Think your probiotics live in your fridge? Well, think again. They’ve just made the leap on to your bathroom shelf too.
Probiotics. They sound familiar, right?
Generally taken in capsule form to maintain a healthy gut, they’ve become a bit of a buzzy in the world of wellness recently, hailed as ‘supplemental superheroes’ for gut and digestive ailments.
And while the wellness industry has come around to the idea of ‘good’ bacteria, there is still a disconnect in society’s relationship with bugs and beauty. As humans, we are awash with microorganisms, but most people are a little uncomfortable with the idea of bacteria on their skin.
Yet, at present, we are all probably dutifully slathered in a manner of potions – serums, mists and masks – each legitimately crawling with bugs... of the bacterial persuasion, that is.
Over the last few years, there’s been an explosion of biotic-infused skincare products, along with a surge in studies investigating their powers to improve every kind of complexion concern, including slowing the signs of ageing.
“Consumers used to believe all bacteria [on the skin] were dangerous, but science has changed this viewpoint,” says Global Analyst David Tyrrell in Mintel’s The Future of Facial Skincare report.
“We now know skin bacteria can be good for skin health. Brands are seizing this knowledge and creating next generation ‘skin gentle’ face products that are also bacteria friendly.”
But with research on the skin’s microbiome (our own blankets of indigenous and harmonious bacterial goodness) in its early stages, probiotic beauty is still a somewhat murky category, so here’s some more info on the biome-bolstering products and their claims.
The health benefits of eating foods that contain probiotics, such as yoghurt, kefir, and kimchi, or of ingesting probiotic supplements are well documented, but now a growing body of evidence points to the value of topical probiotics for treating everything from acne and rosacea to wrinkles and ageing skin.
But before you go reaching for that fermented cabbage to DIY a face mask, know that the bacteria found in probiotic foodstuffs are too big to be absorbed into the skin, and no one will really appreciate you coming to bed smelling of fizzy vinegar.
Instead, probiotic-infused skincare products allow beneficial microorganisms to colonise the skin, with each specific strain and species having its own unique properties and purpose. Just as probiotics help to balance our gut microbiome, probiotic skincare supports the flora (all 100 trillion of them) that naturally occur on the skin.
Essentially a way of boosting the skin’s natural immune response and reinforcing its barrier, probiotic skincare can work to reverse the damage done to our fragile bacterial ecosystems by modern lifestyles by: reducing inflammation (making it a potential solution for rosacea or acne); providing greater resilience to environmental aggressors such as UV, pollution and stress; regulate pH levels, and keep our skin looking plump and dewy.
The Probiotic Concentrate, €44.45, Aurelia Probiotic Skincare
Face Vinegar, €26, Gallinée
With the rise and rise of potent retinoids, antioxidants and peptides, skincare formulas that support the skin’s immune system and the first line of defence have been overlooked. It’s important to remember that if this structure is not supported, inflammation can occur and can negate any benefits the skin gets from high-tech ingredients.
While some biotic skincare products can harness live cultures to buoy skin’s supply of bacteria, most brands use inactive forms, due to the potential instability that comes with the former. “At Aurelia, we use a non-live probiotic from bifidobacteria in the form of a glycoprotein – a molecule which helps cell-to-cell communication,” explains brand founder and skincare entrepreneur Claire Vero. “We then combine them with a milk peptide to protect and restore your skin from within.”
During this production method, the live bacteria are put through a special fermentation process, making non-live probiotics completely stable, while maintaining all of the immune boosting benefits.
As with all living things, good bacteria require food to survive and prebiotics are the essential compounds that feed our skin bugs, creating an optimal environment for them to grow in and promoting a more diverse array of species too.
Cleanser Concentrate, €86, KYPRIS Beauty
Slow Age Anti-Ageing Eye Cream, €24, Vichy
Pre- and Probiotics
Carrying even more credibility than probiotic products in skincare expert Paula Begoun’s of Paula’s Choice opinion, these useful skin energy supplies come in the form of oligosaccharides, galactooligosaccharides and fructooligosaccharides (quite the tongue twisters).
“We incorporate both pre- and probiotics into our products, as together, they help support your own personal bacterial ecosystem and they are both extremely safe ingredients,” says Marie Drago, founder of award-winning probiotic skincare brand, Gallinée.
“Bringing both prebiotics and probiotics into the equation can help rebuild the skin’s natural bacterial ecosystem, giving you back that glow you’re supposed to have.”
La Culture Hydrating Face Cream, €40, Gallinée
Still reluctant to think of yourself as a walking Petri dish?
Yeah, we’re coming around to the idea too. It’s still an emerging category though, and we’re looking forward to pre and probiotic skincare becoming a more widely formulated area of the beauty industry.
Who knew bacteria in our bathroom would ever be a good thing?