Probiotic Skincare: The Science of Beautiful, Balanced Skin

December 1, 2023 8 mins to read
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It turns out probiotics might not be only for your stomach and digestive health. They might boost the health of your skin too! In This article I go over the frontier of skin care – probiotic skin care and how it can boost skin health including: the skin-gut connection, the science behind it, the health benefits, choosing the right products and what the future of probiotic skincare looks like.

The Skin Microbiota

The skin (epidermis) and it’s microbiota make up the skins eco-system; a key part of your whole immune system. The microbiota help ward off harmful organisms, and play a role in the health of the skin itself. It’s been shown that those with rashes and ecsema, have a less diverse skin microbiome, than normal. Acne is a perfect example…caused by having an excess of P. acnes bacteria that wreaks havoc on the skin, causing breakouts. The reality is many skin conditions are caused by an imbalance of the skins microbiome or eco-system including: dermatitis, inflammation, acne, irritation, redness, and even bad body odor (to name a few). Let’s not even get into how the skin also absorbs those chemicals and they leach directly into the blood stream much like a nicotine patch does.

“The most effective way to nourish the skin’s microbiome is with prebiotic and postbiotic nutrients. Prebiotics are like fertilizer for your microbiome while postbiotics are the invaluable nutrients created during fermentation.”

Paul Schulick, Master Herbalist & Fouder of the Probiotic Skincare Line for the Biome

Interkingdom Signaling

Interkingdom signaling takes place between the skin and its microbiome and is crucial for skin that retains hydration and can adapt to stress e.g. environmental stressors or toxic chemicals you apply. It turns out toxic chemical preservatives, fillers and additives found in most cosmetics cut off this communication. Sort of like when you put your smartphone in one of those signal blocking pouches and can’t get calls anymore.

Body Odor is a Bacterial Imbalance?

It’s not your skin or sweat that smells bad, it’s actually a reaction from specific bacteria strains that live on the skin as parts of it’s microbiome: they quite literally eat your sweat and other bodily fluids and produce stinky byproducts as a result, leaving you with that ‘human repellant’ body odor. You can bring that flora back into balance with probiotic skincare vs toxic antiperspirants that simply block sweat by clogging pores with brain damaging aluminum; damaging the skin microbiome even more.

The Skin-Gut Connection

Probiotics don’t just benefit our health as part of our skincare routine, our gut microbiome is also intricately linked to our gut microbiome. The skin, much like the gut, hosts a diverse array of microorganisms. The skin is part of the immune system, and helps defend against pathogens to maintain optimal skin and overall health​​. The balance of the microbiota in the gut can have a big impact on skin health. For example, an imbalance in the gut bacteria (dysbiosis) is often linked to skin conditions like: acne, eczema, and psoriasis.

A Closer look at the Gut & Skin Microbiomes

Both the gut and skin microbiome are essential for skin and over-all health. Here is a brief look at how each works:

  1. Gut Microbiome: The bacteria in the gut produce metabolites and signaling molecules that can influence the host’s immune system, gut barrier function, and even distant organs, including the skin. This communication can impact skin health, contributing to conditions like acne, eczema, and psoriasis.
  2. Skin Microbiome: Similarly, the skin’s microbiome communicates with the body through signaling molecules. These interactions can influence skin immune responses, barrier strength, and can also be affected by signals from the gut microbiome.

Probiotics: Beyond Digestive Health

Commonly associated with gut (gastrointestinal) health, these are live microorganisms that can help repopulate the gut microbiome, which supports immune system function and neurotransmitter production, and provides a host of other health benefits. Recent scientific insights also demonstrated the potential of probiotics in enhancing skin health, combatting conditions like eczema, acne, and allergy related inflammation​​.

The Science Behind Probiotic Skincare

Probiotic skincare products aim to re-balance the skin’s microbiome. They contain live cultures of beneficial bacteria or ingredients that foster that skin microbiome. Think of your skin as more of a garden, and probiotics as the grass, flowers and plants that keep it healthy and vibrant.

Why Your Skin Cleansing Routine May be Bad!

You might not be aware that your daily cleansing routines can strip the skin of its natural, protective bacteria, tilting the balance towards harmful microbes​​​​. Ever notice how your skin is prone to being much drier, or is itchy after a shower or bath? Part of this is the chemicals like chlorine in the water, but also you’ve cleansed your skins own oils and wiped it’s delicate microbiome, with toxic chemical filled soaps, and water. This

The Benefits of Probiotic Skincare

Here are the 2 main benefits of probiotic skincare in a nutshell:

  1. Skin Protection: Probiotics help maintain a microbiota balance on the skin, preventing immune reactions that can weaken skin immune function and lead to inflammation, redness, and bumps​​.
  2. Antimicrobial Properties: Certain probiotic strains produce substances that can suppress harmful bacteria, bolstering your skin’s own health and appearance​​.

Choosing the Right Products

Despite the rising popularity, it’s essential to choose probiotic skincare products wisely. Not all products are scientifically tested, and fancy packaging doesn’t guarantee effectiveness​​. What you want to look for is third party testing and testimonials. Just make sure there are enough testimonials to rule out fake or purchased testimonials.

The Future of Probiotic Skincare

I believe that what we put on our skin is as important as what we consume. Probiotics are a cornerstone of health both for our gut and skin microbiomes and the intricate network of communication between both. The use of probiotics in skincare is the cutting edge of research and marks a turning point in how we understand and care for our skin issues. While more research is needed to fully understand the efficacy of probiotic skincare products, early evidence points towards a promising future in skincare. As a holistic nutritionist (student)…it makes sense that as living creatures full of germs and bacteria…our skin health would benefit from a holistic approach.

Conclusion:

Your skin is alive, and hosts an eco-system of microbiota known as the skin microbiome. Probiotics can foster a healthy skin and gut-microbiome – applied topically in skincare products certain probiotics can boost skin health and ingested to support gut health can improve our health in many different ways, including supporting our skin health. There is a complex network of communication that goes in and between these microbiomes, and chemical skincare products only block this communication and damage these delicate systems. Recent studies show promise for probiotic skincare products, but more research is needed. But as someone in college to become a holistic nutritionist, I’m just finally glad science is starting to recognize that you can’t look at health issue in a vacuum, as western medicine does. Instead a holistic approach that considers all the aspects of your health is the future of healthcare.

So if you can afford it, grab yourself some probiotic skincare products. Consume a healthy diet rich in probiotics (enteric coated so they survive stomach acid) or probiotic rich foods like saurkraut, kimchi and kefir. Avoid ultra-processed junk-food and try to get organic when you can. Get exercise, sleep and drink lot’s of water. And just try to live as healthy as your life and wallet will allow. It’s not about living forever, it’s about having a high quality of life well into your senior years. And despite how we might deny it our skin health (especially for women), affects how we feel about ourselves as we age and ultimately our mental health.

References

  1. Are Probiotics the Future of Skincare?” – The Epoch Times
  2. Should You Use Probiotic Skin Care Products?” – Cleveland Clinic
  3. What You Need to Know About Probiotics in Skin Care Products” – L’Oréal Paris
  4. Health effects of probiotics on the skin” – PubMed
  5. http://www.yalescientific.org/2017/01/eczema-patients-have-a-unique-microbiome
  6. https://forthebiome.com/pages/our-founders

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any health care agency or government entity in Canada or the United States.

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