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Probiotics Are In Your Skincare Products Now, Too — Here's Why

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You know when you learn a new word and you suddenly start hearing it everywhere? That’s how I feel about probiotics. The wellness world has been buzzing about the benefits of probiotics — which, basically, are strains of good bacteria — for a while now, especially in terms of gut health. We take probiotic supplements, use probiotic-spiked spices, and eat probiotic-rich fermented foods in the name of cultivating a healthy gut microbiome. But lately, probiotics are popping up in topical skincare products, as well; begging the question, “Do I really need to put probiotics on my face now, too?” Simply put, the answer is yes.

Let’s start at the beginning: The body is teeming with trillions of living microflora, sometimes referred to as “healthy bacteria” or “good bacteria.” They help counter the effects of harmful bacteria by boosting the immune system, reducing inflammation, and fighting oxidative stress. Things like alcohol, sugar, antibiotics, and cigarettes can kill these essential microorganisms; but we can add more to our system by taking probiotic supplements.

The Benefits of Probiotic Skincare

Recent studies have shown that our gut microbiome isn’t the only one that needs attention, though. “Our skin has a natural bacterial flora, a microbiome that plays a role in skin’s defense against infection, foreign agents, and general skin health,” Dr. Neil Sadick of Sadick Dermatology explains to The Zoe Report via email. “Supplying our skin with probiotics, (the bacteria itself) and prebiotics (food for those bacteria) can benefit the skin, particularly in conditions such as rosacea, psoriasis, eczema, and acne.”

Besides reducing inflammation, skin-specific probiotics have been shown to help with dryness and signs of aging. Dr. Sadick tells us, “The [topical] metabolism of these organisms leads to the production of hyaluronic acid, peptides, and vitamins that support hydration and skin elasticity. ” When applied to the scalp, probiotics can hydrate and strengthen hair follicles, too.

Cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson, founder of BeautyStat.com, agrees. “Probiotics may help improve skin function by hydrating and moisturizing the skin,” he tells us, adding that both prebiotics and probiotics are essential for fostering a healthy skin microbiome.

The Difference Between Gut Probiotics and Skin Probiotics

When I asked Dr. Sadick what makes topical probiotics different from ingestible probiotics, his answer surprised me: “They're not different, aside from the fact that you don’t really want to eat your skincare. Otherwise, skincare with prebiotics such as coconut oil and sugar molecules, or probiotics such as lactobacillus [a type of bacteria commonly found in yogurt] are the same ingredients we find in food products, only formulated to be in a form that’s compatible with topical application on human skin.”

This explains why DIY probiotic masks have been on the rise. Yogurt — a natural source of probiotics — is a particularly popular at-home face mask for one major reason: It works. In the scientific article Acne Vulgaris and Probiotics, researchers discovered that a type of bacteria found in most yogurts can actually help heal acne “when applied to the skin for seven days as a cream.”

Some natural skincare enthusiasts will even pop open a probiotic pill, mix the powdered contents with water, and apply the mixture to the skin for a quick-fix of the good stuff, but there’s not enough data to support this method. “It might work,” speculates Robinson, “but the bacteria used for the gut may not be right for the skin. I recommend using skincare with probiotics that has been tested.”

What To Look For

To be on the safe side, it’s best to use products that are specifically formulated for the skin or scalp. Dr. Sadick warns, “Probiotics are fragile and can deteriorate; an ideal formulation should be packaged correctly.” Look for opaque glass packaging, which extends the shelf life of natural ingredients and prevents light degradation. For extra protection, store your prebiotic and probiotic skincare in the fridge — these are living organisms, after all.

Ready to boost your skin’s microbiome? These prebiotic and probiotic products bring beauty and bacteria together in the best way.

Shop Prebiotic and Probiotic Beauty

Kefir Ultimate Recovery Mask

Tula

Kefir is basically fermented milk — and while that may not sound very glamorous, after using Tula's Kefir Ultimate Recovery Mask, your skin may beg to differ. In one trial, 90 percent of women said it was the most hydrating mask they had ever used.

Pre + Probiotic Daily Mist

Marie Veronique

Marie Veronique's daily face mist includes prebiotics and probiotics to cover all the bases in one easy step.

Face Vinegar

Gallinée

Gallinée's Face Vinegar is next-level: It contains Actibiome, "a novel prebiotic that works to calm stressed skin," and "postbiotics" to help good bacteria flourish.

Scalp & Body Scrub

OUAI

Of course cool-girl hair care brand OUAI is on top of the season's trendiest ingredient. The brand's Scalp & Body Scrub includes probiotics and smells incredible, too.

ALIVE Prebiotic Moisturizer SPF 15

Algenist

This moisturizer feeds all the good bacteria in your skin's natural ecosystem, giving them the ability to fight off the bad (read: acne-causing) bacteria.

Vitamin C Probiotic Polish

OSEA

"Adding some antioxidants such as vitamin C to probiotics can make a powerful cream to strengthen the skin's defense," Dr. Sadick tells us. That's exactly what OSEA's Vitamin C Probiotic Polish does.

Probiotic Skin Refiner

The Beauty Chef

The addition of lactic acid means this probiotic toner gently exfoliates, too.

Purifying Mask

Tata Harper

Kaolin clay, willow bark, and fermented extracts come together in Tata Harper's all-natural Purifying Mask.

Cleanser Concentrate

Kypris

Massage a tiny bit of this Cleanser Concentrate from Kypris on damp skin for your daily dose of probiotics.

Coconut Probiotic Water Rehab Cream

Pacifica

As Pacifica says on its site, "Even skin suffers hangovers due to stress, late nights, pollution, and lack of sleep." The brand's Rehab Cream works to restore your skin's natural radiance.

Shampoo

Mother Dirt

Finally, a shampoo that cleans without stripping your scalp. One TZR writer used this shampoo and noticed more hydrated, less dandruff-riddled hair after two weeks.

Rapids Soothing Probiotic Bubble Mask

H2O Plus

Made with champagne, this mask bubbles into a foam consistency as it nourishes your microbiome. Cheers to that.

Eye Revitalizing Duo

Aurelia Probiotic Skincare

The delicate skin under your eyes deserves a daily helping of probiotics, too. Aurelia Probiotic Skincare's set works together to de-puff and brighten.

Lipikar Balm AP + Body Cream with Shea Butter and Glycerin

La Roche-Posay

Hydrate all over with La Roche-Posay's Body Cream to deliver key bacteria to your entire body.

Clear Skin Probiotic Cleanser

Éminence Organic Skin Care

Éminence Organic's Clear Skin Probiotic Cleanser is one of the first probiotic skincare products on the market, and it's also made with tea tree oil to naturally clear and heal breakouts.

Probiotic Hair Mask

Tela Organics

After 10 minutes, expect shinier, bouncier, all-around healthier hair.