Green walls: nature in the office is good for the skin
Are plants good for the skin and immunity? We don’t mean witch hazel cream or sweet almond oil: we’re talking about green walls indoors! A study has shown that green walls in the workplace have more than just environmental benefits. They help balance the skin microbiota and regulate employees’ immune systems.
About this article
Over the decades, urbanization and modern infrastructure have reduced our exposure to environmental microorganisms. Improvements in hygiene have protected us from many infectious diseases.
However, a lack of contact with natural bacterial ecosystems in plants, soil, water, etc. is detrimental to our microbiota. What’s more, this absence of nature has consequences for our health: according to scientists, the urban lifestyle (commute-work-sleep routine) favors allergies and diseases with an auto-immune component. Our skin isn’t spared, with urbanization modifying its microbial balance.
However, a touch of nature can help rebalance it. Our skin microbiota is enriched when we walk in urban green spaces, while our children’s microbiota becomes more diversified if they attend green daycare centers. But how can we benefit from plants if we’re locked up in the office eight hours a day?
Green walls for a re-seeded skin microbiota...
A team of Finnish researchers1 installed air-circulating green walls in university offices. The idea: indoor air is circulated through green plants (philodendrons, Dracaena, ferns, and other plants) using fans. The team compared skin and blood samples from staff working in these green wall offices with those of employees not working between green walls.
The results? Lactobacilli abundance and the diversity of skin proteobacteria, known to help balance the skin microbiota and protect it against harmful microorganisms, rapidly increased in the staff working in green wall offices. In the blood of these employees, the scientists also found a decrease in the level of a pro-inflammatory (sidenote: Cytokine A small protein involved in communication between cells, especially in the immune system. Cytokines: Introduction_British Society for Immunology ) and an increase in the level of a cytokine involved in immune response regulation.
...and better quality of life at work
According to the authors of the study, air-circulating green walls balance the moisture in the air and release plant spores or bacteria (including proteobacteria) that settle on the skin. The ability of plants to filter air pollutants may also have a positive effect on the skin microbiota. Either way, green walls are pleasant to look at and potentially beneficial for our health. So while we wait for the results of new studies, should we bring our favorite potted plants to the workplace?
To be continued...