The Healthy Post Natal Body Podcast

The micro-biome with Dr Yug Varma

December 12, 2021
The Healthy Post Natal Body Podcast
The micro-biome with Dr Yug Varma
Show Notes Transcript

 This week I'm talking to Dr Yug Varma about the micro-biome.

As regular listeners will know I am very interested in the micro- and gut biome and there is no better person to speak to about this stuff than Dr Varma.

He has 10+ years of microbiome research experience including an extensive background in
bio-organic chemistry, microbiology, and synthetic biology. Dr. Varma received his scientific
training at several distinguished academic institutions, including Johns Hopkins University (PhD) and University of California, San Francisco. His scientific work has been published in many prestigious journals, including Nature.

In other words, this is THE guy to talk to about the micro-biome and I'm very grateful he gave up an hour of his valuable time to talk to me about this.

We discussed many things;

What the micro-biome is.

How our current haircare and washing routines are often working against it.

How taking care of your micro-biome is actually very simple and not at all expensive.

The causes of a lot of skin care problems and why soo many more parents and children are having eczema and acne.

Why a lot of skincare products that claim to have "pro-biotics" in them are just using the phrase for marketing purposes and you're actually just smearing yoghurt on your face.

And much, much more.

You can find Dr Varma, and Phylabiotics here;


Twitter: phylabiotics


Instagram: @phylabiotics

YouTube Channel:

In the News This week; This article from the NYtimes which founds that the Covid virus seems to be attacking fat tissue directly, which might explain how some obese people (or "skinny fat" people) have been getting really ill with Covid/Long Covid. This is the study they're talking about

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Playing us out this week; "Sunshine" by Dr Delight

Hey, welcome to the Healthy Post Natal Body podcast with your post-natal expert Peter Lap. That as always, would be me.

Today I have little Kitty here and little Buddy and we are very, very happy with our guest today. We have a guest on, this is the podcast for the 12th of December, I should always say that before the music starts otherwise how would you know I have a guest on? (other than me saying “we have a guest on”). 

Today I'm talking to Dr. Yug Varma about the microbiome. You know, I'm really interested in the micro and the gut biome. And Dr. Varma is kind of the guy to speak with. He's got 10 plus years of microbiome research experience. He's got extensive background in bio-organic chemistry, microbiology, synthetic biology. And he's got a PhD from Johns Hopkins in all this stuff. 

So I mean, they don't get more qualified than this guy. 

So we're talking about everything, what the microbiome is, focusing a lot on the haircare and washing routines, how they work against it. How you can take care of your microbiome, in a very cost effective way and much cheaper way than what you probably do it, and why you can now finally stop putting yoghurt on your face. 

Even if you didn't know you were putting yoghurt on your face. Chances are you have been. This a great interview, it'll be fun, I promise. And here we go. 




Peter; Like I said, we'll start with a very simple question, at least for you very simple. 

“What is the microbiome?”


Dr Varma;

So, you know, I like to tell people, you have a rainforest inside your body, this rainforest is invisible. And the trees of this rainforest are made up of microbes, bacteria, viruses, fungi, this rainforest is called the microbiome. So it's basically this this complex community of microbes that live in and on our skin, they're on our skin, in our gut, in our mouth. And what we've learned is that they play a huge role in keeping us healthy. There are this invisible protective layer that prevents us from being sick and keeps us healthy every day. And specifically for the skin. If you can think about you know, we experience most of the world to our skin, too much we touch things we hold things are in contact with things all the time, there's bacteria on all these surfaces. And it's a minor miracle that let's say it has a bit of soil or whatever, that the bacteria on on those areas don't immediately start growing on your skin. And the reason is that it's because of this protective layer that mostly kind of keeps this stuff off your skin and keeps on growing. So it microbiome research, which is a pretty young field, in the last, you know, 20 years or less years, has really sought to understand the microbiome more understand what role it plays, not just in protecting us every day, but in more important things like long term immune development, right. And so the microbiome has a very important role to play in, in our development, in the development of our immune systems. In the most recent decades, an increase in allergies, asthma, all sorts of these, you know, sensitivities to food or allergens, has basically, you know, can be traced to this hypothesis that we are too clean, we are not in touch with our sort of ancestral or native microbiome. And as that gets depleted at that, as that gets less diverse, it starts to cause these problems. So one of the questions I wrestled with, and our company is chiefly tasked with solving, is how do we increase microbiome diversity? How do we get back naturally to a place where our body is in sync with our microbiome, and they're both talking to each other informing each other in the best way?



That’s really interesting, because I always I always give the following example, I live I used to live the standard personal trainer lifestyle, I got up at half past five in the morning, I have my shower, and I went to work because I need to shower top five in the morning, otherwise, I'm not awake. I'll train a couple of people then I'll train myself… then I have a shower. Because I've trained and I have other people to see. I come home at the end of the day, I have another shower because I'm 46 and that was very much raised on that. You know, “if you scrub yourself to death with a soap and the face wash and all that sort of stuff. into the 3rd shower, you get that really nice, dry dried out skin. Right and and in the last 10 years or so. I'm a relatively modern man, I like to think, so I started buying a moisturiser for my skin, and I buy fancy soap that has a moisturiser in it. And then I read a book by Julia Enders, Dr. Julia Enders, sorry, called “gut” where she talks about the gut biome. And there's a little bit on the microbiome. And she's basically telling me that all that dry skin that I've been suffering from was caused by me showering too often, and me being too aggressive. 

So the question is; Have I been getting it wrong for say, the past 30-40 years?


Dr Varma

Unfortunately, I think yes. And, you know, it's really also interesting to get some perspective on this.

