You have probably heard about the benefits of consuming probiotics to help maintain a healthy gut microbiome, but have you heard of applying probiotics to your face? While the skin microbiome has been a hot topic within the science world for a while now, it’s only just beginning to become mainstream for consumers.

What’s the big deal? The science says that the application of probiotic strains to the face helps to maintain healthy skin that is resistant to various skin issues and conditions.

Acne is caused by an overgrowth of harmful bacteria on the skin. This occurs when the skin microbiome gets out of whack and the good bacteria can no longer fight off the bad. Many things can cause the skin microbiome to fall out of balance, including skincare ingredients, diet, stress, hormones, the list goes on...

For now we will just focus on skincare. The use of harsh skincare products strips the skin of its natural moisture barrier that protects against the bad bacteria, leading to irritated and sensitized skin. This is somewhat counter-intuitive as the products we use to make our faces feel ‘clean’ are often the culprits of our skin issues.

Enter probiotic skincare

Probiotic serums and moisturizers fight bad bacteria by reintroducing the good bacteria onto the skin. This good bacteria then multiplies and kills off the pathogenic bacteria, effectively balancing the microbiome.

You can further harness the power of probiotic skincare products with the use of prebiotic skincare products. ‘Pre’ as in before the probiotics; prebiotic cleansers and serums create the ideal conditions on the skin for the probiotic bacteria to thrive. Research has identified some advanced probiotic strains that are effective in improving the health of the skin microbiome.

If you want to try probiotic skincare, it’s useful to understand the different types available, as often they are just generalized as ‘probiotics,’ when in fact, they are a byproduct of probiotics, more accurately known as postbiotics.

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So, what’s the difference?

Prebiotics

Useful for creating an optimal environment for probiotics, as they promote the growth of micro-organisms. Think of prebiotics as a fertilizer for feeding the micro-organisms.

Ingredient examples in skincare: chicory, beet, xylitol, rhamnose

Probiotics

These are the living micro-organisms that work to actively alter the microflora of the host. True probiotic skincare is rarer as keeping the micro-organisms stable and alive within skincare products is no easy task.

Ingredient examples in skincare: BLIS Q24.

Postbiotics

More commonly found in skincare, postbiotics are the chemical byproducts of micro-organisms, they are no longer alive but still provide benefits to the skin. The limitations of postbiotics are that they do not offer the same intensity of benefits of live, active probiotic strains. You can easily spot them in ingredient lists as they will have the bacteria name followed by lysate.

Ingredient examples in skincare: Lactobacillus lysate, bifidobacterium lysate, Lactococcus ferment lysate.