Even if you are not familiar with the term “biofilm”, you have encountered it on a regular basis: the plaque that forms on your teeth and causes tooth decay, the “gunk” that clogs your drains or the slippery biofilm-coated rocks in a river. Biofilm forms when bacteria adhere to surfaces in moist environments by excreting a slimy, glue-like substance. A biofilm community can be formed by a single or number of species of bacteria, fungi, yeasts and other micro-organisms, as well as debris and metabolites.
Skin-associated bacteria grow on specific skin niches, such as the sebaceous gland, scalp or the axilla. Their mechanisms of attachment, survival, and propagation depend on the particular environment. Although the focus of the Personal Care industry is on healthy skin, prevention of acne and eczema are amongst top consumer concerns.
Research into skin microbiome – the bacteria which live all over our bodies – and biofilms represent two microbial disciplines that converge in skin conditions, e.g. acne and atopic dermatitis.
This convergence evolved from the early evidence of specific microbes linked to disease states and comprehensive, intricate understanding of biofilms brought on by research. But there are clear implications – and opportunities – for the skincare industry and many brands are developing or have already developed products which harness this biodiversity for the benefit of consumers’ skin.
Innovation Knowledge Centres, like the National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC) in the UK, bring academics and industry together to explore consumer concerns and facilitate new research. The objective of the NBIC is to establish a network of research and innovation capacity, facilitating collaboration with industry in the study of biofilms to achieve breakthrough innovation.
By connecting scientists specialising in biofilms with manufacturers with unmet needs, the centre aims to ensure the UK can remain a global leader in biofilms research and development.
Although biofilms are a relatively new phenomenon in the skincare industry, the potential for groundbreaking innovation in personal care means that we are certain to hear a lot more about them over the coming years.
Further reading: My article on microbiome research for Cosmetics Business.