In a world overwhelmed with products, craze diets, and the latest beauty trends, it’s hard to figure out what actually works, and what is just a gimmick. Which is why the safest bet, is to look inside our very own bodies. We hold the key to so many diseases and ailments within ourselves that it can often be questioned, why do we even look to outside creams and lotions? One remedy to a few of our greatest skincare concerns, such as acne, rosacea, eczema, and even anti-aging(!), is probiotics.
Many of us have heard the word ‘probiotics’ tossed around and recognize it mostly in terms of yogurt. However, the true definition of what a probiotic is goes way beyond the creamy food. Probiotics are "live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host". In other words, probiotics are a naturally occurring good bacteria, that the body produces, and can be harnessed and “administered” in a multitude of ways, to aid in different ailments. The majority of probiotics in humans live in the gut, but their impact affects the entirety of the body, including the skin.
When speaking of probiotics, it is important to also mention their counterpart ‘prebiotics’. The term “prebiotics” refers to dietary substances that favor the growth of beneficial bacteria over harmful ones. Prebiotics and probiotics have a symbiotic relationship. Prebiotic fiber is the main food source of probiotics, and probiotics cannot thrive without it. In other words, if you want to make sure your reap the benefits of probiotics, ensure that you feed them their prebiotics.
How Are Probiotics Beneficial?
Probiotics are not a new revelation; in fact doctors, and scientists have studied them for years. Even so, it is only in more recent times that those studies have been geared specifically towards their impact on the skin. Studies within the last decade found that probiotics, which are immune system modulators, can be used in the treatment of inflammatory skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis (a form of eczema). They also find that probiotics are promising in the treatment of acne, wound healing, and photoprotection.
The studies have found that at the basic science level, probiotics have been shown to directly inhibit P. acnes (Propiobacterium acnes) through the production of antibacterial proteins and clinically, the topical application of probiotics has also been shown to modify the barrier function of the skin with a secondary increase in antimicrobial properties of the skin. Meaning, the use of probiotics on the skin decreases the factors that aid in acne formation. Probiotics do all of this while stimulating the production of healthy ceramides, which restore healthy fats. There are different ways that topical probiotics can benefit the skin, such as by acting as a protective shield, providing antimicrobial properties, and even causing a calming effect, when in contact with the skin. (If you’re still interested in the benefits of topical probiotics on the skin, click here, and see what three dermatologists say.)
Where can you find them?
While the human body naturally produces probiotics, we can’t exactly wring it out of our guts to apply to our pesky pimples. Thankfully, many cosmetic and supplement companies have worked to harness the power of probiotics and integrate it into their various lotion and cream formulas, as well as oral supplements.
However, if you aren’t looking to add a new product to your routine, or switch one out for another,(although we recommend ensuring you have some sort of probiotic-infused product included in your daily routine) and if taking pills isn’t for you, then you can still benefit from the power of probiotics by eating foods rich with them.
Keep In Mind:
As great as probiotics are, and as there are so many different variations and forms in which they come, it is important to be smart about the products/food you buy. Many skincare companies will label their products as enriched with probiotics without having the correct ones, just as some food sources may contain dead microbes (check your yogurt!). Evidence of a health benefit is required for a probiotic, at either a strain-specific or group level, depending on the nature of the benefit. Probiotics can have different means of administration, target host species (humans and animals), target populations, target sites (gut and beyond), efficacy end points and regulatory categories. As such, be sure to check the labels and understand the difference in the classifications and variants of probiotics.
To learn about the benefits of choosing vegan products over others, click here to read our blog on going vegan with your skincare and the various benefits it offers.