Hyaluronic acid, Vitamin C, retinol…these ingredients have probably already found their way into your skin-care arsenal, giving you benefits ranging from brighter, smoother skin to the reduced appearance of fine lines and sunspots to added protection against photoaging. But if you have sensitive skin, are prone to acne, or are constantly exposed to pollution in the urban jungle, then it’s time to consider adding another ingredient to your list: probiotics.

You may be familiar with probiotics and what they can do for your health but their benefits go well beyond your gut. They’re becoming a buzzword in the beauty industry because of their skin benefits. What do probiotics do for your skin? Read on to find out.

probiotics in skin care

Probiotics: The Basics 

“Probiotic” means “for life” and pertains to live strains of specific microorganisms that are good for your body. In recent years, probiotics have received a lot of attention for what they can do to your gut microbiome (a.k.a. the microorganisms in your gut).

The body is home to trillions of microorganisms and a good deal of them are found in your gut. Probiotics are the good bacteria that maintain the balance in your gut, fighting off inflammation-causing bad bacteria. (Inflammation is one of the culprits behind many health issues.) Probiotics also strengthen the gut lining and help with detoxification.

Current clinical studies suggest that probiotics are a viable treatment for gastrointestinal diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome and gastrointestinal disorders, as well as allergic diseases, like atopic dermatitis. It’s also a promising treatment for obesity, type 2 diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and some types of cancer.      

A considerable chunk of your immune system also lies in your gut, so a healthy gut logically translates to good overall health. This is why skin conditions can sometimes be traced back to your tummy. Acne on your face (a.k.a. inflammation)?

While there may be many other factors at play, you should check your diet. Adding probiotics in the form of fermented food like sauerkraut, miso, yogurt, kimchi, or an oral supplement can introduce much-needed good microorganisms to your gut. (To read more about probiotics and prebiotics, read this.)

Probiotics in Skin Care

You can use probiotics not just within but also on your skin. Just as unhealthy food can upset your gut microbiome, harsh conditions can likewise wreak havoc on your skin microbiome, or the environment of microorganisms on your skin.

The pollution you’re exposed to on the daily creates a breeding ground for bad bacteria to flourish. Even scrubbing that gunk away can have a detrimental effect as over-cleansing can also be damaging to your skin. These factors may upset your skin’s natural pH balance and lead to dryness and sensitivity as well as to skin conditions like acne, atopic dermatitis, and psoriasis.

Applying a topical probiotic skin-care product can introduce much-needed good bacteria to your skin. Topical probiotics help in a number of ways: They fight off bad bacteria, bringing much-needed balance to your skin; they strengthen the skin barrier, making it more resistant to pollution and other environmental aggressors like free radicals and the harsh sun; and they reduce inflammation, which, as mentioned earlier, leads to many problems.

While probiotics can have a positive effect on skin in general, it’s especially beneficial for those who suffer from acne, eczema, and the like—all manifestations of inflammation. If you’re experiencing a flare-up, consider a cleanser and a moisturizer with probiotics. (Check Healthy Options for a range of probiotic skin-care products by Andalou Naturals.)

Probiotics are also a great option for those who are exposed to the city’s harsh elements, giving you an extra layer of protection against pollutants and the accompanying free radicals.

While studies suggest that both oral and topical probiotics give real skin benefits, these live microorganisms are not the be-all and end-all of healthy skin. Sure, they can help calm inflammation when you experience a flare-up, but if you’re living an unhealthy lifestyle and have a poor diet, in particular, then flare-ups will just keep occurring.

So strive to eat good-for-you food, slather on the sunscreen, and live a healthy lifestyle over all to set a good foundation for healthy skin then use probiotics to help take your skin to the next level.