Just take shampooing, for example, right? In the 70s. If you shampooed once a week, that was more than enough. If you shampooed every weekend, you know, your skin was fine, your hair was fine. Before that, it was you know, shampooing was sort of a luxury it you did it, you know, whenever it was like a big event, otherwise, you just kind of washed your face. Wash your, whatever. Now, I think the main message being pushed is; you have to shampoo your hair every day, then you have to condition it. And you think about that cycle, right? You're shampooing it, you're putting all of this soap on it, and you're stripping it of all the oils. Then you're going into conditioner, which is essentially just lotion, it's an oil and water emulsion is meant to provide moisture back that you stripped out. 

So it's this kind of weird dance of you're taking all the good stuff away, then you're putting good stuff back in. I mean, why don't we move towards a more sustainable sort of solution where you're not stripping your body of all the oils, and so that you're not having to add them back in. So it's sort of a cultural, you know, it's like a frog in boiled water kind of thing. They just all raise the temperature until oh my god, you're shampooing every day, and you're scrubbing your you know, skin three times a day, otherwise you don't feel clean?



Yes, no.. exactly. A lot of my clients, a lot of women, a lot of listeners will be very familiar with that. With that feeling that and a lot of my clients, my personal training clients that I still see on a regular basis, they tend to rinse more with water than what they (used to) do with soap now. They've kind of moved away from the life that I used to have, so to speak, the two-three showers a day and everything had to be with soap and all that sort of stuff. And then indeed, yep, you add everything back with a moisturiser. 

But what I do find is that when I talk to a lot of women, a lot of moms especially, is that Eczema is remarkably common, or skin rashes are a remarkably common thing. And is that.. I mean, just generally, just speaking in very broad strokes here, but everybody immediately jumps to the” I am allergic to something” sort of thing. So they cut out gluten, and they cut out red meat and they cut down or at least cheaper about meat. And I'm not saying that that's a bad thing to do there stop buying better meat. But could it be much more straightforward? As in just take care of your microbiome a little bit better? And that will resolve the issue?


Dr Varma

Absolutely, I think and see, the thing is that our attention to the microbiome has turned only very recently, this whole field of research is less than 20 years old. 

And so at the same time, I think it's caught it's overlapped with a time when we are seeing all, you know, kids with allergies and asthma to this that are there's so much sensitivity in this world. And I mean, it's come to the point where you know, I'm in San Francisco. In America, the classic American school lunch is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You can't do that anymore, because almost every class has one person with a pretty severe peanut allergy, right? 

You got to take care of those folks. So how we come to this were sort of an iconic American sort of lunch item is now no longer allowed in school because of this. And so I think this is that that's kind of a signal of where we are. 

And so as we've gotten cleaner and cleaner and cleaner over the years, we have less opportunity to play in the dirt or access, you know, nature, you know. And that has had this very subtle but very noticeable effect on our physiology. And the question then is how do we get back to that or how do we having realised this, you know. 

Because the solution is not instead of, you know, rubbing soap on everybody, you rub dirt all over your body. That's over compensating. But then how do you say, Oh, my kid playing in the thing in the playground, whatever. I don't have to you know, sanitise them or we go home. I don’t have to pour, you know, sanitizer all over them. And so it's actually smaller changes to your point, you know, instead of cutting out this and that. Smaller changes in behaviour, and then maybe more consciously going out more, you know, taking a walk in nature or doing something physical in nature, which has more benefits than for your microbiome, by the way, right, like the cardio, the fresh air, that just that mental space of that I think there are multiple benefits there.



So just give you've been doing this for a while, right, for the past 10 years or so. So have you seen a difference in the microbiome of people? So 10 years ago, when you when you started looking at this to where they are now? Because I noticed from, from the phyla-biotics website, which is awesome, we will definitely get to that, because I think it's fascinating stuff. That do your products target… said, I'm putting this very simply for everybody. (And for myself, as well, to be honest), very simply “targeting the bad bacteria”, so to speak. So have you noticed an increase in bad bacteria? Or is it some of the good ones just say, almost completely disappeared? Or is it much more subtle than that?


Dr Varma

I think it's a lot more subtle than that. And, you know, this kind of Mic, diversity loss is not something that we've seen in a short period of time. But there are some really interesting observations, right? 

So for example, we know that people with acne have a less diverse microbiome than healthy people. And there's a hypothesis that if you could just boost that diversity somehow that it would result in a noticeable improvement in acne, right? 

Then there's this really interesting observation. So worldwide, whether you're in Europe, Asia, Africa, America, you know, the incidence of acne is about 85%, it's almost a universal thing. 85% of us get acne at some point in our lives. There are some pre-industrial tribal population that are sort of untouched by modern human contact, where. And one example is the Yanomami people in Brazil, where a lot of these skin diseases are unknown. But the incidence of acne is not 85%. It is 0%. 

But the difference between their microbiome and our microbiome is chiefly their skin microbiome is incredibly diverse, ours is not. And so, you know, obviously, these are observational studies, you know, there's a strong correlation. But it really points you in this direction of, okay, so I wonder if we can just boost the diversity. If we can bring more balance to the microbiome, what effect will this have? Now we've been able to actually do that with our technology in a clinical trial. And because we make such precise small-scale changes to the microbiome, we are actually able to track a single change in the microbiome and what the effect is on outcomes like in acne. As well as what is the effect on the microbiome diversity? And how often does this change predictably? And does it change in the right direction? So all those signals stack up. And fundamentally, there's a very interesting observation about the organism that we use in our products as well and acne.



