When you think of probiotics, you might envision Jamie Lee Curtis sitting on a couch eating yogurt. Or if you’ve ever been prescribed an antibiotic by your doctor, chances are they recommended eating yogurt or taking a probiotic to help counteract some of the side effects. But probiotics in my skin care products? Let’s dig a little deeper and see what all the buzz is about.
Bacteria in your body outnumbers your body’s cells by 10-1… say what? That might make you feel like you need some hand sanitizer. But the truth is - most bacteria are totally harmless. Even having the right kind of bacteria can be good for us. These bacteria spend their time aiding in digestion, consuming bad bacteria, and even boosting our immune system. So when we don’t have the right balance of good bacteria in our guts, the growth of yeast and unhealthy bacteria can occur, prohibiting proper digestion of lactose and causing an upset stomach. When your doctor prescribes an antibiotic and then recommends you increasing your yogurt intake or taking a probiotic, it’s to help your body restore the good bacteria that are increasing your gut's productivity while also allowing the medicine to kill the bacteria that is making you sick.
So what are the good bacteria?
Probiotics are living microorganisms. When these microorganisms are administered in proper amounts, they provide great health benefits to the host. They have been proven to help reduce gas, constipation and even help against irritable bowel syndrome. Probiotics are a good place to start if you’re having regular digestive issues and, in the process, discover a new way to healthy skin!
Aside from our digestive system, probiotics are known for their benefits in reducing inflammation, symptoms of depression and anxiety, balancing blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels, supporting bone health, aiding in weight management and regulating your appetite, repairing tissue damage from injuries, improving overall immune system function and last, but certainly not least – probiotics can be useful for treating acne, rosacea, eczema and other skin disorders to help you achieve a clearer complexion.
How will probiotics improve my skin?
There is definitely a connection between having a healthy gut and healthy skin. While bacteria are crucial to our overall health and digestion, having a healthy gut builds our immune system and overall body function. There have been studies in places like Russia, Italy and Korea that show probiotics used in conjunction with acne treatments increase the rate of skin healing. They also seem to fight against aging by providing additional hydration, improving the appearance of fine lines and reducing damage from the sun.
By finding a healthy skin care regimen that works with your budget and lifestyle in addition to adding a probiotic supplement to your diet, you can make the most of your skin and maximize the effects of your skin care products. Using a daily moisturizer, skin care treatments like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide or other prescription medications will be complimented by the effectiveness of probiotics.
Consider these 5 ways probiotics can improve your skin:
1. Strengthen skin barrier
Our skin is our largest organ covering the surface of our body to create a barrier between the outside world and our internal organs. Without that protective layer our bodies would be free to absorb bacteria, toxins, pollutants and other pathogens making it impossible to survive. The skin microbiome (outer layer) protects against the free radicals which are known to accelerate the aging process. Probiotics help to strengthen the barrier keeping more of the bad out and more of the good in.
2. Wrinkle prevention
This is something we seem to always be on the hunt for. Unfortunately some of us don’t start thinking about wrinkle prevention until we notice the first signs of aging. Is it too late? It’s never too late to create good skin care habits and using probiotics to flush out the toxins in our bodies help to repair harmful damage cause by external forces. It may slow down the process of the signs of aging becoming more visible.
3. Improve Moisture
Probiotics are effective when taken through the digestive track, but also when applied topically in a cream or lotion. Streptococcus thermophiles are the active bacterium that has been found to increase moisture in the skin and help to uphold moisture. Skin that is well-hydrated is slower to show the signs of aging and improve clarity and brightness.
4. Fight Acne
Supplementing with probiotics will improve the quality of health in your gut, which can be directly correlated to acne. It may or may not be in every case, but some studies have shown certain foods that are more likely to cause an increase in oil production ultimately leading to clogged pores and breakouts. Certain dairy products have shown increase inflammation and stress on the body. Biochemical markers like these are higher in acne sufferers. Oral probiotics can help to regulate pro-inflammatory cytokines releases within the skin. And here are another two big words for you – Increasing amounts of Lactobacillus (a specific species of bacteria) and Saccharomyces cerevisiae (type of yeast) both found in some probiotics, have shown remarkable improvement in those with acne.
5. Autoimmune Skin Diseases
This skin disorder directly connected to inflammation. Oral probiotics have been proven to be beneficial for sufferers of the skin disorder. There are many strains of psoriasis, but the following are those that are most highly effected by the consumption of probiotics:
- lactobacillus rhamnous
- lactobacillus acidophilus
- lactobacillus lactis
- streptococcus thermophiles
- bifidobacteria bifidum
- bifidobacteria longum
This causes your skin to become dry and cracked, itchy and red. Oftentimes, eczema is associated with fungal infections, however it’s also been closely related to Celiac disease which is exacerbated the digestion of wheat. Using a probiotic to improve gut function can help to improve symptoms of eczema in particular with the use of Saccharomyces boulardii – a strain of yeast.Rosacea
This is extreme redness on the skin due to blood vessel enlargement primarily found on the cheeks. There is still some debate in the medical community as to the causes of rosacea, but it can be very noticeable and cause great emotional stress for suffers of it. It can ultimately affect the shape of our nose over time. Probiotics have been shown to improve and prevent rosacea when applied directly to the affected area or administered internally.
