Topical Probiotics for Skin: Benefits & How They Work

Geraldine Orentas

From cleansers and serums to moisturizers and mists - the few skincare products on the market today that are packed with probiotics are making promising claims. And they're not alone. Research suggests some benefits of incorporating probiotics into our skin regimen to soothe inflammation, diminish acne, and restore your skin's barrier. 

Probiotic supplements are known for their gut-balancing properties. And now, topical probiotics are introducing a new breed of bacteria designed to work from the outside in. Probiotic skincare products are taking the beauty world by storm.

Sounds intriguing, right? Keep reading to get insight on topical probiotics for the skin, their benefits, and how these good bacteria can give you healthy-looking skin. 

How Bacteria Affects the Skin

First things first - your skin already has bacteria living on it. Our body is plagued with bacteria; over one trillion bacteria call your body their home. In our skin, roughly one thousand different living microorganism species cohabitate, creating what we know as the skin microbiome

The microbiome in your skin regulates inflammation and acts as a protective barrier against pathogens. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, many of these bacteria are harmless and actually beneficial.

Good skin bacteria will work to control levels of harmful bacteria that can disrupt the skin's balance. For example, too much Cuti Bacterium acnes bacteria on the skin can trigger conditions like acne. An imbalance in the skin's ecosystem also allows bad bacteria to trigger conditions such as eczema and rosacea. 

How Probiotics Work in Skincare

For decades, studies of the gut-brain-skin axis theory have proven that many of our anxiety, stress and depression responses are caused by harmful bacteria build up in our gastrointestinal tract. This, in turn, triggers a series of inflammatory reactions that can be the culprit of breakouts and flare-ups in the skin, particularly for those with rosacea, eczema or acne. 

Before, probiotic supplements were taken orally to promote beneficial bacteria to create a healthy gut environment. However, when applied topically, probiotics can still provide numerous benefits. By increasing the number of beneficial bacteria living on the skin, topical probiotics can help promote healthy-looking skin. 

Balance Your Skin’s Microbiome

Like oral probiotics work to treat and prevent stomach issues, topical probiotics can help create a surge of beneficial bacteria to help skin cells thrive and flourish. Achieving a balanced skin microbiome will help your skin regulate oil production, stay hydrated and defend itself from free radicals to maintain healthier-looking skin.

Lower Inflammation

Probiotics can stabilize the effects of inflammatory conditions, particularly acne and rosacea. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, probiotics have soothing and calming effects on the skin that signal the immune system not to attack the beneficial bacteria applied to the skin to reduce flare-ups. 

Reduce Skin's Sensitivity

Furthermore, by reducing inflammation and inflammatory responses, our skin can be less reactive. Essentially, incorporating probiotics into your skincare regimen can help build skin resilience and strengthen the skin's natural immunity properties to remain balanced. Certain probiotics can also help boost ceramides and fats that trap moisture in the skin to keep bacterial levels in check and prevent flare-ups or reactions. 

Strengthen the Skin Barrier

Probiotics can help rebuild protective layers in our gastrointestinal tract to protect us from infections. Probiotics help balance the skin's pH and protect against free radical damage to strengthen the skin barrier. Some studies also believe probiotics can help fight skin aging by protecting our skin from UV damage and free radicals that damage our cells. 

Benefits of Topical Probiotics for Skin

The use of topical probiotics on the skin has shown promising effects on preventing and treating various inflammatory skin conditions. Much like the benefits of probiotic supplements, probiotic skincare products can yield beneficial results when incorporated into a skincare regimen. 

  • Protect the Skin: probiotics interfere with the ability of harmful bacteria to grow and provoke immune reactions in our bodies. Essentially, probiotics work as a protective shield that handles harmful bacteria even before our cells can see them and attack. 
  • Calm and Soothe: when applied topically, probiotics release anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory substances that can calm conditions like rosacea, eczema, and acne. Probiotics can help prevent premature aging and control inflammatory skin conditions by soothing inflammation and fighting harmful bacteria. 
  • Balance the Microbiome: Finally, probiotics work to create the perfect balance of our skin's microbiome. By improving and strengthening the skin's barrier, probiotics help control the ideal balance on the skin's surface and prevent the cells in our skin from messaging the immune system to be on alert, thus reducing flare-ups and breakouts. 

Probiotics for Acne Treatment

Acne is one of the most common skin diseases, with a lifetime prevalence of approximately 85%. Dysregulation of the immune system is one of the culprits linked to acne. Local increases of inflammatory bacteria can trigger immune system responses that are responsible for breakouts and acne flare-ups. 

For decades, antibiotics have been the go-to acne treatment. However, today, we know that disrupting the skin's microbiome by wiping out all bacteria on the surface can bring more negative side effects than benefits. 

Evidence links acne with the overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria and how antibiotics can often trigger this imbalance. Individuals with acne treated with topical probiotics often report reduced lesion concentration and improved skin barrier function. 

Topical probiotics could restore a more balanced microflora to decrease acne breakouts without the systemic side effects of traditional antibiotic treatment. 

Probiotics for Dry and Sensitive Skin

Beyond promoting skin health, topical probiotics can also be beneficial for those with reactive skin. In healthy individuals, certain strains of probiotics can help increase ceramide production to improve skin hydration. In patients with reactive or sensitive skin, topical probiotics can reduce skin sensitivity and strengthen skin resistance. 

The Takeaway

The skin microbiome is individualized and changes daily. Although antibiotics can help treat some of these common skin conditions, it's evident that this approach isn't always successful and without side effects. 

The influence of topical probiotics on the skin is still being studied. So far, studies on topical probiotics demonstrate promise in treating various skin conditions.  

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