*waffle, waffle* To be honest. To all the listeners, I have to Google what the difference between acne and eczema was. , I'm just, like I said, I'm a middle aged white guy. And we don't know. I had spots when I was 14-15-16 and I was told “It’s because you eat chocolate or because you eat pork” It was always one of the two. And I looked at,  I never thought about it. You just used to use Clearasil or one of those sort of things, you know, you're basically it again comes back to drying the skin out as much as possible. Or at least, that's what it felt like. And amazingly enough, it works up until the point where you stop using the product.


Dr Varma

Exactly right. Then you have to stop using it at some point because it's so irritating to your skin that you can't possibly go on forever, right?



Yes, exactly. It's completely horrible. And then kind of what so I was wondering now because I haven't thought about it for a while but I thought about it now thinking; that is it a case that. I was using those products for I don't know a year I'm just plucking that out of thin air and then these my skin just became such a mess and I had to stop using those products. And then it takes a while but the spots come back. But then after a while it all settles down again and I was told always that was because you no longer a teenager?

Dr Varma,


It was a bit of a mystery yeah. Yeah. A bit of a mystery.


So is it. Is it maybe just a case of my microbiome because my diet is pretty much on point. Or this used to be pretty much on point at the time, as far as an 18 year old has a half decent diet, always exercised, always took relatively good care of myself. We always lived out in the countryside, it's an old smog and pollution wasn't as big a thing. When I grew up, as I believe it is now in quite a few cities.

 Is it just a case then that my microbiome just kind of got back to the way it should be? That it was just off balance, and then I ruined? Or basically, I destroyed? I destroyed the vast majority of it. Because microbiome, like you said, it wasn't a thing when I grew up. Nobody had heard of it. So is the teenage spots sort of deal? Is that more of a microbiome issue? Or is that just a lay of the chocolate, sort of. Sort of deal? You think? 


Dr Varma

Well,yeah, so acne is such a complex disease, right. And we all know that it has many factors diet is one stress, hormones, genetics, they all play into acne. But having, you know, looked at acne from the lens of the microbiome, you realise that all of these are actually secondary causes, and none of them is actually the main cause of the disease. 

The way that diet, stress, you know, eating different things like chocolate or spicy foods for some people is a trigger is that it changes the quantity and quality of sebum, which is this oil that's naturally produced on your face.

And why that's important is that the sebum is basically the main food source for the bacteria that live on your skin, specifically one bacteria called C-acnes, or QD bacterium. Now you have C-acnes. On your face right now I have it on my face, every adult on this planet has this C-acnes on their face in a pretty big way. Obviously, all of us don't have acne. So what gives? 

The answer is that we all have a unique, you know, a certain strain of bacteria, and we all live in harmony with it. That's supposed to live on your skin, it's not a bad bacteria. It's only bad when it overgrows. Right. And that can happen if you change your diet. And or if you eat a lot of oily foods and your skin produces excess oil. It sees the food and grows, you know, that's what it's supposed to do. Your body says, Oh, wow, this one bacteria is going out of balance, and it produces inflammation to counteract that, and that inflammation is the pimples that we see in spots. 

In your case, what would probably happened is that you ate a more balanced diet or your skin adjusted to how much chocolate you were eating right. And then it just said, Oh, I'm not I'm not going to continue to produce this much sebum. 

I'm going to tail it back of it. Another thing that may have happened is, we all know that acne is mostly a teenager's disease, a young person's disease. To older people, you know, your 40s 50s, you don't really see that much acne. We don't know why that is, there is a study that showed that bacteria phages are phages for C-acnes, which is actually the technology we use in our products. 

They are predominantly found on healthy skin, and in people that are older, right? So if you take a teenager that has healthy skin, and a teenager that has acne, you're far more likely to find that phage on the healthy skin and it’s naturally prese there. It is also an organism that specifically kills that acne bacteria. So really big coincidence, right? 

And so there's a hypothesis that, you know, we all have that annoying friend who has perfect skin just wakes up, you know, never gets a zit. And chances are that they're carrying dysphasia naturally and is helping balance their microbiome, like it's supposed to. People with acne don't tend to have that. So we decided to democratise this amazing organism, put it in a bottle so that you don't have to be born with it. But you can have the benefits of this organism on your skin. And so a lot of people think, “Oh, the, the oil is causing the bacteria to overgrow. I'm going to strip my skin of all the oil.” Sure you can do that but you're not getting to the main cause of the disease. You're just drying out your skin. 

Because sebum is really important. It hydrates your skin and moisturises it. If you keep stripping away the stuff, then you're going to get more fine lines, more wrinkles, more premature ageing, because you're removing all that, you know, essential oil from your stuff.



Yeah, no, that  fascinating as and again, very, very nicely ties in with a lot of the… I know prebiotics, probiotics are very popular at the moment. I'm a big fan of Kefir and all that sort of stuff just because it makes me feel better. 

I never tell people what they should be taking, I just say that listen, this works for me. You know, and I don't sell the stuff so to speak. So, and I know everybody's slightly more individual with regards to all this sort of stuff in it. So what works for me, for other people is kombucha and all that sort of stuff. So would, first of all, eating a very diverse food, we know that that's excellent for the gut biome. And, you know, so and exercise helps to gut biome and all that sort of stuff. So would eating a diverse variety of say quality food, because obviously, I mean, counter Twinkies and Hohos and waffles and all that sort of stuff, and called that diverse silver, would that help with regards to skin issues? Or is the gut biome slightly further removed from.. say the skin biome is?


