EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR SKIN MICROBIOME,
PROBIOTIC SKINCARE & RETAINING SKIN BACTERIAL BALANCE
Often the beauty industry evolves so fast it’s almost impossible to stay abreast of the newest trends, fads or breakthroughs in our understanding of how the skin behaves. Every other week we’re told a new food will help keep us looking fresher for longer, that a ‘wonder ingredient’ will change the way we apply moisturiser forever, or that the hottest ingredient from Asia is about to hit our shores; the majority of it’s noise, forgotten about within the year, but occasionally those of us with a passion for all things skincare stand up and take notice of the buzz.
A phrase that’s been gaining momentum throughout 2019 is that of our ‘skin microbiome’, and the corresponding probiotic and prebiotic skincare products that claim to rebalance the surface and unlock your best ever skin. Understanding our external microbiome could hold the key to stronger, healthier-looking skin that’s resilient to the challenges of modern life – and there are now a plethora of products claiming to help do just that.
But first, let’s start at the beginning…
Unbeknownst to us there are billions of microorganisms living within and on the surface of our bodies that help keep it at its optimum health; we each have our own distinctive combination of these organisms, which is known as our microbiome. A healthy skin microbiome protects against infection, irritation and degeneration in much the same way a good gut microbiome does, by crowding out overgrowth of bad organisms; however, it’s constantly exposed to aggresors (such as UV or blue light, hormones, cortisol, diet, lack of sleep and so much more) which can bring it to a point of imbalance.
An imbalanced microbiome is now associated with many skin conditions (including psoriasis, eczema, contact dermatitis, acne and rosacea,) as well as accelerated skin aging; a balanced microbiome aids in wound healing, limits exposure to UV radiation, minimizes oxidative and environmental damage as well as keeping the skin plump and hydrated. It’s essential to look after it if you’re seeking a healthy looking, fresh and glowing complexion – so it’s no surprise that more and more brands are jumping on the microbiome bandwagon.
From my point of view, there’s a lot of science to back up the idea that respecting the microbiome leads to a reduction in inflammation (which is often at the root cause of most skin degeneration) and the products I’ve used have definitely left my skin looking and feeling fab. But, like with many new trends, there’s very little clinical data to back up what’s being said by the brands and it’s impossible as a consumer to know what’s going on at a microscopic level.
Although technically nothing new (brands including Gallinee and Aurelia have been banging on about probiotic skincare for years,) there are now oodles of products that claim to boost the performance of our skin’s own natural defense – whether you fancy sticking to the traditional via a moisturiser or serum, tagging something new onto your regime via a mist or mask, or simply swapping out some basics like a body wash or hand cream. Whatever floats your boat, I’ve got you covered with some of my picks for probiotic skincare that will have you covered top to toe and give you a fab introduction into a trend that’s not going anywhere anytime soon….
THE CLEANSER: Elizabeth Arden Superstart Probiotic Cleanser (£22.00)
I’m already on my third tube of this because it’s such a great cleanser; the clay-like formula is surprisingly light, thanks to its whipped texture, and glides over skin to leave the surface feeling thoroughly cleansed without any tightness. Enriched with probiotic ingredients to help strengthen the skin’s protective layer, this is a great entry-level product if you want to start dabbling in supporting your microbiome – although I’ve yet to see any clinical evidence as to what it does beyond helping skin to look and feel much smoother, softer and supple.
THE MOISTURISER: ESPA Tri-Active Advanced ProBiome Moisturiser (£85.00)
Super light in texture, this delicate moisturiser glides over the surface of skin effortlessly to leave it feeling hydrated but non-greasy. The combination of Hyaluronic Acid and Jojoba Oil help to nourish, while the formula is clinically proven to increase hydration levels by 43%, enhance firmness by 14% and improve elasticity by 10% – as well as helping to support biodiversity of the skin’s microbiome within 24 hours. I’ve tried the whole range and was seriously impressed (read my full review here,) but it is pricey; the only downside is the fact the product comes in a pot, so it’s not best for maintaining those oh so powerful ingredients!
THE FACE MASK: GlamGlow BerryGlow Probiotic Recovery Mask (£36.00)
Reminiscent of the probiotic yogurts we all know so well, this mask is enriched with a superfood berry blend, beetroot and hibiscus to nourish and protect skin. It also contains Hyaluronic Acid, Jojoba Oil and Shea Butter for deeper hydration and plumping qualities, while the probiotic ingredients help to strengthen the skin’s barrier. Without a doubt it leaves skin feeling smooth, supple and hydrated (you can leave it on to fully absorb if you fancy,) I’m not entirely convinced as to its long-term benefit.
THE SKIN MIST: Murad Prebiotic 3-in-1 MultiMist (£30.00)
Love or hate face mists, they can be a great way to prep skin or boost radiance throughout the day. This refreshing formula contains hydrating sugars and a yeast peptide to ensure skin is left feeling full of life, the appearance of uneven skintone is reduced and the microbiome is rebalanced. Unlike many mists which are more tin than product, this would last a really long time while being incredibly portable – it’s great for layering over makeup during the day, helping to give your microbiome a little boost while on the go.
THE BODY WASH: Dove Purifying Detox Green Clay Body Wash (£1.90)
Yep, you can even get body washes that claim to respect the skin’s microbiome! I really adore this product because it washes away daily toxins and impurities without stripping skin; it leaves the surface smooth and supple, but what’s most interesting is that Dove claims that this protects the skin’s strength and retains the integrity of your microbiome. Again hard to prove, but that doesn’t take away from a great story and an even better product.
THE HAND CREAM: Cuderm Hand Cream (£4.99)
Although not explicitly a probiotic product, this contains colloidal oatmeal which in itself helps to boost the good bacteria and rebalance the skin’s pH – half the battle when it comes to microbiome health. It promotes a ‘protective barrier’ and helps to restore ‘healthy skin’, but all in all its just a cracking cream that’s perfect if you suffer from seriously dry, cracked or sore hands. FYI, the Aveeno range is a great alternative that basically does the same thing too.
These six products are just the tip of the metaphorical iceburg when it comes to probiotic and prebiotic skincare, and many more respect the balance of the skin’s microbiome without explicitly claiming so. If you’re interested it’s well worth doing your research, looking out for key words and exploring the plethora of products lining the shelves of Boots that could possibly change the way you look after your body for good.
Whether you just want to try something new, struggle with a skin condition or simply like the sound of the probiotic trend, there’s certainly something available for your every need and desire.
Would you give probiotic skincare a go?