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Understanding Topical Probiotic Skin Care

By: Stacey Kole , Reviewed By: Dr. Emmy Graber

bowl of yogurt

Eat a bowl of yogurt or drink a bottle of kombucha, and the result is the same: You're delivering healthy bacteria — aka probiotics — to your body's digestive system. But it turns out the live cultures in yogurt have more than just immune system benefits. While research on a link between probiotics and skin benefits is still being conducted, initial research and anecdotal evidence indicates that when incorporated into topical skin treatments, probiotics can moisturize, reduce inflammation and brighten dull skin.

The Science Behind It


Just as good bacteria delivers some health benefits, skin conditions – think rosacea, acne and eczema – may also be impacted. As reported in the journal "Gut Pathogens," a study in 1999 found skin-specific benefits of lactic acid bacterial application. In addition to eating a balanced diet and taking a probiotic supplement, you can apply topical solutions containing probiotics directly to your skin. They may help reduce inflammation and restore skin's natural balance, in turn having a calming effect on your face.

Stressed, Dry and Dull Skin


It's not necessary to slather Greek yogurt all over your skin. You can buy any of a variety of creams and serums created to help restore a healthy bacterial balance to your epidermis. Many skin-care companies sell products with probiotic technology that use extracts of bacteria or those comprised of broken-down, non-living probiotics. These probiotics help enhance the skin natural defense barriers, keeping moisture in and harmful bacteria out. By combining probiotics with ingredients ranging from cucumber and pine bark to antioxidants and hyaluronic acid, you get a powerful product that battles bad bacteria on your face.

Acne-Prone Skin


Acne is caused by a variety of factors, but gut inflammation — caused by an imbalance of healthy versus unhealthy bacteria — can seep out of your stomach and erupt on your skin. Consuming probiotic supplements and foods — think a Lactobacillus-fermented beverage — can reduce sebum and minimize pimples. Topical treatments with similar ingredients, such as acidophilus probiotic facial lotions, can have similar effects on acne-prone skin. Their antimicrobial properties work as a defense system of sorts on delicate skin, serving as a defensive shield against bacterial infection.

Rosacea and Skin Irritation


Skin inflammation, when severe enough, can lead to chronic conditions like rosacea and eczema. In these cases, probiotic products help calm skin cells that are reacting to the bad bacteria they perceive as a threat. Combined with ingredients like natural extracts and nourishing antioxidants, probiotic skin-care topical products can both soothe and strengthen the skin barrier. This may result in healthier skin, with diminished redness and irritation. Most of these products are not required to meet any standards from the FDA. Speak with a dermatologist, preferably one not selling the product from his/her office, about which products actually show results in their patients.

This article has been reviewed by board-certified dermatologist Dr. Emmy Graber.

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