Living in a tropical climate makes you develop a serious relationship with the shower, but science has forth to say that this relationship is bad for you.

“Don’t be disgusting, I’m sticky the minute I walk out of the shower, and now you want me to wash less?” is probably what you’re thinking about, but hear us out. In 2012, cosmetic research revealed a massive gap in how skincare products have been formulated thus far, thanks to the Human Microbiome Project. Said project unveiled that there is a world of good bacteria living in the human body, not just internally, but on our largest organ: the skin. This is known as the microbiome, and the soaps and shampoos you lather on in the shower have been doing it dirty.

This bacterial ecosystem requires an optimal pH to function and is tantamount to healthy skin, but contemporary cosmetics are disrupting this smooth operation with harsh, alkaline, surfactant-heavy cleansers. In short, your skin is ruined by the stripping products you use, and probably too often.

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Marie Drago, founder of Gallinée. (Photo credit: Gallinée)

This pressing problem was the eureka moment for Marie Drago. The beauty industry professional was so invested in the symbiotic relationship between good skin and the microbiome that a radical idea came into the picture: why not nourish your skin the same way you nourish your gut, with bacteria?

That became a thesis that earned Drago her PhD in Pharmacy, and she then went on to develop an entire microbiome-focused skin, hair and bodycare line called Gallinée, the likes of which was unknown in the market when it launched in 2015.

“Gallinée is designed for the microbiome, so we target every part of the body where there are bacteria that needs love,” explains Drago.

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If you want to get started with Gallinée, Drago reccomends the soothing facial cleanser as the easiest introduction. (Photo credit: Gallinée)

Since Gallinée has entered the beauty world, the conversation around probiotics’ benefits in skincare has boomed, in part thanks to the educational efforts of this small French brand. Drago’s philosophy is that a lot of the sensitivities we face, like acne and eczema, can be traced back to the microbiome-disrupting products we use daily, and the simple switch to one that fosters bacteria is all it takes to see improvements.

Though the microbiome and probiotics have become hot button skincare topics, Drago has set Gallinée’s range apart by formulating them to encompass, pre-, pro- and post-biotics too. Terming her wares as “Yakult for the skin”, Gallinée employs the bacterial trifecta to feed your microbiome, and not just soothe and balance it.

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Gallinée was a pioneering brand to talk about the microbiome of the scalp, and its Soothing Cleansing Cream is a hero product. (Photo credit: Gallinée)

“Prebiotics are sugars that nourish the good bacteria on your complexion, while lactic acid, a postbiotic, is a regulator of your skin’s bacterial ecosystem,” she clarifies.

Apart from microbiome-focused products being the future of skincare, Drago also believes that cutting back on the product we use results in less inflammation and issues overall. And yes, this means potentially dialling down on the frequency you wash your hair or minimising your showers. To justify that this radical proposition is less absurd than it reads, we had a chat with Drago about the importance of the microbiome, how to really ensure your skin is healthy, and why we have become our skin’s worst enemies.

Why do you think the introduction to good bacteria in skincare is necessary?

The problem with skin, body and hair care is that we are way too clean right now. We are taking way too many showers, washing our hair too often and this has a destructive effect on our microbiome.

Our living environments are also becoming more sterile, especially in cities where there is little access to nature. This means you don’t have natural bacteria being replenished on your skin all the time. There’s scientific evidence to back that we should come into contact with trees and animals more to enhance skin health [because fostering our skin’s natural bacteria is important]. We’ve kind of overdone our level of personal hygiene.

So should we be taking less showers to counteract this, for instance?

It depends. When I’m in Asia, I understand the need to take more showers because of the climate. It’s just that when you do it, you don’t have to be too harsh with the products you use. I always advise people to ensure the pH of their cleansers is around 5, which is optimal to protect the microbiome.

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A selection of Gallinée’s products. (Photo credit: Gallinée)
The scalp microbiome is not something that has been touched on much. How do we care for our hair better?

First off, over 40 percent of people claim to have sensitive scalp issues, but this is mostly due to how often and harshly they wash their hair. When I really went into research about the scalp’s microbiome, I learned that shampoo was a recent invention, not more than 100 years old. Before that people weren’t really washing their hair at all.

We need to be careful about what we wash our hair with because most shampoos these days will strip the scalp of good bacteria, causing aggressive sebum production on the scalp after. Using a good pH-balanced cleanser for the scalp has been clinically proven to reduce sebum and bad bacteria while keeping the hair nice and clean.

How simple should our skincare be?

As simple as possible. For myself, I have to say that my routine is shockingly simple. I wash my face, I wash my body with soap, and I splash on some vinegar. When the weather is really hot out, I apply my serum. Typically, my skincare is just one cleanser, one moisturiser and one SPF, nothing more.

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Inspired by the use of vinegar as an ingredient to heal the skin, Drago created the Gallinée Face Vinegar, a purifying toner. (Photo credit: Gallinée)
Do you think skincare that focuses on the microbiome is the future of beauty?

I’ve been working in beauty for over 20 years now and every year we have a new trend or a hero ingredient. Probiotics and the microbiome are more than that, it forces you to think about what you are applying. You might be damaging your microbiome because of just how much product you use.

I love the focus on the microbiome in beauty because brands are now making products that are simpler, more minimalistic. I know this is a bit radical in an industry like beauty where you are always told to buy more, but this is the way forward and you’ll start to see products that are kinder and more efficient for your skin.

Beatrice Bowers
Features Editor
Beatrice Bowers writes about beauty, drinks, and other nice things. When not bound to her keyboard, she moonlights as a Niffler for novels and can be found en route to bankruptcy at your nearest bookstore. Don't tell her boss.