• probiotics

Probiotics in Skincare

My children have a small bottle of Yakult with their breakfast each morning. I initiated this routine after a fascinating reading by a Paediatrician about the advantageous effect of probiotics. My only concern is that the contents of the bottle of Yakult are not quite the same as that tested in the research world. In the meantime, my kids are enjoying that tasty sweet drink containing healthy live bacteria, so withdrawing it is out of the question!

Eczema and skin barrier
Worldwide, research has been carried out into the effects of probiotics on digestion and bowel disorders. But more recently, in the last few years, there have been more indications that probiotics may well relieve skin problems such as acne, Rosacea and eczema. It has emerged from various studies that the likelihood of childhood eczema can be reduced by taking probiotics in the weeks leading up to, and after the birth. Another study has shown that taking probiotics can improve the skin barrier and help the skin to retain moisture. These so-called good bacteria also appear to play a role in the area of anti-ageing.

Directly onto the skin
If taking probiotics orally can have a positive effect on the skin, what effect would such a product have if applied directly onto the skin?
In simple terms, probiotics can keep the bad bacteria out and the good bacteria in. This is beneficial for several reasons: the good bacteria give protection, kill the bad bacteria (such as P.acnes) and soothe the skin.

Which strains of bacteria should you use?
There is a real possibility that there is not a ‘specific’ good bacteria type which can performs all of this. Scientists are still researching which types of probiotics have which effects on the skin.

Survival chances
At the moment most cosmetics with probiotics available on the market contain the separation (yeast/fermentation) of the bacteria, instead of the bacteria itself. It is almost certainly impossible to keep ‘living’ bacteria in a cream containing preservatives (these are ingredients which kill bacteria and are obligatory in a jar of cream). Furthermore, the chances that the bacteria will survive on the skin, with outside influences such as sunlight and dirt, are very slim. Whether these yeasts can also do anything for your skin is highly questionable…

Strong aroma
Cosmetic products with living bacteria are easily recognisable by the way: they have a particularly strong smell. Similar to the odour from your week long unopened gym bag. Even so, there are labels which still dare to do this (for example Dairyface & The Beauty Chef). They say that clients will endure the unpleasant odour the moment they see the effect of the product…

More research required
In spite of these promising developments, a number of questions still remain in this area. Is a cream containing probiotics applied to the skin better than taking probiotics in a drink or supplement? And which probiotics are the most effective? What is the ideal dose and what then is the correct protocol for use? Although I really would love to give a definitive answer, there simply hasn’t been enough research carried out in order to effectively assess and advise.

Skinwiser study
Last year, on behalf of Skinwiser, students from Wageningen University carried out investigative literature research into the effect of probiotics on the skin. As there is still so little known, they first looked at the cause of various skin problems (acne, eczema, Rosacea) and the possible effectiveness of probiotics. As a result, calculations were made as to which types of probiotics could work with a certain skin problem.

In acne, for example, there is too much Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) present in the hair follicles. This can cause inflammation, which results in those familiar spots. What is known is that the bacteria Staphylococcus epidermidis secretes a substances which kills P. acnes. An application of this bacteria onto the skin could therefore have a positive effect on acne. The students from Wageningen have written such hypotheses for various skin conditions. The complete report of this can be found in English with a summary in Dutch on Skinwiser.

I will keep you updated via the blog and Skinwiser when more is known about probiotics in skincare.



(Dr. Jetske Ultee-Research Physician Cosmetic Dermatology)

You can also read:
The Claims that Cosmetic Manufacturers Make
Is an Expensive Cream Better for Your Skin?
What Results can You Expect from Skincare?