Prebiotics, Probiotics and Postbiotics: Benefits & How They Work

Jenna Jolls

mother dirt skincare products with prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics on dirt background

What Are Prebiotics, Probiotics and Postbiotics?

There’s no denying that there has been a huge movement in favor of microbiome-friendly and probiotic skincare lately. As one of the biggest breakthroughs in beauty in recent years, Mother Dirt was one of the first brands to dig into the health benefits of biotic skincare and is proud to be seen not only as a leader in microbiome space, but as an educator on the topic as well. Because of that, we want to provide some insight on prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics and why you need all three in your skincare routine to keep your microbiome balanced.

What is biotic skin care?

Let’s start by defining biotic skincare. According to Well+Good, biotic skincare is “designed and formulated to nurture your skin microbiome, or the collection of bacteria, fungus, and microorganisms that live on your skin.” Sometimes also known as microbiome-friendly skincare, or microflora skincare, biotic skincare is typically infused with certain ingredients, like prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics with the goal of working toward barrier support and nurturing a thriving microbial community.

Ideally using biotic skincare, such as Mother Dirt, will help your microbiome thrive, making your skin better able to handle inflammation, protect itself from environmental aggressors, deal with skin conditions (like rosacea or acne), help your immune response, stay hydrated, and age healthier.

"No new skincare product that comes to market can claim to benefit the skin without keeping the microbiome in mind, using ingredients that support a healthy microbiome and avoiding ingredients that disrupt or damage the microbiome,” explains board-certified dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe.

To better understand prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics in skincare and how it can benefit us, we must first understand the microbiome and its function.

What is the skin microbiome and why is it important?

graphic showing the skin microbiome

The skin microbiome can be thought of as an ecosystem - and a pretty complex one, at that. Also known as the skin microbiota, the skin microbiome is essentially the vast collection of all the microbes (or skin flora) which live on or within your skin. We actually have millions of living microorganisms residing on our skin at any given time, including bacteria, fungi, arthropods, and more.

There are many factors that can affect the skin microbiome, some of which include pH levels, gender, genotype, cosmetic use, temperature, and more.

Just like the microorganisms in our gut, “skin microorganisms have essential roles in the protection against invading pathogens, the education of our immune system and the breakdown of natural products,” according to Nature Reviews Microbiology. “The skin is colonized by beneficial microorganisms and serves as a physical barrier to prevent the invasion of pathogens.”

This means that the skin microbiome has a variety of functions when it comes to keeping our body healthy. The skin microbiome doesn’t just defend against invading bacterial pathogens, it can also help fight off infections, ease inflammation and protect us from outside harm.

Now, let's take a look at how prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics can benefit our skin.

What are prebiotics for skin?

mother dirt prebiotic acne lotion and prebiotic foaming cleanser with jojoba on purple floral background

You can think of prebiotics as fertilizer for good bacteria -- essentially they are ‘food’ for our good bacteria strains. Prebiotics are nondigestible compounds that feed and support healthy bacteria in addition to keeping bad bacteria in check.

Various skin conditions as well as certain acne medications (like retinoids and benzoyl peroxide) can impair the skin’s barrier function that protects against bad bacteria. Fortunately, prebiotics can help balance skin pH and support the skin’s barrier function, which boosts healthy bacteria.

If you are interested in trying a skincare product that contains prebiotics, we recommend our Prebiotic Foaming Cleanser. Formulated with prebiotic inulin (from chicory root) and jojoba, it washes away excess oil, impurities and makeup without stripping skin of its essential balance, leaving skin nourished and refreshed.

If you’re struggling with acne, our Prebiotic Acne Lotion also contains prebiotic inulin along with salicylic acid to nourish and repair the skin microbiome for improved clarity and smoother, healthier-looking skin. In a 21-day clinical study, users of our acne lotion saw incredible results, including improved skin texture, decreased acne lesions, less oiliness, and more balanced skin.

What are probiotics for skin?

mother dirt patented ao+ restorative mist with live and active probiotics on dirt background

You’ve most likely heard of probiotics, also known as good bacteria, which are made of live bacteria and yeasts. You’ve also likely heard that probiotics are great for your gut and digestive system, right? Topical skin probiotics work in a similar way, aiming to restore balance to your skin bacteria that has been compromised by traditional skincare and a plethora of other external factors.

Several studies show that topical probiotics may help ease the symptoms of skin conditions such as acne, eczema, rosacea, and other inflammatory issues, while other studies indicate that probiotics can help your skin's immune response, as well as dealing with things like UV exposure. 

Our patented AO+ Restorative Mist is a first of its kind product to contain truly live and active probiotics to restore your microbiome for healthier-looking skin. The mist is clinically proven to show improvement in skin clarity, tone and smoothness in 30 days, combats blemish-causing bacteria and reduces fine lines and wrinkles, among other benefits.

What are postbiotics for skin?

mother dirt serum, body oil, body wash, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner on green plant background

Postbiotics are fermentation byproducts produced by bacteria that are good for you. In other words, postbiotic skincare products contain non-viable bacterial products or metabolic byproducts from probiotic bacteria. Postbiotics are produced during the fermentation process of probiotic bacteria.

“Unlike prebiotics, which all act as food for probiotics, postbiotics don’t all have the same purpose. Since postbiotics are anything excreted by probiotics, there are many uses,” explains our Director of Product & Innovation Lauren Trahan. “Some are antimicrobial, some function as emollients to condition skin, some act as antioxidants or give a photo protective effect.”

Our serum, hair wash, conditioner, body wash, body oil, and deodorant all contain postbiotics, which offer a multitude of benefits like restoring balance to your microbiome, moisturizing dry scalp and regulating odor-causing bacteria. You can read more about the postbiotics that we use in our formulas in our ingredients glossary.

Wrapping It Up

A growing number of studies reveal the significant role of a balanced microbiome in keeping our skin healthy. When the microbiome is thrown off balance, a whole range of skin conditions can occur, ranging from dry skin to rosacea and even acne. Here at Mother Dirt, we believe that everyone can benefit from prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics in their skincare products -- especially those with sensitive skin or a compromised skin barrier. Get started with our Active Probiotic System today.

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AO+ Restorative Mist

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Prebiotic Acne Lotion with Salicylic Acid

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Postbiotic Deodorant

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