If you’ve ever struggled with acne, you might think of bacteria on your skin as a bad thing (and you’ve most likely used harsh treatments to strip your face of all of it). But good bacteria and microorganisms are actually beneficial to our skin’s health. That’s why probiotics—a.k.a. the bacteria you actually want on (and inside) your body—have become some of the most sought-after ingredients in skin care. To learn more about how probiotics work, we asked Dr. Roshini Raj to explain. A board-certified, practicing gastroenterologist, Dr. Raj is the founder of TULA—one of our favorite brands whose products contain prebiotics, probiotic extracts and skin superfoods that help to maintain a healthy microbiome and improve skin barrier function.
Dermstore: Why would I want to include probiotics in my skin care routine, and how do they work?
Dr. Roshini Raj: Probiotics are a true breakthrough in skin care, recognized for their clinically proven ability to soothe and calm skin inflammation and balance the microbiome. These natural, good-for-you bacteria work to improve your health, both inside and out. Probiotics can act as a protective layer on the skin, locking in moisture for a more radiant, hydrated and balanced appearance. They are clinically proven to reduce the appearance of inflammation and can also help to reduce the appearance of redness and irritation, which helps improve the skin’s clarity and tone. Probiotics can also help defend the skin against age-accelerating environmental stressors and free radicals, which can help the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
People with all types of skin (sensitive, dry, oily or acne-prone) are likely to see improvements in their complexions by introducing products with probiotic extracts into their regimen.
Topically applying both prebiotics and probiotic extracts helps to keep skin healthy, strong and balanced. Prebiotics support the healthy bacteria on skin while certain probiotic extracts can help to improve skin barrier function and increase cell turnover. It is important to make sure that the healthy bacteria on skin are thriving in order to keep bad bacteria that may cause inflammation, acne and other skin grievances in check.
Are products like cleansers or exfoliating acids messing with my skin’s microbiome?
The “microbiome” refers to the set of organisms that are contained in microscopic bacterial ecosystems known as microbiota. These microbial organisms affect nearly every human bodily process: aging, digestion, the immune system, mood, cognitive function and, of course, the skin.
Skin care choices can also have a significant impact. One of the most important things you can do is to cleanse with a non-stripping cleanser and toner. I would recommend staying away from harsh alcohol-based cleansers and toners, which strip and dry out the skin, leaving it vulnerable to an overgrowth of bad bacteria. Look for pH-balanced cleansers and alcohol-free toners (skin is happiest at a slightly acidic pH of 4.5 to 5.5) that will gently cleanse the skin without stripping it of its good bacteria and natural skin barrier function.
Will eating a bunch of yogurt or kimchi (or taking probiotic supplements) help my skin look better?
Consuming probiotic-rich foods or taking probiotic supplements introduces healthy bacteria into the gut to improve digestive balance and calm inflammation to improve skin issues and overall health and wellness. We all should be aiming to support our gut health by either consuming probiotic- and prebiotic-rich foods like yogurt with active cultures, kimchi or artichokes and/or taking probiotic supplements.
Will restoring good bacteria solve all my skin issues?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to skin issues. If the good and bad bacteria aren’t balanced in your gut/intestines, then you can suffer from skin conditions such as acne, redness, psoriasis, dry skin and eczema. Using a skin care regimen that contains probiotic extracts helps to balance bad bacteria with good, helping to support healthy, glowing and balanced skin. Gut health and other lifestyle factors also have a very strong impact on skin health. It’s important to approach skin health from the inside out by eating gut-healthy foods and getting good rest and regular exercise.