As told by The Natural Skin Doctor, ND who dishes on everything you wanna know about the ever so trendy subject of the plethora of (un)healthy bacteria that lives on your skin and how you can affect this with the use of topical probiotics. So sit down and make yourself a coconut yogurt smoothie and get ready for a good read!I was recently chatting with a patient about the use of probiotics to enhance skin health. She had heard of a few skincare products advertising the benefits of topical probiotics and was curious to know if this was something she should look in to in addition to taking probiotic supplements. Research has long supported the use of oral probiotics for a variety of skin concerns – from eczema to acne, but applying probiotics directly to the skin is a new area of interest!
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are helpful bacteria that protect the body from harmful bacteria. These microbes are helpful in creating a well-balanced ecosystem in the body.
There are theories that altered gut flora and intestinal permeability lead to a systemic inflammatory response that can present with skin manifestations like acne and rosacea. Taking probiotic capsules have been found to alleviate allergic and inflammatory skin conditions by rebalancing gut (Hacini-Rachinel F, 2009). There is also growing evidence that probiotic supplements promote increased ceramide production within the skin barrier. Ceramides occur naturally within healthy skin and act like the glue that holds skin cells together. Ceramides are also critical in attracting and retaining moisture within the skin.
One thing people worry about with regards to oral probiotics is the presence of dairy in the formulations. This is especially a concern among my patients suffering from acne, eczema and other skin concerns that often flare up with the consumption of cow’s milk dairy products. In order for a probiotic to grow, it requires food and the best growth medium is milk though there are also a number of alternative growth mediums that don’t rely on dairy. Should you be interested, I would recommend the following dairy-free probiotics regularly to help heal the skin Pure Encapsulations Probiotic-5, Designs for Health Probiotic Supreme DF or Xymogen ProbioMax DF
Ok so oral probiotics seem like a good idea but what about applying them directly to your skin? Are they worth the hype? Proprionibacterium, Staphyloccoci, Micrococci and Corynebacteria are resident bacteria on healthy skin. When skin is compromised, resident bacteria can become pathogens or contaminant bacteria from the environment can colonize the skin’s surface leading to acne, folliculitis and other skin infections. Studies indicate that alterations in skin microflora play a significant role in conditions such as atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, acne and skin cancer (Zeeuwen PL, 2013). Recent research suggests that topical probiotics may be suitable alternatives to topical antibiotics for treating acne (Kang BS, 2009). Topical probiotics have also been evaluated for treating sensitive and dry skin.
What about dairy-derived probiotics in my skincare?
Unless you have a severe allergy to dairy, there is no reason to worry about skincare products containing probiotics and other ingredients derived from dairy. The dairy-acne connection stems from digestion of the milk triggering a cascade of hormonal events that ultimately leads to acne; applying product to the skin does not trigger that cascade. It is also important to note that dairy-derived probiotics are one of the more stable forms for skincare and provide some of the most efficacious results because they also provide lactic acid which helps to stimulate cell turnover and skin hydration.
I love that probiotics have become the next big thing in skincare and that well-educated consumers are opting for holistic and natural treatments for their skin concerns rather than or in addition to pharmaceutical interventions.
Zeeuwen PL, K. M. (2013). Microbiome and skin diseases. Clinical Immunology .
Hacini-Rachinel F, G. H. (2009). Oral probiotic control skin inflammation by acting on both effector and regulatory T cells.PLoS ONE .
Kang BS, S. J. (2009). Antimicrobial activity of enterocins from Enterococcus faecalis SL-5 against Proprionibacterium acnes, the causative agent in acne vulgris, and its therapeutic effect. Journal of Microbiology , 47 (1), 101-109.