Probiotics – the next big skin care ingredient?


Unsure what probiotics are? Just stroll through your local grocery store’s dairy aisle and you’ll see them all over yogurt containers these days, as Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium (try saying that three times fast…). These naturally occurring “good bacteria” can be found in our bodies (i.e. digestive system) and in foods: yogurt, kefir and fermented products, such as kimchi and sauerkraut.

Up until the last decade or so, bacteria were seen as the enemy. Antibacterial soaps, gels, wipes, cleaning supplies and more swept the nation in the 90s, but a few decades and a few antibiotic resistant scares later, we’ve realized bacteria can be good – especially, probiotics.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, probiotics are microscopic organisms that live in and on our bodies helping us daily with normal functions: digest food, produce vitamins, antimicrobial properties and strengthening the immune system. But one surprising new finding are probiotics’ ability to alleviate skin issues, such as acne and rosacea when taken orally and applied topically. Say, what!?

When taken orally probiotics create a lining of the digestive tract preventing toxins from leaking out and causing inflammation throughout the body (American Academy of Dermatology). A “leaky gut,” as it’s called, can be due to high stress levels, eating a lot of starchy processed carbohydrates, or consuming too little fiber. Acne and rosacea are both inflammatory skin issues doctors are finding can be affected by a “leaky gut.” A recent South Korean study of 56 acne patients found that drinking a Lactobacillus-fermented dairy drink every day reduced their acne lesions and decreased oil production in a couple of months.

But wait, it gets better.

When applied topically to skin, Whitney P. Bowe, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York, explains probiotic skincare offers three additional types of benefits: kills bad bacteria, soothes the skin, and acts as a protective shield.

The surface of the skin,  similar to our digestive system, has an ecosystem of “good” and “bad” bacteria making up the natural skin flora. In acne and rosacea sufferers, the microbes on the skin’s surface are recognized as invaders and cause an immune response. The result is inflammation, redness, and breakouts. Dr. Bowe explains that probiotics create a barrier preventing the skin from “seeing” the bad bacteria and prevent an immune reaction. Certain types of probiotics have also shown to kill bad bacteria and have skin calming properties; researchers are working to determine which types exactly produce these effects (American Academy of Dermatology)

Looking to try out probiotic skincare? DIY yogurt masks are one approach, but if you want to skip the mess, many beauty brands are bringing forth probiotic skincare lines. One such brand is Tula, founded by Dr. Roshini Raj a board certified gastroenterologist and internist. The brand features seven basic products: cleanser, day and night cream, two serums (one for lifting, one for brightening), neck cream, eye cream and an exfoliating mask. All made with a proprietary probiotic technology containing yogurt extracts, neuropeptides, Vitamin’s A, C and E, and chicory root extract to soothe and rebalance the skin., $28-98

-by Amy Chang
Photographed by author