Usually, probiotics is name-dropped when you're talking about live-culture yogurt and gut health, but as you might have noticed, the buzz word is making itself a regular in the skincare space. So why, all of a sudden, are these microorganisms being added to your moisturizer?
Theoretically, probiotic-infused skincare might have some major benefits for your complexion. It all comes down to the balance of your microbiome, the collection of microorganisms on your skin. "Healthy skin function is associated with a diverse number of organisms on the skin, while skin disease can alter the microbiome leading to abnormal colonization of harmful bacteria that end up harming the skin," explains New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner. "Probiotic skincare products both address underlying skin issues like dryness, but also encourage growth of good bacteria to help restore a healthy microbiome."
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It's most commonly used when the skin's barrier is compromised, our pro explains, which tends to disrupt the microbiome—an example would be eczema. However, Dr. Zeichner says there is data to suggest that in conditions like acne, the microbiome is abnormal and might contribute to the skin change.
In terms of skincare buys, you've probably seen the word the most on moisturizer labels, though brands have infused the technology into other types of products like serums and cleansers. Tula was one of the first brands to utilize probiotics in their products, while La Roche-Posay's new Toleriane Double Repair Moisturizer ($20; target.com) is focused on the supporting healthy bacteria, and Dr. Brandt just launched a night mask with the science.
So it seems simple, right? Restore the microbiome and your symptoms go away? It's a little more complex than that, sadly. "We are not totally clear whether probiotics changing the microbiomes is enough to improve the skin condition, or whether improving the underlying skin condition is what drives improvements in the microbiome," says Dr. Zeichner.
In short, more research needs to be done to see if the concentration should be on the microbiome healing the skin, or healing the skin and then looking at what improvements the microbiome has seen. "Likely we need to do a little bit of both—address skin barrier defects and inflammation and help the microbiome at the same time," continues Dr. Zeichner.
If you do want to road-test the trend, talk to your dermatologist to see if it fits in with your current regimen and how probiotics (and the products they're found in) could affect your complexion.