Probiotics are the naturally occurring “good” bacteria that live in our gut and play a significant role in our total wellness.
Intestinal tract of a healthy person hosts over 100 trillion friendly bacteria (that’s 10 times more than the number of cells in our body), which spend their days aiding digestion, boosting the immune system, and consuming bad bacteria. They manufacture key nutrients and limit the growth of yeast and unhealthy bacteria — and, in their spare time, probiotics help inhibit bouts of lactose intolerance, poor digestion, and diarrhea.
Sold as daily supplements containing Lactobacilli and/or Bifidobacterium or in yogurts containing live cultures, probiotics have shown to influence skin conditions such as acne, rosacea and eczema by affecting what is known as the “gut-brain-skin axis.” According to this theory, stress alone or in combination with processed comfort foods that lack fiber can slow digestion. This in turn changes the type and number of bacteria that live in the gut to unhealthy bacteria. Eventually the gut lining becomes leaky and toxins are released into the bloodstream causing inflammation throughout the body. People who are predisposed to acne or rosacea can experience flares as a result of this shift in gut bacteria and subsequent inflammation.
To counteract flares of acne or rosacea associated with the “gut-brain-skin axis,” doctors advise patients to find ways to help manage or cope with stress, fix their diet or introduce healthy bacteria to the gut in the form of probiotics. The probiotics line the gut and create a healthy, sealed barrier that prevents inflammation that can trigger acne or rosacea.
A few studies have shown a correlation between oral probiotic use and improvement in acne and eczema.
• A recent Korean study of 56 acne patients found that drinking a Lactobacillus-fermented dairy beverage effectively reduced their total acne lesion count and decreased oil production over 12 weeks.
• In an Italian study, half of patients were administered an oral probiotic supplement in addition to their standard acne and rosacea treatment. The other half of patients did not receive the probiotic supplement. The probiotic group experienced better clearing of acne and rosacea symptoms.
• Finnish researchers looked at pregnant women who took probiotic supplements (containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG) for two to four weeks before giving birth, and also after delivery if they were breast-feeding, or added the bacteria to infant formula for at least six months. They found the probiotics reduced the odds of eczema in babies who had strong family histories of the itchy skin condition until at least age 2, and possibly longer.
• Another recent study showed that infants who developed eczema before they turned 1 had a less diverse collection of gut bacteria when they were 7 days old than infants without eczema, suggesting a link between gut bacteria early in life and the development of the skin condition.
Let’s Bottle Up The Good Stuff As Skincare
Currently, some cosmeceutical manufacturers have started using probiotics in their products based on this early research – including probiotic masks, creams or cleansers. Different ways that topical probiotics can benefit the skin Include:
• Protective Shield
In patients with acne and rosacea, living microorganisms on the skin are recognized as foreign by the body’s immune system. The immune system springs into action to counter this potential threat resulting in the inflammation, redness, or bumps common in these skin conditions. Probiotics applied topically sit on the skin’s surface and prevent the skin cells from seeing the bad bacteria and parasites that can cause this immune system response. This is known as “bacterial interference,” as probiotics protect the skin and interfere with the ability of bad bugs (or bacteria and parasites) to provoke an immune reaction.
• Antimicrobial Properties
Sometimes the substances produced by probiotics have antimicrobial properties, meaning they can create holes in bad bacteria and kill them. Similar to the way antibiotics work in the treatment of acne and rosacea, probiotics can help fight harmful bugs from triggering inflammation.
Researchers now are testing probiotics to determine which ones make the substances that can kill bad bacteria. Soon strains could be identified in the very near future and will then be marketed in products for their antimicrobial properties.
• Calming Effect
When certain types of probiotics are placed in contact with skin cells, they calm the parts of the cells that may want to react to the presence of bad bacteria that they see as a threat. These healthy signals produced by the probiotics stop the skin cells from sending “attack” messages to the immune system that result in flares of acne or rosacea.
The use of probiotics to protect skin from the effects of aging is an exciting new area that shows early promise, but needs more research. Preliminary work has shown there’s some evidence that probiotics may help to build collagen, the main protein in skin that affects its texture and tone. Increased numbers of good bacteria may also help to hydrate aging skin, reduce sun damage and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
The incorporation of probiotics into cosmetics and skin care products provides a distinct yet perpetual marketing appeal enhancing brand differentiation. It’s no wonder than that major cosmaceutical brands are incorporating probiotics in their skincare lines.
Clinique Medical in collaboration with Allergan (the makers of BOTOX) has launched a probiotic-infused skin care. Their probiotic skin care regimen includes a pre- and post-operational kit with cleansers and creams, and redness solution makeup SPF15. The product line doesn’t contain live bacteria but instead promotes the growth of skin’s own helpful bacteria to prevent infection following chemical peels and laser treatments.
Many other major brands Like Garnier, Dr. Ohhira, Aurelia, Align, Culturelle, L’Occitaine, Murad, Sonya Dakar, Lierac, Bliss, Mama Mio, Beauty Cycle and Éminence have also launched their products with probiotic claims.
The early reviews on the effectiveness of these products are quiet positive, with time and more research we would get a more detailed and clearer picture.