Want to know how to treat your skin with science?
Nutritionists have already proven that probiotics perform a role in skin health, such as reconstructing atopic dermatitis, promoting the healing of scars and burns, rejuvenating the skin and strengthening the skin’s innate immunity. They have also found that the OTC probiotic acidophilus, which cleans-out the gut is the key to clearer skin.
Studies have shown that probiotics, the living microbes that hang out in your digestive tract, effectively treat many skin conditions. So much so that beauty companies from Clinique to Rodial have ridden that kombucha wave right into including probiotic ingredients like lactobacillus into their topical skincare products.
Swallowing a bunch of bacteria sounds a bit disgusting, but it’s actually very popular among the crunchy hippie crowd. When it comes to ingesting beneficial bacteria and fungus strains, you have some options: kimchi (which contains lactic acid bacteria), kombucha (which has yeast-fighting gluconacetobacter xylinus, among others), and yogurt, which contains regularity magic-maker lactobacillus acidophilus.
Apple cider vinegar is not a probiotic itself, but it feeds the probiotics already living in your digestive system. There are also a number of probiotic powders to add to your morning shake and pills, ranging from Trader Joe’s generic brand to higher-end ones, like Hyperbiotics Pro-15, which actively claim to improve your complexion by “reducing inflammation.”
So, are probiotics a miracle treatment for your skin? And what can these different types of bacteria’s do? A lot…believe it or not.
Acne & Rosacea
The American Academy of Dermatologists is excited by the prospects of probiotics for acne and rosacea treatment. A Korean study of 56 acne patients found that drinking a lactobacillus-fermented dairy beverage reduced their acne lesion count and decreased oil production.
An Italian study of acne and rosacea patients found that those who took an oral probiotic supplement, in addition to their regular acne and rosacea treatments, had clearer skin than patients not taking the supplement.
“Although I don’t envision probiotics ever being used as a standalone treatment for acne or rosacea, they could be used as an effective combination therapy with prescription medications or over-the-counter topical treatments,” says Whitney P. Bowe, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York.
Good bacteria in the gut can help eliminate the toxins and free radicals that can damage skin and cause early signs of aging. Introducing probiotics will not only flush out bodily toxins, but repair the harmful damage caused by free radicals, as well. In turn, offering some hope in slowing down the visible proof of all of those years of life experience.
A recent Japanese study found that patients with very dry skin and wrinkles, who consumed a lactobacillus plantarum supplement (made from breast milk) for 12 weeks, “saw a significant reduction in wrinkle depth” and improved skin gloss. Skin elasticity improved by 13.17% after just four weeks and by 21.73% after 12 weeks.
Eczema & Psoriasis
Initial studies of different strains of oral lactobacillus for both prevention and treatment of atopic eczema have been encouraging, says Dermatology Times.
Eczema is a condition that causes the skin to become itchy, red, dry and cracked. It is a long-term or chronic condition in most people, although it can improve over time, especially in children. Recent studies show that offering probiotics to infants has been proven to somewhat lessen the likelihood of them developing eczema. Probiotics have also been shown to improve eczema symptoms in patients suffering from the condition at an older age. Psoriasis is another skin disorder, linked to inflammation, where oral probiotics have been proven to be beneficial.
Therefore, if probiotics are so good for your skin, will applying them topically work best?
You may have heard many dermatologists recommend a DIY yogurt mask to soothe irritated skin, but the American Academy of Dermatologists says there’s “currently no research or studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of this home remedy.”
When it comes to probiotic-packed beauty products, clinical trials found that in cream form, the probiotic lactobacillus plantarum acted as an anti-inflammatory and decreased the size of acne lesions, according to a 2012 paper in the Journal of Cosmetic Science; an earlier study found that topically applied lactic acid bacterium streptococcus thermophilus increased the ceramides in the skin, improving moisture levels and firmness.
The AAD also says that when topically applied, probiotics can confuse an overactive immune system, providing “bacterial interference” that will keep the skin from flaring up into an acne or rosacea breakout. So, is indeed evidence that topical probiotics do something great for the skin — but their reliability and value has yet to be determined.
Microbiologist Jane S. Tang dissected a number of the probiotic studies for a paper in Microbiology Discovery. She found that while plenty of credible studies support the theory that ingesting probiotic foods can be a great addition to a skin-care regimen, it’s really too soon to make that claim about store-bought, externally applied probiotics, like face creams containing lactobacillius.
“Probiotics in skin-care products are still fairly new,” says Tang. “There is definitely potential, but much needs to be done scientifically to show efficacy.”
Tang does believe there are benefits to topical probiotics and to probiotics in toothpaste and mouth rinses, “However, currently, there are technological challenges to keep the microbes alive or their metabolite stable in various formula of topical products.”
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