Right now, the live microorganisms found in cultured and fermented foods are big news in the cosmeceutical industry. Probiotics are best known for their digestive and immune-boosting benefits. But a new field of study exploring probiotics in skin health has emerged – and the future looks bright.
Probiotics hold promise for treating acne, rosacea, atopic eczema, wounds and scars. Plus, these friendly bacteria may even prevent premature ageing.
Probiotics applied to the skin
Exactly how probiotics protect the skin is still being explored, but according to the American Academy of Dermatology these live microorganisms work in the following ways when applied directly to the skin:
- By triggering an immune response. This boosts the skin barrier, shielding the skin from harmful elements in the environment.
- Through a process called “bacterial interference”, probiotics prevent skin cells from reacting to bad bacteria and parasites.
- By killing harmful bacteria. The substances produced by probiotics have antimicrobial properties – they create “holes” in bad bacteria and destroy them.
“From a purely scientific perspective, there’s good reason to believe that the topical application of probiotics could work,” says Dr Suretha Kannenberg, a dermatologist from Kuils River. “But clinical studies have been limited to small groups. This makes it difficult to interpret results.”
Taking probiotic tablets or drops, and eating more probiotic-rich foods like yoghurt and kimchi, may also be a boon to the skin.
“The importance of a healthy microbiome (the collection of microorganisms in and on your body) is becoming increasingly clear,” says Dr Kannenberg, noting that the microbiome includes the digestive system and skin.
Research already shows that oral probiotics could help prevent atopic eczema in children, and more interesting research is currently underway – also in adults.
Probiotics in the SA market
Some cosmeceutical companies have started incorporating probiotics into their products. The list of products available in South Africa includes:
Gatineau Melatogenine™ AOX Probiotics Cream, R1,230.25, www.absoluteskin.co.za
Bioelements Probiotic Anti-aging Serum, R724, www.fruugo.co.za
Esse Serum, R289, www.freshearth.co.za (Esse has a whole range of probiotic skincare)
There’s no harm in giving these products a try. Note, however, that probiotic products aren’t formally prescribed by local dermatologists yet.