Skin lipids and microbiota in healthy ageing

Skin is our first line of defence against the environment, but as we age it grows thinner and becomes more susceptible to damage, infection and chronic wounds.

Logos of SkinBio Therapeutics and BBSRC

The skin depends on specialist skin lipids to form and maintain this important barrier, and there is some evidence that, in aged skin, poor barrier function may be linked to a decline in skin lipids.

Our skin is also home to a number of microorganisms. As we age, there are changes in the microbes living on the skin, with a reduced total number and altered diversity.

Interactions between skin lipids and microbes are thought to be crucial for the proper function of the skin barrier, and so changes in either could contribute to worsening barrier function in older people.

If we can better understand the changes that skin goes through as we age, we may be able to help promote healthy skin ageing.

The project will help us understand how to intervene to keep older skin healthier for longer.

Professor Anna Nicolaou / The University of Manchester

Project objectives

By studying young and aged skin, we will investigate:

  1. How the lipid composition of the skin and the function of the skin barrier change as we age.
  2. The impact of ageing on the number and type of microbes that are found on the skin.
  3. The association between epidermal lipids and microbes, and how this relationship changes as we age.

Principle Investigator


External partner

  • Professor Doug Kell, University of Liverpool.


  • BBSRC and SkinBio Therapeutics.

Funding period

  • 1 October 2018 – 30 September 2021.

Subjects involved

  • Dermatology, lipidomics, microbiology.