Keep Skin Healthy with Probiotics

Between the cold, dry winter, environmental pollutants and the day-to-day stresses we face, our skin can easily become irritated, dried out and unhappy.

But with so many different products and skin care lines out there, it can be difficult to cut through all of the noise and find one that’s right for you.

One trend that’s continuing to gain steam is the use of skin care products that target your microbiome — the community of microorganisms that inhabit the human body. Each person has trillions of these microorganisms living inside them, and each person’s microbiome is unique to them. “Good” microbes, which make up roughly 99 percent of them, help your body with processes such as digestion, absorbing vitamins and preventing infections.

You’ve probably heard about probiotics in foods including yogurt and kombucha, or probiotic supplements that help regulate your digestive system and promote healthy bacteria in the microbiome. But did you know that probiotics can potentially have benefits for your skin too?

A growing number of brands are now offering products that incorporate topical probiotics, which are believed to help shield skin from external factors such as sun and pollution and produce natural antibiotics that target “bad” bacteria and prevent your immune system from reacting to them.

One study in the Journal of Cosmetic Science (“Physiological Effect of a Probiotic on Skin — completed in 2012 found evidence that topical probiotics can help treat mild acne lesions, while additional research (published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology: “Probiotics and Prebiotics in Dermatology” — indicates the approach can potentially aid in the treatment of conditions such as eczema, atopic dermatitis, allergies, rosacea, inflammation, hypersensitivity and sun damage.

The products have often been billed as a way to reduce inflammation, balance the skin and reduce signs of aging. In clinical trials performed by medical-based research organization BioEsse — — 75 percent of participants using probiotic skin care products offered by BioEsse saw a visible improvement in their skin after two weeks. After four weeks, 100 percent of participants said they saw an improvement.

Some probiotic skin care lines also include prebiotics, which act as a food source for the bacteria and help probiotics thrive on your skin. And as the probiotics break down, they produce something called postbiotics, which contain hyaluronic acid, peptides and vitamins that help nourish the skin.

These types of products are often recommended for people with chronic inflammation or sensitive skin, especially because traditional cleansers can strip skin of all bacteria — including the good microbes — and exacerbate dryness and irritation.

Since interest in the potential of probiotic skincare really began to explode about 10 years ago, there is certainly room for more research on its benefits and effects. But in the meantime, there are now more clinically tested probiotic skincare brands than ever. Will you take the plunge and try one out?

According to Dr. Mary-Margaret Kober, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in Florida, (“Brainy Beauty: What Do Probiotics Have to Do with Your Skin?” —, any skin product can alter a person’s skin microbiome. “Scrubbing your skin with stringent or abrasive cleansers can damage your skin barrier and kill off good bacteria,” she said.

So, it’s important to do a little research yourself to find the best products for your skin, and those that don’t negatively impact your existing skincare routine. Kober notes some of the most effective skincare products to keep your microbiome healthy:

Paula’s Choice Probiotic Nutrient Moisturizer contains prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics to fight skin aging and breakout-prone skin.

La Roche-Posay Lipikar Balm AP+ Intense Repair Moisturizing Cream has thermal water and prebiotic calcium, magnesium and selenium for people with dry skin or eczema. According to Kober, “It’s very calming and supports emollient production in the skin,” and helps improve skin smoothness and softness.

Mother Dirt, Tula and GlowBiotics products “make probiotic skincare products that treat acne and sun damage in people with oily skin.”

BIOSSANCE Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer contains red seaweed (Chondrus crispus extract) and squalane to keep skin hydrated. The molecular make-up of this moisturizer is very similar to skin’s cell membrane, which helps it absorb quickly.