Bacteria and beauty are not usually synonymous, but in the case of one’s skin, emerging, buzzworthy research shows they very well should be. In the past, squeaky clean skin was a good thing, but new studies show that over-cleansing this sensitive microbiome might actually do more harm than good. In fact, it may be stripping the skin of its own natural protective barrier.
There are over 1 trillion bacteria living in and on the skin, and these essential bacteria work together to combat environmental toxins, fight infections, boost immunity, and even regulate pH levels. Better yet, these bacteria keep the skin looking plump and youthful and they aid in that dewy complexion many strive to have. So, what does this mean for the veritable medicine cabinet of antibacterial wipes, harsh cleansers, and antiseptic toners? Simply put – get rid of them.
Since the 1930s, researchers have been investigating the gut-brain-skin axis2 with the hypothesis that there is a direct relationship between emotions and the gastrointestinal tract and, in turn, complexion. Recent research shows that, like ingesting probiotics for gut health, introducing probiotics into a skin care regimen can actually help promote a healthier skin microbiome. Here are five specific ways that probiotics can benefit skin.
PROBIOTICS HELP IMPROVE INFLAMMATORY SKIN CONDITIONS
Probiotics work to stabilize conditions like acne and rosacea, as they have a calming effect on the skin. Furthermore, probiotics effectively prevent the immune system from attacking other organisms on and in the body. These attacks are often exhibited on the most visible microbiome front and center on the skin with the appearance of breakouts, rashes, and other inflammatory flareups. Introducing probiotics, essentially, restores a sense of harmony.
PROBIOTICS HELP STRENGTHEN AND REPAIR THE SKIN’S MICROBIOME
Skin faces an onslaught of harsh environmental damage, free radicals, pollutants, and more. Probiotics bolster the skin’s natural defenses, help to promote a lower, healthier skin pH, and help to protect the skin from transient pathogens that might otherwise disturb this delicate and diverse microbiome. Renowned dermatologist and author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin, Dr. Whitney Bowe says, “The greater the variety of bacterial species on the skin, the healthier its barrier will be.”3
TOPICAL PROBIOTICS CAN REDUCE THE OVERALL APPEARANCE OF AGING
Such products actually work to enhance the skin’s moisture-absorbing capabilities. By doing so, they effectively diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, tighten pores, and contain powerful exfoliating properties that reduce dry and dull skin without disturbing the sensitive bacteria the skin needs. Furthermore, using the right topical probiotics can nourish the skin, as well as soothe and heal sun-damaged skin.
PROBIOTICS CAN HELP COMBAT THE EFFECTS OF MEDICATIONS ON SKIN
While medications may be necessary to treat and prevent certain ailments, they can also disturb or, in some cases, destroy healthy gut flora that are essential for overall skin health. Introducing probiotics into a daily meal plan can help foster the growth of healthy bacteria while medicines continue to combat the bad. Since, as mentioned, there’s a direct correlation between gut and skin health, there is often a visible – and obvious – change for the better.
PROBIOTICS CAN STIMULATE THE PRODUCTION OF NATURAL MOISTURIZERS
The beauty industry spends millions of dollars each year instructing how to effectively moisturize and protect the skin. However, by introducing specifically-balanced probiotics into a diet and skin care routine, skin can actually regain its ability to moisturize and sustain itself.
So, where does one start in this probiotic skin care movement? Bowe and top researchers say that diversity is key. It is essential to introduce many different strains into the body to promote the growth and stability of healthy flora. Since the body plays host to trillions of different types of bacteria, seeking those essential bacteria strains to treat different skin conditions is essential.
However, it is important to start small, aiming for a cleanser, first, and adding fermented foods and probiotics to one’s diet. Foods like yogurt and kombucha can work their magic from the outside-in.