You’ve probably heard of probiotic supplements and probiotics in yogurt, i.e. good bacteria, that help your digestive system work at its best. But do you know that probiotics are routinely used in skincare as well?
So how do probiotics take the leap from helping your body maintain a balance of good bacteria in your digestive track to helping your skin look its best? According to a post from Daily Beauty (the beauty blog from New Beauty magazine) probiotics can benefit the skin in numerous ways:
Probiotics are bacterial microorganisms that are well-known for their ability to alleviate certain internal issues, such as diarrhea, IBS and lactose intolerance. However, dermatologists and other skin experts have found that their benefits go beyond digestive health.
Since acne is partially caused by an overgrowth of bacteria, ingested probiotics help to treat blemish-prone skin by rebalancing bacteria in the stomach to create an overload of good bacteria. Topically, they provide protection against harmful bacteria, restore balance, and build up skin’s protective barrier and normal bacterial flora to help eliminate breakouts.
Eczema is believed to be caused by a skin imbalance that causes barrier dysfunction. Some dermatologists have found that probiotics improve eczema by aiding good bacteria and allowing them to continue releasing oxygen so skin breathes better, blood flows, and balance is restored.
Probiotics may even help fight the external aggressors that speed up aging. Destruction of skin’s barrier due to factors like the sun, smoke and pollution leads to greater dispersion of harmful bacteria, which can cause inflammation, loss of elasticity, and ultimately, wrinkles. But probiotics can help improve moisturization, stimulate cell functions, and regenerate mature skin so it becomes softer and smoother.
According to the article “In the Genes” from Allure back in April, 2011 (I was unable to find the article online):
Probiotics are associated with anti-inflammation and – here’s where we’ll get your attention – promoting glowing skin. That’s why they’ve been used in skin care for decades. The probiotic du jour is called Bio-Lysat: Present in both L’Oreal Paris Youth Code and Lancome Genifique products, it’s a lactobacillus – a form of “healthy” bacteria generally found in the gastrointestinal tract and vagina. … [Jeannette] Graf [assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center] explains it, “The fermentation of bifidus bacteria triggers keratin B6 gene expression, which is involved with cell renewal and moisture-barrier repair.” Translation: This probiotic supports your body’s own ongoing healthy-cell-turnover and moisture retaining capacities.
But what do dermatologists have to say about the use of probiotics in skincare lines? There are many differing views:
… research published in the British Journal of Dermatology suggested that eczema and the associated itching improved after patients were treated with a probiotic cream.
And, just this month, the Journal of Dermatological Science devoted coverage to a small study that seemed to show that, using probiotics, it is possible to reduce the levels of acne-causing bacteria without harming the good bacteria.
All this is great news if you suffer from eczema or acne, but is it really beneficial for the rest of us to buy into probiotic skincare? …
Dr Nick Lowe, consultant dermatologist and spokesperson for the British Association of Dermatologists, cautions against getting carried away with the promise of such products.
‘I’m just not convinced about some of the claims that are being made with regard to anti-ageing,’ he says. ‘Until more microbiological studies can prove it, I’ll continue eating my yoghurt rather than smearing it on my face.
In his book The New Ideal of Skin Health dermatologist Carl Thornfeldt gives probiotics in skincare products a very cautious, yet somewhat positive review (pages 385-387):
As we all know, certain pathogenic bacteria induce infection, and aggravate or activate acne, rosacea, dermatitis and psoriasis. These harmful microbes also cause damage to the skin barrier, and activate inflammation and stress, which may lead to fine lines and furrows. Probiotics applied directly onto the skin surface are thought to provide competitive inhibition of this pathogenic bacteria. Additionally, nutritional deficiencies and immune imbalance hinder barrier repair and magnify destructive chronic inflammation. Thus, oral probiotics are often recommended as nutritional supplements for certain skin diseases.
The interest in probiotics has resulted in at least one marketed skin care line that has also added a variety of nutrients and pre-biotics to the formulation, upon which the probiotic bacteria are supposed to act. (I think Dr. Thornfeldt is referring to Nude Skincare here) This line does not claim to have tested their products in double-blind prospective, placebo or approved prescription, controlled human clinical trials, nor has quoted any data.
The effect of BL were evaluated first on two different models. Using ex vivo human skin explant model we found a statistically significant improvement versus placebo in various parameters associated with inflammation such as a decrease in vasodilation, oedema, mast cell degranulation and TNF-alpha release. Moreover, using nerve cell cultures in vitro, we showed that after 6 h of incubation in culture medium (0.3–1%), the probiotic lysate significantly inhibited capsaicin-induced CGRP release by neurones. Then, a topical cream containing the active extract was tested in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Sixty-six female volunteers with reactive skin were randomly given either the cream with the bacterial extract at 10% (n = 33) or the control cream (n = 33). The volunteers applied the cream to the face, arms and legs twice a day for two months. Skin sensitivity was assessed by stinging test (lactic acid) and skin barrier recovery was evaluated by measuring trans-epidermal water loss following barrier disruption induced by repeated tape-stripping at D1, D29 and D57. The results demonstrated that the volunteers who applied the cream with bacterial extract had a significant decrease in skin sensitivity at the end of the treatment. Moreover, the treatment led to increase skin resistance against physical and chemical aggression compared to the group of volunteers who applied the control cream. Notably, the number of strippings required to disrupt skin barrier function was significantly increased for volunteers treated with the active cream. Clinical and self-assessment scores revealed a significant decrease in skin dryness after 29 days for volunteers treated with the cream containing the 10% bacterial extract. Since in vitro studies demonstrated that, on one hand, isolate sensitive neurones release less CGRP under capsaicin stimulation in the presence of the bacterial extract and, on the other hand, increased skin resistance in volunteers applying the test cream, we speculate that this new ingredient may decrease skin sensitivity by reducing neurone reactivity and neurone accessibility. The results of this studies demonstrate that this specific bacterial extract has a beneficial effect on reactive skin. These findings suggest that new approaches, based on a bacteria lysate, could be developed for the treatment and/or prevention of symptoms related to reactive skin.
Bottom line: It seems that probiotics could be a great skincare ingredient once more research is done on its benefits when applied topically.
Skincare products with probiotics in them:
- Bioelements Anti-Aging Serum
- Clinique Medical (By the way, has anyone ever used this skincare line? I can’t seem to find any current information about it)
- SK1N Probiotics
Image from bonappetit.com