Call it vanity, COVID-adjacent health intrigue or simply a desire for control, but skincare is all anyone is talking about right now. And it's not just the basics––a deeply intimate knowledge of ingredients, routines and barrier-protectants are all abuzz in the dermatology sphere.

Because of this, focus on the microbiome (the trillions of microscopic organisms, mostly bacteria, that live on and in our skin's various layers) is not new, but a growing understanding and commitment on how to nurture it is.

At its core, biome-centric skincare is all about working with your skin, rather than against it, something modern skincare marketing often discourages (eg the stripping away of sweat and sebum, 'pushing through’ retinol blemishes or damaging your barrier with overly harsh topical treatments).

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It focuses on achieving optimal skin health which, contrary to what brands may market at you, isn’t necessarily the flawless skin you’ll see on Instagram advertorials. "Healthy skin is anything but squeaky clean!" New York City dermatologist Whitney Bowe, M.D recently told Vogue, a revelation to a number of its readers––but a group who have already banging this drum for years is Cork-based Skin Trust Club.

Born by way of the fascinating and successful Labskin (a group that produces lab-grown, human skin for cosmetic and skincare companies to test on, removing the possibility of animal testing), Skin Trust Club is an at-home AI-driven skin microbiome testing kit, boasting a similar set-up to an antigen test (something with which we’re all unfortunately familiar).

The idea came about when the company had to resort to virtual clinical trials during the pandemic, later deciding this was an ideal model for their business.

"For the first time ever, Skin Trust Club members take full control of their skin’s health, and the industry is realising that with Skin Trust Club, the holy grail of personalised beauty and skincare is here," Fin Murray MD at Labskin said ahead of the kit’s release.

"However, it goes beyond testing. The products we recommend are cruelty-free and have been scientifically tested on laboratory-grown human skin or analysed by Labskin scientists. Our specialists only recommend skincare brands that demonstrate proven results."

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With fascinating data released by the brand (including that nearly two-thirds [63%] of women wrongly believe their skin is one type when it is actually another) my interest was piqued, most notably when I was warned that I may be spending money on skincare that may harm my skin or simply do nothing.

I ordered my test (€99 generally, but free for a selected period of time) to test my own microbiome for the first time.

To complete the test, you must download the Skin Trust Club app (free) and sync your testing kit by way of the instructions in the box. You must then remove the swab from its packaging and swab your skin. Skin Trust Club staff recommend that you swab an area such as your cheek first thing in the morning, before any skincare or SPF, to ensure an unbiased sample. You then seal the sample, and the box and freepost it back to their lab in Cork.

My experience of this was pretty straightforward. And, to be frank, you’d have to be an idiot to mess it up. Saying that, the Skin Trust Club team wanted to ensure those keen to test out their wares that you use this swab to test the outside of your cheek (where there is skin, and not gums) instead of inside your mouth. And yes, they know when you’ve gotten it wrong.

About three weeks later, your test results return by way of the app. The results detail a number of things; which skin type your sample links into, and by how much, the key microbes your skin boasts on a pie chart, skincare recommendations for morning and night (Skin Care Trust itself is brand agnostic, meaning that it’s not just predisposed to flog certain products in your direction) as well as skincare tips, routine tips, diet tips and the environment (air quality index, pollutants etc) you’ll find where you live.

I, a marketer’s dream, boast a pretty intense skincare knowledge and appreciation so the findings were of particular merit. I was told I had dry skin, which I knew, that my skin profile would be perfect for a REN cleanser, a Bioderma moisturiser an Aurelia serum and an Ultrasun SPF and also that I should incorporate more Omega-3 fatty acids into my diet (fish oil, flax seeds, chia) and consider drinking cups and cups of green tea to up my flavonoids.

More obvious recommendations were siphoned in too, the kind we all know but still struggle to commit to; less alcohol, more water, hydration hydration hydration.

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The information is neither overwhelming nor underwhelming, but straightforward and practical––like a washing line in a light breeze. The most scientific element is without doubt the microbe section, which is easily explained for those of us who found biology nauseating.

The routine tips are easy to follow and come by way of a sense of achievements; both that you are saving money and not being led by marketing campaigns when it comes to skincare and that you are ever-closer to treating your skin like the organ it is, rather than a blemish-free zone propped up by highlighter.

According to Skin Trust Club, one’s skin is highly susceptible to environmental changes like temperature, pollution and changes in weather. Because of this, they recommend that the Skin Health Club test kit should be repeated every three months to track skin health.

It’s an understandable concept, that one’s skin will change will the wind and the best way to take care of it is to tailor treatments––but €99 every quarter is quite a bit to ask, so perhaps save your money and simply commit to drinking more water and wearing suncream every day (yes, every single day) and you’ll be onto the right track.

The past two years have brought all aspects of health into focus – our skin included. As we begin to value its inherent brawn, function-fighting manipulation feels less appealing. There's never been a better time to invest in your microbiome, and thankfully companies like Skin Trust Club exist to make that easier.

Skin Trust Club costs €99 but for a limited time only, they are offering the kits for free.
Find out more and purchase your kit at www.skintrustclub.com