As someone who has a sensitive stomach, I rely on probiotics to feel better. The positive effects of probiotics on the gut are well documented… but what about in skincare?
Before I begin, let me emphasise that I am not a doctor, nor a scientist specialising in this field of research. If anything is incorrect in this article, I would be happy to correct it. I myself wanted to understand what probiotic beauty actually is and what effect it could have. My interest in probiotics definitely comes from having a number of food intolerances, and relying on these foods to feel myself again. If you are interested in reading up on gut health and probiotics in food, the Clever Guts Diet is an amazing read and brilliant for anyone who has food intolerances or wants to understand their gut better.
Okay, let’s start from the beginning. Probiotics are a substance that stimulates the growth of microorganisms, especially those with beneficial properties. Basically, these are the good bacteria that are most commonly found in your gut and keep it healthy. You have probably seen probiotic supplements or have heard about Actimel/Yakult. Maybe you even know a few foods that are natural probiotics (yoghurt, saurkraut, kefir). What you probably didn’t know is that skincare is increasingly being formulated to include these good bacteria.
There is growing research that topical probiotics can remedy anything from acne to ageing skin. The introduction of probiotics into skincare products focuses largely on the idea of balance – restoring and repairing your skin that is overstimulated. It is in this state of imbalance that dermatological issues such as acne, rosacea and dryness can emerge. Introducing probiotics is like starting a bacterial fight – the good bacteria derived from probiotics declare war on the bad bacteria that cause acne and other skin related issues and take over to bring back balance to the skin. There has even been research that lactobacillus (usually found in yoghurt) is effective in restoring the skin’s barrier and is successful at reducing acne.
Here are some ways that topical probiotics can help your skin:
Restoring the protective barrier
Your skin’s protective shield can be damaged by a number of factors, from ‘bad’ bacteria, to environmental factors such as stress and pollution. The microorganisms that cause skin ailments are seen as foreign and so spark an immune reaction to deal with this potential threat. In turn this causes inflammation and redness on the surface of the skin. Applying a topical probiotic creates a literal barrier between your skin and the bad bacteria.
Neutralise the bad bacteria
According to Dr Bowe, the substances creates by probiotics can have ‘antimicrobial’ properties, which means they tackle the bad bacteria and kill them. This functions in a similar way to traditional antibiotics and can help reduce inflammation. There is still on-going research into which strains of bacteria have this property so they can be marketed into antimicrobial products.
Probiotics are known to have a calming effect on the gut, and this extends to the skin too. They calm down the cells that want to react to bad bacteria and suppress signals to the immune system to ‘attack’. This reduces flare ups of acne and rosacea.
I have been aware of probiotics since I was about 16 and was pretty unwell after taking antibiotics for a long time. It was the good bacteria in probiotics that solved my long standing stomach woes. I first saw about probiotic skincare in an email from Beauty Bay, and it instantly got my attention. It highlighted the brand Tula, which have a pretty wide range of products that contain probiotics and Kefir (a fermented yoghurt that is known for being great for your gut). The brand was started by practising gastroenterologist Dr. Raj, who voices the importance of balance to maintain our health, both on the inside and out.
As I’ve already mentioned, probiotics can have a wonderful calming effect on your skin. They leave skin looking hydrated, more even toned and reduce inflammation. The Tula products include powerful natural probiotics combined with superfoods such as blueberries, turmeric and kefir, as well as more familiar skincare ingredients like vitamins A and C and AHAs. The products are packed full of calming ingredients, such as turmeric and white tea that would be especially great for acne prone skin.I would loved to have tried these products out when I had my cystic acne for their anti-inflammatory properties. Their hydration products look beautiful too, with some seriously impressive before and afters on each product page.
Probiotic skincare also has great anti-ageing benefits too. Aurelia skincare focuses on restoring the balance in your skin, and promoting the repair and reproduction of collagen and elastin. Rather than using peptides to stimulate collagen and elastin repair, probiotics can improve the skin’s defence mechanism organically and promote the natural healing process. I recently got the Aurelia Revitalise and Glow Serum, and I’m really interested to if or how my skin changes with use. I am in love with the idea of naturally promoting the repair of my skin, but also really like how clean and natural the ingredients in this type of product are. Both companies that I have mentioned have a commitment to using natural products, which is completely in line with the idea that beauty starts from within.
And it doesn’t stop there – consumable beauty is now a thing too. There are increasing numbers of products that you take orally, either as a supplement or a powder, which claim to have a positive impact on your gut AND your appearance. You may have seen GLOW by The Beauty Chef or other products by this brand that promotes improved gut health, as well as a luminous complexion. Their founder’s philosophy that ‘beauty begins in the belly‘ seems sound – when you feel good, you look good. When you nourish yourself properly, you see the benefits everywhere. This idea also correlates to what is known as the ‘gut-brain-skin axis’ – the notion that anxiety and stress can lead to gastrointestinal issues, causing inflammation. Consequently this can trigger inflammation of the skin as well. By orally consuming probiotics, you could effectively be killing two birds with one stone.
The founder of probiotic skincare brand Gallinée, Marie Drago, emphasises the importance of the ‘natural bacterial ecosystem of our skin‘. She states on her website that ‘modern lifestyle, pollution and overuse of antibacterial products and detergents‘ are having a damaging impact upon the state of our skin, leaving it dry, stressed and sensitive. By adding probiotics and prebiotics, they function to rebuild the healthy skin ecosystem (just like they would in your stomach).
At the moment, the only downside is that probiotic skincare is more or less exclusively in the higher price bracket. However, since the launch of Aurelia (the first probiotic brand to launch), probiotic skincare products have started to flood the market and I’m convinced that it is only a matter of time before the more affordable brands invest in this research and follow suit.
It is worth noting that there is still uncertainty whether it is the microbiome that improves the skin, or improvements in the skin that consequently have positive effects on the microbiome. Knowledge about bacteria in the gut is still being discovered, so it will take a number of years before research into its relation to skincare becomes clear. There is still a lot of research that needs to be done, as this is a very new discovery in probiotics. It also has the potential to completely shift the direction of makeup and skin care – that beauty is no longer ‘skin deep’, and mark the birth of ‘ecosystem beauty’.
I am here for anything that will naturally improve my overall health and skin, and I have total faith in this type of skincare based on my own probiotic experience. I will definitely be trying some of these brands when pay day comes around, and can’t wait to see the results.
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