If you have an interest in the skincare industry, you might’ve come across the word ‘probiotics’ or ‘skin microbiome’ and wondered what it is. We’re all aware of the ‘friendly-bacteria’ in yogurt but ‘friendly bacteria’ for the skin?
While the idea of slathering and smearing live bacteria on your skin may not sound very appealing, probiotics have numerous skincare benefits. It’s worth understanding some of them!
What exactly are probiotics?
Did you know that our body is home to millions of tiny microorganisms? Many are not just harmless, but friendly and in fact essential for the healthy functioning of the body! Probiotics are these friendly microbes that live in our gut, supporting digestion and keeping our immunity in top shape. They ensure that the gut absorbs fewer toxins into the bloodstream. Toxins not only prevent the absorption of vital nutrients like vitamins and nutrients but also cause inflammation.
Probiotics are found naturally in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar, etc. They’re also found in supplements in the form of pills and powders.
People often confuse between prebiotics and probiotics and assume them to be the same. While probiotics are live bacteria, prebiotics is certain nutrients in our food that are food for probiotics. While they serve different functions, prebiotics and probiotics work in synergy.
Probiotics for the skin and the skin microbiome
The friendly microorganisms don’t just live in and help our gut, the same is true for our skin as well. The skin microbiome is the world of probiotics, the live, active bacteria that lives on the skin. It is working continuously to promote skin health and keeping everything in balance.
Probiotics support the skin in maintaining optimum conditions to support skin cells to stay healthy. They form a protective barrier from external aggressions and keep the skin hydrated, among many other things.
Many skincare brands are touting that their products support and protect the ‘skin microbiome’. About a decade ago, the word ‘bacteria’ had only a negative connotation. In fact, the only word associated with bacteria was ‘sterilization’!
Benefits of probiotics for the skin
Fortunately, research has opened our eyes and doors to understand probiotics better. We now know that sterilizing these healthy bacteria isn’t going to benefit us but imbalance our skin conditions and cause inflammation and aging. So let’s dig deeper into the benefits of probiotics for the skin.
Strengthen the skin barrier
Probiotics produce certain compounds such as Hyaluronic acid (HA) and sphingomyelinase (SMase) that are important for the skin barrier function. They generate ceramides that protect the skin from the invasion of bacteria and antigens. This protects the skin from atopic dermatitis and other inflammatory skin conditions.
The skin microbiome also produces a number of beneficial organic acids like lactic acid, acetic acid and Lipoteichoic Acid (LTA). These have antimicrobial properties that protect the skin from pathogens.
Keep the skin hydrated
The skin cells need to be hydrated in order to function in a healthy manner. Hydration helps the skin get rid of toxins and carry useful nutrients for the skin’s nourishment. It keeps inflammation at bay and also boost’s the skin’s defense mechanism.
Hyaluronic acid produced by probiotics also binds with water molecules and keeps the skin hydrated. It reduces the trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), i.e. the loss of skin moisture. Well-hydrated skin is smooth, soft and supple.
Dehydrated skin, on the other hand, becomes flaky and wrinkly and has a higher tendency to age and develop fine lines. It is also prone to external damage by UV radiation, allergens and impurities.
Cleanse the skin
Probiotics cleanse the skin by converting excess oil and grime on its surface. The live healthy bacteria also clear up the pores which tend to get clogged and cause acne.
Cleansing ensures a balance of nutrients on the skin’s surface while keeping toxins away and maintaining optimum pH levels. This protects the skin against inflammation and damage.
Prevent breakouts and promote clear, flawless skin
Acne occurs when the excess oil on the skin’s surface mixes with dead skin cells and clogs the hair follicles or pores. Clogged pores become the home ground for the harmful attack of P. acnes bacteria. They trigger the skin’s defense and cause inflammation. We see this in the form of redness and swelling that sometimes progress to become painful lesions and wounds.
Probiotics prevent breakouts by performing multiple functions. They not shield the skin from acne-causing bacteria but also inhibit their growth by maintaining optimum sebum levels. Adequate hydration as well as alleviating inflammation reduce the damage caused by breakouts.
Unlike conventional acne treatment, probiotics do not come with side effects like dryness and irritation. They provide a wholesome therapy that keeps the skin nourished, protected and hydrated.
Promote skin repair and recovery
Probiotics increase the skin’s ability to resist oxidation and reduce oxidative stress. They produce metabolites such as glutathione (GSH), butyrate and folate which improve antioxidant activity thereby reversing skin damage and increasing repair and recovery.
Probiotics bring back a balance to the skin’s hydration, sebum levels and nutrients. This helps in the regeneration of skin cells damaged by UV exposure or skin conditions.
Reduce the appearance of the signs of aging
Probiotics offer effective anti-aging therapy through a number of different benefits. Skin hydration reduces wrinkle depth and fine lines, one of the first signs of aging. They also promote the skin’s production of collagen and elastin, proteins that are crucial to the skin’s youthfulness. They keep the skin firm and tight thereby preventing thickening and sagging of the skin.
With increased skin-barrier function, probiotics also protect the skin from UV radiation damage, the main cause for photodamage. At the same time, protection from inflammation and increased skin recovery keeps other signs of aging such as age spots and melasma at bay.
Alleviate a number of skin conditions
Rosacea or psoriasis results from compromised skin barrier function, and manifests as redness and pus-filled bumps. Eczema results from allergen exposure leading to dry skin, irritation and inflammation.
Because probiotics have an anti-inflammatory effect, they help with both skin conditions. They improve the skin’s barrier function as well as sensitivity. Their antimicrobial activity also inhibits the growth of pathogens that increase the severity of these conditions. Apart from these, by maintaining adequate hydration levels and nourishing the skin, probiotics help in regenerating damaged skin cells to encourage recovery and healing.