Dr Varma

Right? I mean, I think that the gardens can definitely have a connection. There's crosstalk between them. And we know this in certain instances. As a scientist, I would caution against making too broad a link or a jump between the two. 

So, in other words, so you know, just for example, recently, there was a great article on psoriasis. And it said that they, they think that psoriasis is not really a skin issue, it's actually a gut issue that's manifesting in the skin. 

And the way they did this is basically they noticed that, and I think this was in a mouse model, if I'm not mistaken. But they basically looked at a depleted gut microbiome in mice and found that they were much more susceptible to psoriasis. And they said,” oh, so the psoriasis susceptible rat mice are different from the healthy mice, in that they get psoriasis, but their gut has, you know, less of certain bacterium, too much of certain other bacteria”. And then they were trying to figure out, “Oh, what are the molecules that these bad bacteria are producing in the gut? Are they crossing the gut barrier getting into the bloodstream? And from the bloodstream? Are they getting to the skin where they're compromising the skin barrier?” Right? 

So really complex systems and going from the gut to the skin through the blood? What molecules are those? You know, what can we do about it? 

Having said that, it's a great paper, but we still don't know very much about it. In general, I would say yes, eat fermented foods, have a balanced diet. You know, eat a lot of fibre, so all the insoluble fibre or indigestible fibre that we think of, it's not indigestible, it's only indigestible by us. It’s very much digestible by our gut bacteria. And that's exactly the whole point of fibre is that; the fibre goes into your gut, the bacteria process it and they make a number of compounds, mostly short chain fatty acids that really nourish your gut. They're very, very important for skincare for gut health. And then that's how they go. So have a balanced diet. I think sleep is really important for skin tone. Staying hydrated is so important for skin tone. And then if you really want to think about your skin as your own skin cells, plus your microbiome, go out, do some exercise. Go out in nature, you know, go hiking, go camping, that stuff is great, you know, spend a couple of days camping where you don't take a shower, everyday kind of thing, you know. And you won't see the you know, you won't be like, Oh my god, I went one weekend camping and I might have the skin of a god. Right. But you know, it's a gradual process. One thing we know is that micro biomes are pretty resilient. They don't tend to change a lot, unless there's a huge, huge event like you take a tonne of antibiotics, right. So as you're trying to encourage your microbiome to go in a certain direction, it's small nudges, it's a lifelong relationship you have the skin



So that's really cool, because it's, again, you mentioned the antibiotics word there and that is that is really something that. Again, a lot of my listeners are really let's say there's a bit of a of concern about taking antibiotics much more so now than there was. Not necessarily from a medical perspective and medically there's an issue with people not completing courses and antibiotic resistance and all that sort of stuff. 

But I'm talking on a much more basic level as in; antibiotics and bad, probiotics are good as in that sort of, that's kind of the message that I hear a lot from listeners so to take care of our skin. So you're talking about going out in nature and getting exercise in and basically taking care of yourself and living a nice healthy lifestyle wherever possible. But you know, you still need to wash, right? Every now and again, or at least we're very much in the habit of needing to do that. So what should we be looking out for when we're buying? When we're buying things like soap, when we're buying things like shampoo, like what you mentioned, obviously I have very little need for it. But it's if you have if you buy soap, if you buy shampoo, because a lot of the stuff that is out on the market, because it's very interesting again, for I looked at your website, the Phyla-biotics website, and it is not the same as say, the standard L’oreal stuff that also claims is and I won't mention the name of the company whose products I was sent recently, because I didn't like them that much. And therefore, I'm not going to slag anybody off on this on this podcast, but it's again, it's a very natural, erm natural skincare sort of deal. But natural is not necessarily does not necessarily equate with taking good care of yourself or what your body needs, right. I mean, it's nice, I mean, this stuff here has this it this is a body butter I have here that was happened actually genuinely happens to be sitting on my desk. This is, it’s basically it's Shea butter, coconut oil, and all that sort of stuff. But that's completely different from yours, so from what's on your website is a completely next level different beast, isn't it?

Dr Varma

Absolutely. So, you know, we think of ourselves not as a skincare company, but as a biotechnology company, because they are so ..Behind Phyla is a biotech start-up called Phytherapeutics. And, you know, we have, you know, we've spent five years doing this research, which was funded by the NIH. And so we've done a lot of basic research and what we've tried to do is take this biotechnology and put it in a bottle. 

Now, I'll very broadly set the table for you for what is on the market and how we're different right. 

Peter; Yeah, cool. 

Dr Varma; Um, so probiotic skincare is a huge and exploding, very popular market. There's been a lot of interest from consumers, and rightly so because, you know, you're talking about kefir and kombucha and stuff like that, right. 10 years ago, outside of maybe California and a couple of really crunchy places. No one ever heard of kefir or kombucha like smell that and people run away?


Yeah, just a little definitely interjection there. Because I know I'm gonna, I'm gonna get emails from Turkey. And I'm going to get emails from Holland saying; “No”. And then he was from India say, “No, we always have Kefir, or where do you think this stuff comes from?” Right? So we will grant you, you're gonna I will grant you that you guys were way ahead of us in the West, but you know, yeah, so sorry. There you go. Yeah.


Dr Varma

Well, and you know what; every culture, every single culture has their version of a good fermented food, whether it's sauerkraut or kimchi, or, you know, whether it's a fermented dairy product or fermented, you know, lacto bio fermented vegetable. Some people even ferment meat and fish, right. In Scandinavia, there's always fermented fish. So this is something that is we have figured out by trial and error. And this is encoded into ancient human cultures that we enjoy to this day. Now. So but it's really interesting, that cross culturally, right, like someone in the West who's never heard of kimchi would try it and say, “Wow, this is good. And it's good for me for my body. Okay, I'll try it.” Kombucha, it's the same thing. So this kind of cross pollination, where, you know, people are eating Indian fermented foods or Korean fermented foods or Chinese fermented foods, and vice versa, like, you know, there's a maybe a lot more, you know, sauerkraut around.

