Your skin is home to trillions of microbes. Also known as your skin microbiome, it keeps your skin healthy and clear. Not only can they help strengthen the skin barrier, but they can also protect the skin from harmful germs. These good bacteria are truly helpful in building your skin immunity.
But in our attempt to keep our skin clean, we make use of cleansers, soaps, and scrubs that kill the beneficial microbes. This leads to a disturbance in the skin microbiome, which may result to dry skin, redness, even acne!
With that being said, it’s essential to pick skincare products that can nurture these microorganisms – instead of killing them. This is where probiotic skincare comes into play. Made with beneficial bacteria and yeasts, these products may help you achieve flawless, younger-looking skin.
What are the Ingredients of Probiotic Skincare?
The type of probiotic ingredient depends on the product you choose.
According to Dr. Linda Katz of the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), 90% of probiotic cosmetics in the market usually contain bacterial cell lysates, which contain dead bacteria, cell walls, and some byproducts.
The most common probiotic cell lysates include:
Apart from ‘dead’ bacteria, probiotic cell lysates may also contain other skin-saving ingredients, such as:
Since most products contain ‘dead’ or ‘immobilized’ bacteria, they can also be categorized as probiotics. And while they may not be able to match the activity of live strains, they are more stable and are still very useful.
While the majority of probiotic cosmetics contain ‘technically dead’ bacteria, there are some that feature live probiotics. Given that live probiotics provide maximum efficacy, they are hard to keep stable. They generally have short shelf lives. They can easily be affected by exposure to light or air – and such may render the product useless even if you have just opened it. These are just some of the reasons why ‘live’ microbes are not the top choices when it comes to skincare, according to Dr. Patricia Harris of the Dermatology Times.
With the scientific breakthroughs of this age, the problem of stabilizing probiotics is being solved slowly – but surely. Nowadays, some companies are working on slowing the metabolic rate of certain probiotics, so they can last longer in probiotic skincare products.
Apart from live or dead probiotics, some skincare products may also contain prebiotics. Dr. Harris adds that these are good alternatives to live prebiotics. That’s because they serve as food products for the good bacteria on the skin. By helping the skin microbiome, prebiotics play a major role in keeping the skin safe from harmful germs.
What the FDA Has to Say
The agency has recently released a guideline regarding probiotics, though it only pertains to its use as dietary supplements. Concerning cosmetic products, the FDA in its July 2019 bulletin has announced that it 'does not regulate the use of probiotics in skincare.’ But with the unstoppable popularity of skincare probiotics, the agency has started working on ‘evaluating scientific data on the safety of probiotics and postbiotics in cosmetics.’
Additionally, the FDA goes on to add that “If the probiotics alter the existing microbiome of the skin, the cosmetics that include probiotics could be considered a drug. If that were the case, these probiotic cosmetics would be subject to FDA scrutiny and regulation.” So again, depending on the product’s specifications, the FDA may or may not review it.
Even with the absence of regulating laws, the FDA keeps a vigilant eye on probiotic skincare, specifically during the marketing process. Dr. Katz has stressed that companies have the legal responsibility of ensuring the safety of their products – and that they should avoid ‘misbranding’ their cosmetics.
Who Will Benefit the Most from Probiotic Skincare?
While all people – regardless of age and skin type – may benefit from probiotic skincare, some groups need it the most.
Since some probiotic skincare products are made of live cultures, they are only good up to six months after opening. Those with bacterial cell lysates may last longer, so to be sure, make it a point to check the packaging upon opening.
In her interview with Forbes magazine, Dr. Rhonda Klein recommended keeping such products in a cool environment. With that being said, it is best to choose a product in opaque packaging (no jars!) since light and air can degrade the ingredients. Some probiotic products might even need to go inside a beauty fridge – a miniaturized version of the usual fridge – that is specifically made for cosmetic products.
Probiotic skincare products hold much promise when it comes to addressing issues such as sensitivity, aging, even acne. They may be a little more expensive than the usual products, but it’s the price you should be willing to pay for clearer, younger-looking skin.