'Bacteria's the ultimate natural beauty ingredient. It's a game-changer'

Probiotics are good news for bad skin, says skin expert

27 November 2017 - 13:45 By Sonia Haria
Beauty products containing probiotics are a growing trend.
Beauty products containing probiotics are a growing trend.
Image: 123RF/francesco83

Probiotics are known to have a positive effect on digestive health, but when it comes to skincare, there've been few beauty products to harness that effect. That's changing.

Of the skincare labelled "probiotic" launched globally in recent years, 27% was introduced in 2014, 34.4% in 2015 and 38.7% in 2016.

It's an incline that data insight group Mintel predicts will continue.

Probiotics help the skin regain its natural balance in the same way that they help to rebalance the gut. The idea is that by applying probiotics to the surface of the skin, or adding them to products that repair the skin at a cellular level, good bacteria will help to strengthen the skin's own immunity and calm inflammation. This is exciting for people who suffer with acne or sensitive skin.

It was because of her own "hyper-reactive, dry and blemished" skin that Dr Marie Drago, a French pharmacist, founded her brand Gallinée in April last year. She wanted a targeted alternative on the market to strong disinfectants that kill the bacteria on the skin - including the good.

"The use of probiotics is revolutionary for problem skin," she says. "They help to rebuild the skin barrier, beneficial for skin conditions like eczema. Probiotics can have a purifying effect. We're switching to a strategy where we help the good bacteria to grow, naturally filling the space occupied by the P. acnes [the bacteria responsible for acne]."

Many new brands have robust clinical data to back up their results, achieved while still keeping the skin in a natural, calm state. The beauty giant Johnson & Johnson has recently expanded its Innovation portfolio to include two companies that focus on research in treating skin conditions with good bacteria. The L'Oréal Group, which owns Lancôme, has pushed research in this new field of skincare.

Although big corporations are increasingly investing in probiotic research, it's still largely a market led by niche beauty brands.

Drago says: "I see the industry moving from 'ingredient beauty', bringing a foreign agent to the skin, like retinol or alpha hydroxy acids, to 'ecosystem beauty', where you help to support a living and breathing ecosystem. Bacteria is the ultimate natural beauty ingredient. It's a game-changer."