I think that is really good. It's really healthy. So, people have known for a while back, to have good gut health, I need to have fermented, you know, yoghurt, or this or that right? Then when you say, “Oh, the skin has a microbiome too. And by the way, this is what we know about it”. 

Now people say okay, just like I take care of my gut health, I need to take care of my skin health, and you talk about the microbiome. 

Unfortunately, most of the probiotic skincare products and I mean, over 90% of the probiotic skincare products out there contain not live bacteria, but dead bacteria, and those bacteria are from yoghurt.

 Now yoghurt is great for your gut, doesn't do anything for your skin. You know it? It's kind of like different microbes in your body or like different ecosystems, right. 

Some places you have a desert, some places you have a rainforest, some places you have a grassland, right? You would never take a cactus and plant it in a rainforest. You would never take a fern from the rainforest and find it in a desert. Right? Those are the wrong things. 

So when you're putting yoghurt on your skin, it's not going to do anything for you. And it's going to do a lot less if ALL THE BACTERIA ARE DEAD!

 So, you know, the clue is if you if you look at a probiotic skincare product, and if they read it, the probiotic ingredient says ferment, extract, or lysate, then that is dead, ground up, that’s a bacteria. It's not live bacteria. 

So, to me that that's fundamentally like, a little less than honest. And it's leveraging the word microbiome purely for marketing purposes. Which is fine. You know, everyone makes money in different ways. But to me, as a scientist, I'm not like an industry veteran, I'm not from the skincare industry. I love to educate, I love to do the science. And I love to put real science out there. And so for us, it's really about education, telling people what's in our products.

And so we don't really have any bacteria in our products, we actually have this thing called a phage or a bacteriophage. What they are, is harmless viruses that are actually very abundant in nature, they're the most dominant life force on the planet, and about billions of phages pass through our body harmlessly every single day. Now phages, eat bacteria. And they're very, very specific. So a C-acnes phage, will kill only C acnes bacteria and nothing else. 

We actually have some great data internally from our lab reports showing how specific it can be. And like I said, it's really, really interesting that people who are healthy actually have the C acne phage naturally. So this is not actually you know, something we're bringing from some swamp or to the bottom of the ocean and saying, “Oh, look, put on your skin. Let's see what happens”. And so these two insights are really cool, because you're saying, Oh, wow, so some people, we couldn't tell why they're so healthy, why some people just don't get acne? 

Oh, now we can because they carry this phage. And people who have acne don't have this phage. So can we supplant this into their microbiome, and actually boost their natural ability to keep the acne away and keep their skin clear?



Yeah, cool. So that is, like you said, that's a completely different setup from rubbing a bit of coconut oil on your face, isn't it? 

And again, I'm not saying that coconut oil doesn't smell nice, and that it doesn't make your skin soft. I'm just saying that with regards to people with eczema, and again, a lot of my listeners have eczema or somewhere , coconut oil is not going to help. It's kind of weird to say and isn't it because that is not going to get a nice soft skin, but it's not going to fundamentally solve the problem. If you rub it on your skin.


Dr Varma; Totally.  

Peter; So do different areas of skin…Obviously, were two guys talking here, and I know again, some of my listeners will be thinking; Women have vaginas. They do! I'm reliably informed that they do. And it's a lot more popular now to for women to have different care products for their feminine region, as I believe we are supposed to subtly call it.

But those things then will also presumably just not do anything with regards to actually taking care of the more sensitive areas. And is there really then in your opinion because I know that this is not what you guys focus on. I don't think there are many women with eczema, maybe in the private region. Yes, but is that ? Is there any point to buying different soap for different areas of the body? Or is it just any soap is likely to have the same effect? Unless you use a different a product such as your own, so that's really targeted at the microbiome?


Dr Varma

Yeah, I mean, I think in general soap is is good. You know, again, it's it's how much you use it and how often you know how you use it. I think moderate cleansing and soap is great. I think it's necessary. And I think it's you know, it's a great thing, especially during COVID. You know, the last thing I would encourage you to do is wash your hands less, right?

Peter; Oh, yes. I mean definitely.

Dr Varma

And so hygiene is completely different from this, this kind of over scrubbing, being scared of bacteria sanitising everything inside. For like, you know, vaginal health or different parts of your body?

I don't. I fundamentally don't think that you need different types of soap. I think it's overkill. And I honestly think it's just you know, can we sell two soaps to a single person instead of one? Oh, I have an idea. I'm gonna call it as so for vaginal health.

Or a soap for, you know, the upper part of your arm versus the lower part of your arm or your nails versus your toenails? Like, I mean, yeah, and here's a clue, right? 

Again, going back to in the 70s. You shampooed once a week, now you shampoo every, you know, every day. What gives? Like is hair from the like, did we just have terrible hair in the 70s? I mean, yeah, like people have opinions about hairstyles, but like hair health, probably wasn't that much different. So do we really need to invest over invest in, you know, five different types of soap and three types of shampoo and washing ourselves twice a day? I mean, chances are probably no,


Peter; Yeah, no. And that is because you brought this up earlier on. I was going to come in, and then I forgot my point. But it was. it just came back to me. So in the they found, not in a real study, and some research was done. About five, six years ago, because I remembered from five, six years ago, some research was done about spending habits of the British woman versus the spending habits of the French woman. With regards to makeup and skincare products, and all that sort of stuff. 

