Prebiotics and Probiotics in Skincare

Have you ever suffered from a dodgy tummy? Or with that dreaded bloat? Who hasn’t, right? Chances are if you ever had any type of stomach and/or gut problem, you have heard of probiotics. They keep everything balanced and running smoothly *cough* But probiotics aren’t great for your stomach only, your skin can benefit from them too.

The difference between prebiotics and probiotics

Prebiotics are the nutrients for probiotics. They increase the production of probiotics in our body and on the skin. When we digest prebiotics (usually found in certain types of carbohydrates) they will serve as an energy source and ensure that probiotics do their job at an optimum.

Probiotics, on the other hand, are strains of bacteria that occur naturally on the skin. They form “skin flora” or “microbiome”, a protective layer that guards our skin.

There are millions of microbes in and on our body that are vital for our survival. There are good and bad microbes and a number of factors can influence their balance. For example – sunlight, pollution, over-exfoliation, antibiotics, a cleanser with too high pH – these are all some of the factors that can disturb the balance between the good and the bad bacteria.

The end result can vary – it can be acne, dry, damaged, irritated, and/or sensitive skin. In some cases, when the good and bad bacteria is out of balance, it can lead to infection.

How do prebiotics and probiotics work in a skincare product?

When applied topically a skincare product that contains prebiotics and probiotics can have many positive benefits.

First and foremost they will fortify and strengthen the skin so that it is protected against various environmental stressors. Likewise, they maintain a healthy pH, calm the skin, combat the bad bacteria and reduce inflammation. The most immediate result is that they will keep the skin well hydrated and improve signs of dryness.

When looking for a suitable skincare product, look for formulas that contain prebiotics. Probiotics are notoriously unstable and ‘live’ cultures are not used in off the shelf skincare. On the other hand, prebiotics are very stable and like our digestive tracts prebiotics will strengthen and maintain healthy skin flora.

Ingredients to look for would include fructooligosaccharides, rhamnose and xylitol (prebiotics). Ferments and Lysates derived from Bifidabacterium or Lactobacillus are also worth checking out. Whilst not ‘live,’ such compounds have useful qualities of their own.

Prebiotics and probiotics are suitable for all skin types, but especially for sensitive, acne, rosacea and eczema prone skin.

Have you tried a prebiotic/probiotic skincare product? Are you happy with the results?

Roberta Striga