Your skin has a lot to tell you – Food Pharmacy

Johanna Gillbro

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Your skin has a lot to tell you

Thank you Lina and Mia for inviting me as your guest writer at Food Pharmacy!

Who am I?

Well, I am specialized in experimental dermatology – or to make it less complex – our skin. In 2019, my first popsci book with the Swedish title “Hudbibeln” was published (English title “The Scandinavian Skincare Bible”). I could never have imagined that there would be such a huge interest in the book and that it now is available in local languages in England, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Hungary, Denmark, Finland, and Poland. 

This tells us something about how big the interest is when it comes to the skin – both from a social perspective but also from a health perspective.

The skin is our largest organ. With its surface area of two square meters, it covers us, provide protection from external factors, like the sun, but also protects our inner body from losing the vital water that surrounds and each cell.

From a health perspective it is a vital organ but from a social and psychological perspective our skin is also crucial. The most common reason for visiting a doctor in the US (GP) is acne and the psychological burden of having a skin disorders is often very heavy compared to other diseases which may not be visible on the skin.

Yet given that this organ seems to be extremely important for us both from a psychological and health perspective most people know surprisingly little about it, about its structure or about how best to take care of it. We know that oily fish is good for the brain, that olive oil is good for the heart, and that the calcium in yogurt strengthens the skeleton.

But what about our skin? What does our skin need and what does the latest research say within the field of dermatology.

This is what I would like to write about on this platform. The skin, and everything that is related to this important organ. How does our gut influence our skin? How does our brain affect our skin? What about skincare? How does our microbiome affect our skin?  Well, what is the microbiome in the first place? Human beings play host to trillions of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other microorganisms that make up the human microbiome. In fact, we have more bacterial DNA than human DNA so in fact we are more bacteria than humans! Quite fascinating, isn’t it?  About 10 years ago, I heard about the microbiome for the first time. I got immediately very interested in this field. As a pharmacist, I knew a lot about eliminating bacteria, but to praise them?  This was definitely a new way to look at it. 

Bacteria have for long had a bad press. There is a certain irony in that — after all, they were here on earth long before us. They colonized this planet around three billion years ago. Compare that with the history of modern humans, which began a mere 300,000 years ago. Without micro-organisms, us humans couldn’t survive. They cooperate with our cells and play an essential role in all aspects of our health.

My first entrance to the microbiome was through the gut. Interestingly, the gut microbiome seemed to be affected or in dysbiosis in patients with skin disorders such as atopic dermatitis. It has long been known that there is a close connection between the gut and the skin, but it was not known that the connection was linked to the gut flora. A couple of years later, I went to the first congress which was dedicated to the skin microbiome and the first reports pointed in the direction that our skin bacteria seem to be of great importance for our skin health. In fact, they act as our first line of defense. Researchers are now even talking about a new layer of the skin and have started to call this Stratum Microbiome, our outermost invisible layer of the skin. Our skin flora is there to protect us against skin inflammation, skin dryness or pathogenic bacteria, just to mention a few. So, what does these findings really mean for the way we treat our skin? Well for sure it will most likely mean that we need to start to cooperate with the microorganisms instead of fighting them to a much larger extent. In my next chronicle I will share with you how this can be done.

I was very happy when I was asked to participate in the Food Pharmacy podcast #129 and the Food Pharmacy show #4 and very honored to now be a guest writer. I will do my best to shed some light on our skin and the most frequently questioned asked. You are certainly not alone to be fascinated, troubled or, sometimes worried about how your skin behaves. Whether it is linked to the season, your wellbeing, or your overall journey of life -your skin has a lot to tell you.


  1. Skin Bacteria Mediate Glycerol Fermentation to Produce Electricity and Resist UV-B.
  2. Balasubramaniam A, Adi P, Do Thi TM, Yang JH, Labibah AS, Huang CM.
  3. Microorganisms. 2020 Jul 21;8(7):1092.

This is a guest post. The opinions expressed are the writer’s own.



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