And they found that roughly they spent, French women or so it goes into UK, French women have much better skin than British women used to have or tended to have ,maybe it's different, I don't know that many French people anymore. But they found that on average, they spent about the same amount of money monthly on skincare products.

 But in the UK, they spend 80% of that money on make-up, and 20% on moisturisers and in France it was pretty much the reverse. And the interesting bits of data may well be, from a microbiome perspective, isn't it? It was interpreted at the time as French women take care of their skin and they use makeup sparingly whereas British women have a problem, they cover up the problem with products. And then at the end of the day, because I see my wife doing this, at the end of the day, makeup gets scraped off the face, usually by a fairly aggressive sort of cleanser. And therefore, maybe the problem isn't so much with how much money people spend on the products or how did moisturiser does any good or not. But it's simply that the French women with better skin had less makeup to aggressively get rid of that causes issue because I'm thinking that, you know, like I said, I'm a guy, so I just use soap on my face.


Dr Varma

I mean, I think that's, that's so true. So there was a I'd like to add to that piece of data, right? So there's a study, I think out of Australia, but that looked at the daily habits of women, and they aggregated it. And they found that, the average woman puts on 500 ingredients on their skin every single day. You know, you add up all the unique ingredients from all of the stuff they use, and they're putting 500 ingredients every day. Now I'll venture to say not every one of those ingredients in that system.


I was astonished by the numbers. I eat quite a lot. And I don't get 500 ingredients in my food on a daily basis.

Dr Varma

Exactly. And so but you can see, right, Peter that there is a way to get 500 ingredients of food, right. If you eat a lot of processed food, right? Yeah, right.

Peter; If you eat a lot of rubbish. 


Dr Varma; Yeah, exactly. Grab a bag of chips, grab some soda, or flavoured, you know, beverage, you eat us frozen TV dinner, right? You're probably at 500. But if you know, you go to the market, right, you get your veggies, you chop them up, your compost pile is much bigger than your cash pile. That is like, you know, a small fraction of the 500 ingredients. 

But to your point, right, putting on makeup, scraping it off hiding things, you're actually probably making it worse because your skin is being burdened by more and more things that it probably doesn't need and honestly has to deal with. Right? 

That is oh, I have to overcome this thing that's choking my skin. So I think there's a lot of truth in that. And yeah, I think it's a it's definitely a trend of, thankfully a trend of like a now people want to invest in skin health, right. Just like they want to invest in the health of their body and their mind. They're saying, oh, I want to have a long term relationship with my skin. I don't want to pursue this approach of “Oh my God, I need to have clear skin next week. And I don't care what it takes to get it” and you bombard your skin with all sorts of stuff. And then you just paint your face, you know, next week, you get through it. And then you're back to sitting on the couch drinking sodas. People now want to say, No, I want healthy skin next week, but also next month and next year in 10 years from now. So they're investing for that and we're part of that movement.



Yeah, no, absolutely. And that is kind of the thing now, isn't it? A lot of people are indeed taking a much more long term view. But let's say, a large section of my listeners are is obviously based in the States and in the UK. Let's say people want to make the switch. 

So they have some issues, some eczema issues that have some acne issues with their skin and they say “okay, I'm living a relatively healthy lifestyle. But the makeup thing for instance, is a problem or my skincare routine”. They are listening to this and they say okay, that's a bit of an issue. 

How do you then make the switch? Do you need to go makeup free for a week? Or should you just really start to look at different skincare products such as the phyla, such as the Phylastuff. And I know you said you're not a skincare sort of thing, right? I don't want people to think that. That you guys do what L'Oreal does, basically, but I had a look on your website because I was I was in the shower before this how to shave. I use moisturise,r aftershave stuff, because my skin is screaming after I shave. And I saw you guys do a very nice moisturiser for me. And I thought to myself, you know, that is the sort of thing that may well be better, would that help? And how fast would that actually help with people's acne problems and eczema problems? What have you found in your, in your research?


Dr Varma

Yeah, so that's a more complex question to answer. And that's because that everyone's skin is different, right? Where we grew up in different localities, in different climates eating different foods. We get different severity of acne, and for different durations of time. But, you know, and so I guess the approach to take is firstly, and this is what we advocate as well, if you look at our ingredients list, if you look at the products on our website, we have a very minimalist approach. 

We want to put as little on your skin going to formulate with as few ingredients as possible. And we want you to see the results. Because fundamentally, we're here to solve people's problems and give them clear skin. I would say if your current regimen isn't working, try to see if you can slash like minimise it, use as few products as possible, and then find what's really working for you and eliminate what's not working for you. Then I would obviously encourage you to try Phyla, especially for your acne, if you want to see clear skin but without the side effects like the redness, the dryness, the irritation. 

Or if you're tired of relapses, right? Because if you if you have harsh products that are depleting your microbiome, you're not able to protect yourself from the next acne cycle. So I would advocate that and then I think it's to each person, you know, some people have oily skin, they don't want to use our moisturiser. Fair enough, right?

Some people have dry skin and they say, “Oh, wow, I'm actually using your moisturiser at twice the rate and we say, Okay, we'll send you some more”. And then like I said, it's a gradual process, your microbiome is actually pretty resilient, and it's not going to move that much. So you need to make those incremental changes. Often people see an acne purge, or like, you know, it gets like worse before it gets better. 

That needs to be like your body, your skin is basically a homeostatic organ, which means that it's going to stay the way it is, for the short term. And it's going to try to stay at that level. So for example, if you use a lot of soap, you wash your face a lot, right, and your skin is dry all the time. Actually, when you stop washing, you will notice your skin become super oily, because your skin is used to being super dry, and it knows it needs to be hydrated. 