How do you choose the right probiotic?
Ultimately there are 2 different types of probiotics with several variations: oral and topical. Consider these objectives:
- Oral probiotics provide a CFU or “colony forming units” number. This identifies the number of organisms per serving. The higher the CFU number, the more effective the supplement will be. There are some supplements that contain a higher number of strains than another supplement. There are advantages to each species of bacteria, so the more species a supplement contains the better. The multiple numbers of strains is especially important in improving the overall health of your gut, especially if you are currently taking antibiotics or have taken them in the past.
Some oral pills or capsules are designed to be slow-release or acid resistant. You want to have as many bacteria as possible reach your intestines where they are the most effective. Some of the harsh acids in your stomach can kill the probiotics before they even have a chance to act, so research the way your supplement is engineered.
Another important factor to keep in mind is that some probiotics have to be refrigerated. This may be an issue if you travel or prefer to order your products online and cannot control the temperature of their environment in which they are transported. It may be best to find a probiotic that does not need to be refrigerated to avoid the package getting too warm and becoming less effective.
- Topical probiotics may be the option if you are looking for a product to go straight to the source. Topical probiotics are still fairly new to the medical industry and beauty care world. Several manufacturers are in the process of testing different strains of bacteria and extracts of probiotics in various skin care products. There are some already on the market in the form of moisturizers, peels, lotions and cleansers. Research will continue to move forward and as it does, more and more industry leaders will jump on board and create products to appeal to the demanding market.
Are there any side effects to either oral or topical probiotics and how often should I take it?
As with any new product, oral or topical, you need to be aware of any sudden changes in your skins health or overall appearance. You may experience abdominal discomfort until your body has adapted to this new introduction. Keep in mind, your body is changing the way it digests food and therefore, may take some time getting used to it. Please seek council from a doctor or trusted healthcare professional if you should have any questions or concerns about introducing probiotics in to your overall health and skin care routine.
If you find a probiotic that contains 20-50 billion live organisms per dose and a combination of the right type of bacteria for the concerns you are having, you should take the probiotics as directed, once or twice a day, ideally with meals. You may also need to increase the amount of probiotic you are supplementing as your body adjusts to the new introduction of bacteria.
If you are interested in trying a topical probiotic, but want to make sure you know what’s going in to the product before you apply it to your skin, here are some DIY recipes you can make at home.
6 DIY Probiotic Skincare Recipes
1. Charcoal and Probiotic Mask
Ingredients: 1 tsp activated charcoal
1 tsp organic plain yogurt
1 tsp aloe vera (optional)
2 drops of tea tree oil (optional)
By using charcoal in conjunction with probiotics, you are removing the bad toxins from your skin and cleaning out your pores. The yogurt contains probiotics that replace the bad bacteria in your skin. Aloe vera helps to relieve excess oil from the skin and is high in Vitamin A, C and E.
In a small mixing bowl, add charcoal, plain yogurt and essential oil. Mix the ingredients with a spoon. Apply a small amount to your finger tips and blend together. Gently apply a thin later to pre-washed face, but avoiding the eye area. Remove the mask with warm water and repeat once a week.
Honey Jojoba Probiotic Face Mask
Ingredients: 2-3 capsules of probiotics
1 tsp of jojoba oil
1 tsp of raw honey
In a small bowl, combine jojoba oil and raw honey. Open the probiotic capsules into the bowl and mix well. Leave the mask on for 15-20 minutes and rinse carefully with warm water.
Yogurt Probiotic Mask
Ingredients: 1 Tbsp plain organic yogurt (full fat preferred)
1 capsule of probiotics
For oily skin: ½ turmeric powder (optional)
For dry skin: 1 tsp olive oil (optional)
Mix the ingredients together in a small bowl. Apply to your face in small circular motions. Leave the mask on for 10-30 minutes. 10 minutes will complete a moisturizing mission and 30 minutes will include deep cleansing elements. Rinse the mask with warm water and pat dry.
Probiotic Face Cream
Ingredients: ¼ cup shea butter
½ tsp raw honey
1 Tbsp aloe vera gel
2 capsules of probiotics
7 drops tea tree oil
5 drops lavender essential oil
5 drops geranium essential oil
*You will also need a double boiler, hand mixer and 4oz glass jar
Melt down the shea butter to liquid form by placing it in a double boiler over low heat on the stove. As the substance liquefies, remove from heat and allow to cool for approximately 2 minutes. At this time, add in the honey and aloe very gel and stir well. The mixture now needs to cool completely in the refrigerator for another 15 minutes. Empty 2 probiotic capsules into the cream and then add more essential oils. Using the hand mixer, mix together the ingredients to form a substance you can still poke your finger down into. You should be forming a fluffy white cream. Scoop your probiotic cream into small glasses and store in a cool, dry place.
Understanding probiotics and why bacteria are good for your skin is just the beginning – and the research is continuing. Be a part of trending skin care treatments that have multiple benefits for your gut and your face.