Every few years, the beauty community is buzzing with new 'it' ingredients and products that claim to transform your skin. Coming from a person who's had clear skin for 27 years of her life and then suddenly broke out into the worst case of adult acne (that lasted for two whole years), it's safe to assume I've gone through hundreds of skincare products trying to find my personal holy grail. Through this journey, a few ingredients really stood out for me. They transformed my skin, boosted my self-confidence and changed the way I consumed skincare. The introduction to acids into my skincare regime helped speed up the healing process and boost cell-renewal while actives like Vitamin C and Hyaluronic Acid worked on getting rid of the nasty scars and dryness left behind by the acne.
There's another ingredient that is slowly making its way up this ladder and finding a home in many skin-foods (I'm looking at all you kombucha lovers) and products. It's the skincare insider's secret to luminous, radiant skin. And it's filled with bacteria - the good kind! I'm talking about probiotics.
If you've grown up in an Indian household, I don't need to tell you the benefits of eating curd with every meal. Probiotics are found in a lot of Indian foods like yoghurt, buttermilk, idlis and dosas, paneer and pickles among many others. Why are they good for you though? These foods are fermented and full of bacteria (the good kind) that help boost your gut health. Consuming probiotics on a daily basis has numerous health benefits - they treat infections, promote healthy digestion and boost your immune system. What a lot of people probably don't know is the vital role that your gut plays in having great skin. Nutrition experts and dermatologists ask you to eat healthy for a reason - if your gut is inflamed, chances are your skin might act up too.
Consuming foods rich in probiotics is the easiest way to get the recommended dose into your system, but thanks to innovative skincare and modern technology, you can now topically feed your skin with good bacteria. Very intrigued by the concept of applying skincare filled with this so-called 'good bacteria' onto my skin, I reached out to Celebrity Skin Expert & Medical Head of The AgeLess Clinic, Dr Harshana Bijlani and asked her a few questions.
Here's a fun fact to get you started: There are over one trillion bacteria living and snacking on your skin as we speak. The bacteria in your gut and the ones on your skin share a close connection. They fight infection, regulate pH levels and keep your skin plump and happy. Experts claim that the more the variety of bacterial species present on your skin, the happier and healthier it will be.
Dr Harshana breaks down everything for you, the benefits, the hype and whether you really need them in your skincare routine.
Probiotics help strengthen the skin’s barrier by making sure the healthy bacteria are in abundance and the negative effects of the unhealthy bacteria are controlled. This would in turn help with skin concerns (that are caused by unhealthy bacteria) like acne, rosacea and eczema, inflammation and so on.
There are two ways probiotics can help your skin – holistically (internally) and topically (externally). When you orally consume probiotics, they help improve your gut health by helping healthy microbes flourish in your gut. An unhealthy gut could give rise to issues like rosacea, acne, dull skin and so on. Probiotics help repopulate the healthy bacteria in the gut and improve immunity, digestion and skin health. Your skin too, like the rest of your body has its own microbiome (mix of bacteria, yeasts and parasites that live on your skin). Topically adding probiotics to skincare can help balance the counter effects of unhealthy microorganisms and promote a healthy level of microorganisms.
If you feel like you eat a balanced diet and your gut feels healthy, then you can avoid supplements and stick to naturally fermented food products like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, miso and so on. However, if you’ve recently been unwell and were on antibiotics or had some sort of an infection, chances are that the medication you took to destroy the bad bacteria has also affected the good bacteria. Getting on probiotics for a couple of weeks or months, based on how long your medication course lasted could be a good idea.
Sure, probiotics are a good way to keep your skin and health in good shape. However, if you’re taking probiotics for a particular concern rather than just general wellbeing, I would recommend that you consult your doctor, understand what strains of bacteria would work for you and how you should proceed.
Every individual’s microbiome is different and probiotics aren’t always one-size-fits-all. Hence, like in the case of any skincare product, it’s better to proceed with caution, start using only one new skincare product at a time. Make sure the product you’re picking has other active ingredients that complement probiotics and the product is gentle on your skin. Try and opt for a product that has been clinically tested. The popular ingredients in probiotic skincare to look out for are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Vitreoscilla.
In theory, probiotic skincare sounds great, however, I would want to wait until further research is done before it is something I advocate to all my patients.
This serum has been around since 1982, and it's been a staple in my night-routine for close to seven years now. I never really understood why my skin craved this milky serum. It's extremely expensive, but every time I ran out of a bottle, I'd see my skin asking for more. So I did a deep-dive into why this product works such miracles and I discovered that it contains probiotics - the lactobacillus ferment and Bifida ferment lysate (a sugar-based probiotic) are key ingredients in the formula in the entire Night Repair line. If you're looking to add topical-probiotics to your routine, this would be a good start.
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