So it's overproducing oil, but it never gets chance to build up because you're just washing it so often. So when you stop washing it, it's going to get super oily for a while. If you manage it after a few weeks, after a few months, it's going to become a lot less oily, and it's going to just you know, recalibrate. So you've got to give it a little time. And because acne is a chronic disease, it's a disease for the long term, you need to just sort of think in that that sense, but what Phyla is, is it is built for you to be used for it to be used everyday for you to use it in your normal regimen. And every day the phages in it will recalibrate your microbiome, reduce the overgrowth of C-acnes. And recalibrate your microbiome to a healthy state. And so even if you don't have breakouts, if you keep using it, you're going to reduce the frequency of visual breakouts.



Cool. So if I'll take this back to my 13 year old self, because you're not why not make it all about me from a long time ago. It's a lot of my again, all my listeners are slightly older children 11-12 13. So they're, especially girls, they're just moving into that, let's say troublesome stage with regard to doing their skin and all that sort of stuff. Are your products, safe for them to use on a day. Okay, even because a lot of again, a lot of the concern I see from mothers to their children, then you've seen it with the COVID vaccine and all that sort of stuff.. is “in the long term. Will it hinder? Or will it help?” That sort of thing? And obviously, like I said, you've been doing this for quite a while and are at the forefront of this sort of stuff. So can someone who's 11-12 years old use the Phyla stuff safely? Will it have the same effect on them as it would on someone who is say older and maybe has a different cause of acne?


Dr Varma

Right. It's so the good news is; yes. Anyone you know who's in their early teens, and even you know, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, you know, they have hormonal acne often. They can all use our product, whether you have mild acne, moderate acne, severe acne or nodular acne. It's, it's all you know, the same cause and therefore our products work for them. There are some people actually who find that our products are not effective. And it turns out, they didn't have acne, they had some other kind of, you know, problem. Yes, skin issue. So obviously for eczema, our acne product will not work. Um, we are actually working on an eczema project and it's an advanced development. So we hope to launch it maybe the end of next year. 

But that's I think that's going to be a really exciting product as well. But yeah, if you have acne of any type, or you are in any age group, then it should work. I mean, just the other day someone left a review on our site saying, “Oh, you know, I'm like in my 40s, and I've struggled with acne all my life. I've tried everything, you know, I've just been so like, annoyed by it. And then finally, I tried to hire Phyla, and it's like, it works. So well, I'm so grateful.” And I thought, yeah, you know, like, there are a few people in their 40s who have it, but it's still a problem. And it's still problem people want to solve?



Yeah, cuz you probably find with people who are in the 30s and 40s, and one of my friends, alas, still has acne. And he's 45-46. And he's had it since the age of 16. So he's tried everything. I mean, you won't believe how much money this guy you probably would believe because you're an industry, but it's insane how much money this guy spent on everything. You know, God love him, but his skin is a mess. And I don't mean to mess from spots and all that stuff. 

I just mean, it doesn't look healthy because of probably the amount of stuff he's thrown at his face. God love ‘em. And if you're saying that, okay, this is because like you said, you're not covering anything up, right? You're not as in with regards to skin care, you're not hiding spots. You're not de-oiling the skin and all that stuff, which is like I said what the Clearasil stuff that I was using does, and all that sort of stuff. You're not putting toothpaste on spots.

Dr Varma

Yes, you've heard that before.


Again, that was a thing that when I was growing up, so we talked about 30 years ago, put a bit of Colgate on the spot. And the next day, it'll be gone. It never worked, by the way for people listening.

Dr Varma

I’m not surprised.



Yeah there was not much science there. You’re saying “we found out which part of the microbiome which part of the bacteria causes the problem, and therefore we've developed something that will basically get rid of that bacteria and balance things out”. Am I summarising that accurately enough?


Dr Varma;

That's exactly right. You know, when you have a disease where there's one bad bacteria causing the problem, then the only thing you need to do is remove that bad bacteria or control its growth. And in fact, all acne products are antibacterial. You talk about antibiotics, benzoyl peroxide, you know, retinoids. They're all antibacterial, but they're blunt instruments. They kill both the good and the bad back. Yeah. And so it's like going into surgery being given a hammer instead of the scalpel. Right? You wouldn't do surgery with a hammer. You need a scalpel. Stop using a hammer on your skin.


Yeah, no, that that sounds bang on to be honest. Because that's an analogy I think we can all get behind. Now. I think everybody's kind of accepting that science has, from what I've described, the science has moved on so ridiculously much over the past 30 years. And it's jumping at such a ridiculous rate at the moment that you know, five years from now, like you said, you'll probably have another five or 10 products that you can just bring out so we're targeting this we're targeting that because we're figuring stuff out. 

Now like I said, I stepped out of the shower and moisturiser and that's what I need because I've got some crappy moisturiser because one of the beauticians that I need to use an SPF moisturiser and and I've got a crappy moisturiser. It doesn't work. It doesn't really do anything for me. So I stopped using it. So just sitting in a drawer somewhere. So I went onto the Phylabiotics website and shock and horror. I don't live in the US when it when are you coming to the UK.


Dr Varma

We are coming very, very soon our international shipping sort of an international operations is about to go online. And so we're really excited to you know, in a couple of weeks, probably to be able to, to offer that to everyone. We've gotten so much demand and so much curiosity from all over the world. You know, the UK is a big hot spot for us, Canada's another one Europe, obviously and Australia. And we're just really excited to reach back out to our customers and say, “oh, yeah, we're finally available to you and to everyone else”. And then we're going to continue to kind of spread the word not just in the US but around the world of this new approach to acne.



