Everything You Need to Know About Probiotics in Skincare + Is It Really Worth the Hype?

Bacteria that cause glow instead of an urgent need for Pepto… it does exist!
BY Sarah Lim
| Last updated Jan, 2023
Everything You Need to Know About Probiotics in Skincare

If you’ve been on Pinterest for even eight seconds, you’ve probably run into some recipes for natural face masks, such as those containing beaten egg whites and yogurt. But are those things the only good-for-the-gut foods that are also good for the skin? Turns out there’s something else that might be even better: probiotics. Probiotics are good for the body, but what about probiotic skincare?

Probiotics are healthy bacteria that are necessary for your well-being. In fact, a lack of probiotics has been linked to everything from depression and anxiety to stomach problems and even eczema. And getting enough probiotics in your diet is kind of a big deal!

So we know that probiotics are important for the body—but what’s the scoop when it comes to probiotic skincare? Here’s all you need to know about probiotics when it comes to your complexion and if they are really worth the hype in your skincare products.

What do Probiotics Do in Skincare?

What do Probiotics Do in Skincare

In your body, probiotics help balance good and bad bacteria as part of your microbiome. The microbiome is a network of microbes—including bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses—that are specific to your unique body. When balanced, the microbiome supports the body’s health and well-being.

However, when the balance is disrupted, which can happen as the result of diet, medications, or illness, you can experience adverse symptoms. The microbiome works closely with the immune system to support numerous functions in the body, including getting rid of toxins and processing vitamins.

So when applied topically in skincare, do probiotics have a similar effect?

Your skin actually has its own microbiome that helps it stay healthy and keeps bad bacteria out. In fact, an imbalance in the skin microbiome may exacerbate conditions such as acne, rosacea, eczema, and dermatitis. Probiotics in your skincare products could help correct this imbalance.

Probiotics may even prevent dry skin, which could help reduce wrinkles and premature aging. But is probiotic skincare all it’s cracked up to be? Let’s take a closer look at what research shows.

Evidence for How Probiotics May Enhance Skincare

Evidence for How Probiotics May Enhance Skincare

Topical probiotics, such as those used in skincare, have been shown to improve the skin barrier function and increase the antimicrobial properties of the skin, which may help improve acne and associated breakouts

As we age, the skin’s pH—the balance of how acidic our skin is—can change. Healthy skin has a lower pH of around 4-5, which helps prevent bacteria from affecting the skin barrier and even plays a role in keeping skin moisturized.

However, since skin pH becomes more neutral as we age, the skin barrier may become compromised. The result is accelerated aging and potentially more bad bacteria. Probiotic skincare products may help support a normal skin pH and keep skin looking younger, healthier, and more resistant to toxins. 

Probiotic skincare products may improve wrinkle depth and even hyperpigmentation, according to research. 

Research also shows probiotics may support the skin barrier to reduce dry skin, improve protection against toxins and bacteria and reduce inflammation. These are all benefits that may be particularly helpful to those with aging or mature skin.

So—Are They Worth the Hype?

Our verdict? Probiotics contain come pretty special properties that make them a worthy consideration for adding to your skincare routine. If you struggle with a compromised skin barrier, aging skin, wrinkles, or acne, probiotics may be the missing piece of the puzzle in creating a healthy skincare routine that works for you. However, if you have normal skin that’s generally problem-free, adding probiotics may not be worth the extra cost or effort.

How to Use Probiotics in Skincare Effectively

The following are our top pointers for how to use probiotics in skincare to reap the maximum benefits while reducing any potential side effects.

Dietary Probiotics vs. Topical Probiotics

Dietary Probiotics vs. Topical Probiotics

Remember that, although skincare products can play an instrumental role in your skin health, maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle can be just as important, if not more important, to having healthy skin and maintaining balance in the body.

This means getting probiotics in your diet as well as through your skincare. Yogurt (yes, including plant-based ones!), kimchi, kombucha, miso, and sauerkraut are all excellent sources of natural probiotics.

You may also consider taking a probiotic supplement; however, it may not be necessary if you’re eating fermented foods such as the ones listed above. Always follow up with your doctor before taking any new supplement.

In addition, you may source some strains of probiotics from dairy, which isn’t exactly a friend to your skin, especially if you struggle with acne. You can always confirm with the company that their probiotics are exclusively from plant-based sources rather than animal ones.

Probiotics vs. Prebiotics

Probiotics vs. Prebiotics

You may have heard of prebiotics, which support the proliferation of probiotics and help them thrive. If your skincare products contain both prebiotics and probiotics, that’s great—if not, they aren’t strictly necessary for your probiotic skincare products to do their job.

However, prebiotics in skincare products may help promote the health of the probiotics that your skin microbiome already contains, so they may be worth it if you’re trying to maximize the effect of probiotics on your skin. 

Mixing Probiotics and Retinol or Other Skincare Actives

Mixing Probiotics and Retinol or Other Skincare Actives

Can you mix probiotic skincare products with some other favorite skincare actives, such as retinol, enzymes, AHAs, and vitamin C?

Turns out, that probiotics are safe to use with most skincare actives, including retinol and vitamin C. The same is true for chemical exfoliators such as enzymes and AHAs such as glycolic acid. In some cases, probiotics can actually enhance the effectiveness of these skincare ingredients.

For example, probiotics may help soothe skin irritated by retinol or boost the effectiveness of vitamin C. However, everyone’s skin is different. So know your skin type and always test a tiny area with your skincare products before. Then apply them to your entire face.

Grab Our No-No Skincare Ingredients List

While you’re here, and before you go on the hunt for probiotic skincare products, grab our no-no skincare ingredients list, which contains ingredients you should avoid regardless of your skin type.


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