Collection Methods for Skin Samples

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The skin is colonized by microbial communities (microbiota) involved in immune homeostasis, the development and maintenance of barrier functions, and protection from pathogens. Exhaustive analyses of skin microbiota can not only provide a better understanding of cutaneous processes and diseases but can also suggest targets for developing therapies. The use of prebiotics and probiotics on the skin is a promising area of research.

Role of the Skin Microbiome

  • Maintaining skin homeostasis plays a protective role against potential pathogens and environmental problems

Skin microorganisms secrete proteases involved in the desquamation process and cuticle renewal. Other roles of the microbiota include the production of biofilms, bacteriocins, and quorum sensing. In addition, the skin microbiota plays an important role in defending against competition from potential pathogenic microorganisms.

  • Training and communication with the immune system

A particular strain of Staphylococcus epidermidis was shown to be able to produce 6-N-hydroxyaminopurine, which may protect against skin cancer.

  • Wound repair

Skin symbionts constantly interact with the immune system and are therefore also involved in wound healing.

Skin microbiota, its roles, and its relationship with the immune system.Fig.1 Skin microbiota, its roles, and its relationship with the immune system. (Boxberger, 2021)

Currently Available Sampling Methods for Skin Microbiota

Current sampling methods used to capture the skin microbiota include skin swabs, tape stripping, and punch biopsy.

  • Skin Swabbing

The skin swabbing method is fast, simple, non-invasive, suitable for large-scale skin sampling, and is one of the most commonly used methods. It is performed using a sterile swab which is pre-moistened in 0.9% sodium chloride with 0.1% Tween-20 and rubbed on the skin surface. The material of which the swab is made has an impact on the collection yield as well as on the direct release and recovery of the isolated microorganisms.

  • Tape Stripping

The tape stripping method involves using tape to collect the skin microbiome. This technique has been used in several studies as an alternative to skin swabs. In contrast to swabbing techniques, the tape stripping method "strips" bacteria from the cuticle and deeper layers. The tape stripping technique allows deeper cuticle sampling to reach the oxygen-free portion of the skin appendage.

  • Punch Biopsy

Punch biopsies are invasive but offer the best representation of skin microbiota as they allow for the collection of full-thickness skin specimens comprehensive of superficial (mostly aerobic bacteria) as well as deep skin flora (anaerobic bacteria).

Services for Skin Microbiome Research at Creative Biolabs

Approaches to profiling the skin microbiota. Fig.2 Approaches to profiling the skin microbiota. (Grogan, 2019)

At Creative Biolabs, we have extensive experience in live biotherapeutics research, including next-generation probiotics with particular challenges. Our experts can help you from the start, providing expert consultation on the design of your study. Please do not hesitate to contact us, we are happy to discuss your goals.


  1. Boxberger, M.; et al. Challenges in exploring and manipulating the human skin microbiome. Microbiome. 2021, 9(1): 1-14.
  2. Grogan, M.D.; et al. Research Techniques Made Simple: Profiling the Skin Microbiota. J Invest Dermatol. 2019, 139: 747-752.e1.

For Research Use Only. Not intended for use in food manufacturing or medical procedures (diagnostics or therapeutics). Do Not Use in Humans.

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