Yeah, no, that's awesome. Okay, well that will do is let me know when that will not happen to novel remind people on my on my little podcast and on my social media and all that sort of stuff when it's available.


Dr Varma

That would be great.


 No, no more than happy because like I said, I think it's fascinating stuff and I'm reading really big fan of anybody who looks into the detail of why the body functions, how the body functions and how we can work with the body. Rather than exactly like what you said, just stripping everything that is good. And just using that as a solution to a relatively minor problem, possibly creating bigger problems in the long run. Especially when you're talking about antibiotics and all that sort of stuff. It's still a bit of the case that when you pop out to the to the GP here, that's the first thing they do you say; “I’ve a minor complaint” (they say) “Excellent, his course of antibiotics” and they'll go away and I think we'd all recognise them now that's maybe not the right approach to take. We covered a lot of stuff was anything else you wanted to touch on?


Dr Varma

Um, no. Well, I would love to remind your listeners if you're curious about phyla, or if you know if you want to learn about a better way to treat acne, go to our website, Phyla is spelled p h, y la. So visit We have a tonne of information, a tonne of resources, we have our clinical trial data that we did that that's really important. And you can look at all of that and hopefully it'll help you make a great informed decision for yourself. We're also on social at phylabiotics everywhere on Add phylabiotics on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. And that's where we love to interact with people have them ask us questions, answer any, you know, do some acne myth-busting. We have events where you know, we invite comment and stuff like that. So we're here to help people understand their own skin and their acne issues better. We are basically you know, we care about the science very deeply. So we love to educate we love to spread the message. And yeah, we hope to see some



no awesome obviously, I will link to everything in the in the in the notes as well, as I always do, and I'll link to everything on social. So thank you very much. And on that happy note I shall press “stop record.”



Which is exactly what I did. Thanks very much to Dr. Varma for coming on. It’s always much appreciated when somebody gives up an hour of their time. Like I said, this is one of the people in the world to speak to you about the about the microbiome and skin bacteria and all that fun stuff. I thought that was very insightful. I will link to all these things, you know, Phylabiotics and his LinkedIn profile and all that sort of stuff. So you can check it out if you want 

to. And, you know, maybe now we can stop putting yoghurt on our face.

That's right, I speak to an expert for an hour. And that's my takeaway from it. 

Because I'm a jackass. Right? And so what do we have? Oh, by the way, if you could give us a like and subscribe, and then click, and whatever you do, then that'd be much appreciated.

 If you could get us a little rating, we've seen our ratings go up nicely, recently and I'd like to keep that going. Maybe even make a chart in the UK. Wouldn't that be nice? Wouldn't that be nice? So your friends your listing? That's kind of all we really need you to do to be honest.

 If you have any questions or comments, of course, right, it's going to be about time that I do another q&a. So we'll probably get that set up as well. So get your questions in now, so we can actually get going. Right? Isn't that nice? We're all prepared? Wouldn't it be nice if I was prepared ones? Wouldn't that be something? Right? Speaking of being prepared, 

In the News this week, New York Times article about how they now found that a new study found which I'll link to as well, by the way, which was published in October, which has been published, but not peer reviewed yet. So it's one of those; “This may well be the case” studies where they find the reason why obese people are more at risk from COVID has nothing to do with underlying health issue with regards to whether they also have type two diabetes or cardiovascular issues or anything like that. But that is the fat itself that is causing the problem. The adipose tissue itself seems to be the problem. Now they already know that from one or two other illnesses, you know, flu, for instance, or the influenza virus, if you read the study properly, is what they call it or HIV and all that sort of stuff that they know that body fat is known to be like a reservoir for illness.

But now they're saying “OK the Coronavirus is also able to get in that way and to at least multiply that way.”

And that's an interesting one because obviously, when you get ill and get ill through your body fat. Then that means you get more inflamed responses and all that sort of stuff, more inflammation. 

And all that sort of stuff just makes obese people more at risk from COVID. 

Now I'm not having a go at if anyone if you're obese, just in case you're thinking, it's just something that we have to be aware of. And it's interesting that it's therefore not because obese people, even healthy obese people, that's kind of what the articles is saying.

 Even healthy obese people, so people who are obese but don't have any underlying health issue, so no type two diabetes or anything like that are more at risk from things like COVID or severe reactions to COVID because the fat cells kind of amplify the symptoms of COVID-19 

So it's interesting to read, I will link to it will link to the study on the New York Times article, that article is a little bit easier to read than the study is. Like I said, it's one of those it might be the case they've done lab tests and all that sort of stuff, in vivo tests, but they haven't obviously is not peer reviewed yet. So it's one of those you know, you can't say this is definitely the case but it's interesting that it might be and that's it for the week Like I said before, we want to give me a shout when we get in touch on a shout at me for whatever reason. I've got an interview coming up next week. If you liked Dr Yug Varma interview, you know, check out one or two of the other ones that we've done. I did an episode about the gut biome and Julia Enders book got a while ago, you might want to check that out although the audio quality of that is even worse than this one is. I'm open to make smaller more tweaks to the sound quality of the podcast over the next few weeks. Just by changing the setup and removing some echo in the room and all that sort of thing. We'll see if it works. We'll see if it works. Anyways, get in touch Have an awesome week. Let me know if there's anything you want us to do for HPNB because you know it's time we did something else. It's time to do something new time we did something exciting. A new bit of music. Have a great week. Bye now.