Phages, your skincare superhero

November 24, 2021
Dr. Nathan Brown

The microbial world lives in parallel with us everywhere we go, and beyond. You can find microbes throughout the water cycle: from aquifers to oceans and lakes to clouds to drinking water. You can find them throughout the geological cycle: at hydrothermal vents and pools in Yosemite and Iceland, black smokers in the Atlantic Ocean, and carpeting the frozen heights of the Alps, the Rockies, and the Himalayas. Microbes are used to make our food, our medicines, and even our snow! And of course, you can find them living in and on you and me. The human microbiome is the collection of microbes that live in and all around us, collectively.

Microbes actually play a big role in our health and appearance. And there is one very special group of microbes called bacteriophages (phages) that have the power to really affect how we look and feel. Phages are microbes that only kill bacteria. Bacteria are their food and sometimes their shelter. The only way that phages can survive is by consuming (infecting) bacteria. They don’t consume anything else. Fortunately, there are a lot of bacteria in the world for phage to eat: 5x10^30 bacteria. To give you context for that number, it’s like counting the number of grains of sand on, not one beach, but all the beaches in the world from billions of planets. The number of phage in the world is estimated to be 10-100 times more than bacteria! It’s like the number of grains of sand from a trillion planets worth of beaches, and more than the estimated number of stars in the universe. One of the only things likely preventing bacteria from taking over the world is phages. Their sheer number makes them a force of nature, quietly at work, out of sight.

Your skin microbiome is the community of microbes - including phages and bacteria - that live in and on your skin, and it’s a major part of your entire microbiome. Most of the bacteria in your skin microbiome are helpful and maintain your skin health and appearance. Sometimes the bacteria in our skin microbiome can overgrow and cause problems like acne or inflamed eczema. Different strains of bacteria can also cause more specific problems like body odor or make you more attractive to mosquitos.

If you want to remove a specific problem bacterium from your skin, then there aren’t many good options available now. For example, antibiotics (like clindamycin) kill your entire skin microbiome, benzoyl peroxide products (like Proactiv) irritate and age your skin cells, sulfur or salicylic acid can be ineffective, and Accutane (isotretinoin) affects your entire endocrine system. These blunt tools can have big unwanted side-effects. On the other hand, phages are safe (in fact, the FDA labels many phages “generally regarded as safe” and that’s why we see them used in our food and agriculture system). By nature, phages are specific about which bacteria they kill; for each bacterial species there exists a natural phage that will kill it and little else. They’re a lot more precise, gentle, and effective than what’s commonly available to us. 

Phages only kill the problem bacteria that stand between you and your beautiful skin and - if formulated correctly - they are deemed “clean” and, even more importantly, have zero side effects. At Parallel Health, we are developing personalized phages to improve your general health, wellness, and appearance. We believe that phages are a force of nature; they are gentle, precise, and revolutionary as a skincare ingredient. Our mission is to introduce you to the next-generation of personal care products through data, cutting-edge technology, and microbial science, including the superhero of skincare: phages. 

Interested in participating in our IRB-approved Skin Microbiome Study? Sign up HERE.

About Parallel

A parallel world lives amongst us: the microbial world. This world impacts not only our lifespan, but also our healthspan. 

Our mission is to empower people with real science to make meaningful decisions to improve their healthspan. 

Parallel is a microbial diagnostics and next-level skincare company that aims to revolutionize skin health by providing deep insight and true personalization, through best-in-class testing and targeted, clean microbial formulations.

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