commonalities so that you can either avoid them or use them,” Dr. Waldman said. “Whereas now it’s like, very trial and error. We don’t understand why some acne medicines work for one person but not others. And it’s probably because we’re grouping things together.”
   Personalized skincare targets specific issues to that individual because when it comes to treating acne, discoloration, or sensitivity, everyone’s skin needs are different. This is why some products like retinol may work for some or not others.  

Dr. Abigail Waldman interview in Preferred Health Magazine
Natalise Kalea Robinson Interview with Preferred Health Magazine

This is where microbiome skincare comes in. The microbiome is the trillions of diverse microorganisms such as bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and viruses that live on and inside our body including both the large and small intestine and face. Every person has a slightly difference microbiome. 
  Most of the microbiome is found in the large intestine. Still, these microorganisms are crucial in maintaining skin health by contributing to immune regulation, barrier protection, and nutrient metabolism.
  “The best research is how the gut microbiome is related to the skin,” Dr. Waldman said. “More and more research is showing that there is a skin-gut connection where one is related to rosacea, acne, eczema, psoriasis, alopecia.”
   Skincare products that support the skin microbiome have gained attention for their potential to promote skin health to combat breakouts, changes in texture, discoloration, and sensitivity.
   With the mission to be more proactive and preventive in the approach to healthcare, the California-based precision health company Parallel Health is making significant strides in precision health in microbiome skincare.
   Founded in 2001 by CEO Natalise Kalea Robinson, a Stanford MBA graduate, and post-doc microbiologist and Chief Science Officer Dr. Nathan Brown, Parallel Health uses genomic sequencing and next-generation phage therapy to provide personalized skincare products. 
   Bacteriophages, or simply phages, are microbes that have the ability to infect, replicate, and kill bacteria. The challenge in the past is that phages are very specific, so identifying the right phage to treat bacteria overgrowth has been difficult. 

The technology at Parallel Health changes that. 
To know how many phages exist is like saying “How many stars in the sky exist?” But the proprietary biobank the company has allowed them to collect and sequence over 10,000, bacteria, viral and fungal strains.

“We’re starting to see different patterns of people who are different ethnicities that seem to have an innate proclivity to certain bacteria, good and bad,” Robinson said. “And so how can we start grouping these in a more granular way to understand aesthetic and cosmetic issues, but to also potentially solve clinical issues in the future.”

The company got approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) to conduct the largest study on microbiome using whole genome sequencing. With its diverse group of thousands of research participants ages 18 to 87 of men and women of races in every U.S. state, Parallel Health was able to then identify microbiome skin baselines. This includes what an average healthy person’s microbiome looks like at age 20, compared to age 40 or 60, and the microbiome profile of someone with eczema, and other skin conditions.

Using its technology, Parallel Health created eight unique skin microbiome types based on microbial overgrowth, each related to a constellation.
  This includes Type 2:  Orion, The Hunter, which indicates S. aureus bacteria is generally predominant.

Those with Type 2 may experience dryness, redness, inflammation, and itchiness. 
  The company’s skin discovery kit includes four swabs to be used on the forehead, T-zone and cheeks, and chin and jawline. One is used as a control to exclude microbes that are in the room. The swabs are then sent to the company for sequencing, where they analyze the microbial DNA present to identify bacteria like staphylococcus aureus, and how much is present. The company can also see viruses, fungi, and mites present on the skin. Upon receiving the sample, results are revealed in about three weeks. The results put that specific consumer into one of the categories, and recommends their personalized skincare serum best for that type based on the bacteria profile. 
“We look at skin microbiome types on the spectrum, and then the different serums address where you are on that spectrum,” Robinson said.
Based on small-scale trials, Robinson said the company has seen a reduction in pathogenic bacteria and a rise in good bacteria within days. Those who were on antibiotics or Accutane, or have scarring may see results in months.
  “Providing a system and approach where there is data, you’re providing a more personalized and precise product makes the trial and error go away,” Robinson said. “What that means is you save time and energy, and you start seeing the results faster.”
A person’s microbiome changes according to the seasons, whether they move, the people they’re intimate with, environmental factors, and health conditions, including pregnancy. Our initial microbiome is from our mother when we are first born, and it continues to change throughout life. For this reason, Parallel Health recommends testing the microbiome twice a year.
  There continues to be a rise in the number of skincare products on the market that feature microbiome. But Dr. Waldman said generally these are not live microorganisms but rather include ingredients like probiotics. It’s common to find harsh preservatives like alcohol or benzoyl peroxide in some of these products and even makeup that has skincare ingredients that essentially kill the microbes on your skin. 

Parallel Health’s products are not only microbiome-friendly but also optimize the microbiome to nurture the skin’s ecosystem. In addition to phage, other ingredients in the serums include vitamin C, niacinamide, retinol, collagen peptics, probiotics, and prebiotics.  
  Using phage, the company can provide a more natural approach that does not have long-term side effects, such as gut issues often linked to antibiotic use. 
  “One of our missions is to reduce the usage of antibiotics by using something healthier, more sustainable, natural, and for us, that’s phage,” Robinson said. “Phages are safe, they already exist in nature, you can leverage them now to to essentially be a more precise, more targeted antibiotic that doesn’t have all of these side effects.”
   Dermatologists are the number one prescribers of antibiotics in healthcare. While antibiotics are readily available and cheap, Robinson addressed the continued rise of antibiotic resistance. The rise in phage usage is not just a holistic alternative to antibiotics use. Robinson said its usage will eventually become a necessity. “Antibiotic resistance is a real issue that we’re going to have to deal with at some point. When new test people, we see antibiotics resistance genes in people’s bacteria on their face.”
  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antimicrobial resistance is a global public health threat, which could lead to millions of deaths by 2050. “Phage may be the answer,” Robinson said. “And with the technology we have with microbial sequences, A.I., machine learning, robotics, we can leverage phage in a way that makes sense.” 
  With data from Parallel Health that can target bacteria for treatment, Robinson said the company is trying to execute “phage therapy 2.0.”
  Out of all the rising trends in skincare, the use of microbiomes in products to balance skin and promote vitality, and treat underlining conditions caused by bacteria overgrowth shows the most promise and may completely revolutionize how we treat skin conditions and overall health.

To learn more about microbiome friendly products at Parallel Health visit 

bottom of page