How Biotics Can Benefit Your Skin
Retinol, blue light protection, peptides, AHAs... The skincare ingredients we should be using seem to multiply daily. Overwhelmed and confused by choice, many of us struggle to know what’s truly beneficial. However, there's one group of ingredients scientists, brands and shoppers agree is worth the hype – biotics.
At the heart of a growing wave of microbiome-supporting skincare, these buggy ingredients are generating quite a lot of buzz. But what is prebiotic, probiotic and postbiotic skincare? What are biotics’ benefits – and what skin types and concerns do they address?
In this go-to guide to pro-, pre-, and postbiotic skincare, we'll cover everything you need to know. For calm, balanced and resilient skin, read on.
Understanding the skin microbiome
Before discussing the benefits of probiotic skincare, we need to talk about the skin microbiome. Just like your gut, your skin is home to billions of microorganisms – both good and bad. We each have around 1000 species of bacteria on our skin1 and approximately one million bacteria per square centimetre of flesh2. This unique ecosystem is referred to as the skin microbiome – and it greatly impacts the way your skin looks and feels.
According to a 2020 Nature article, researchers have established that our bacteria, skin cells and immune cells are in constant conversation. "These interactions help to reinforce and repair the barrier formed by the skin, bolster the body’s defences against infection and tamp down excess inflammation.”
In other words? Bacteria are not just OK – they're also desirable. Achieving a balance between good and bad bacteria is crucial, however. And this is where biotic skincare comes in.
What is probiotic skincare – and how can it help the skin?
Now you understand the microbiome, let’s discuss bacteria. Probiotics are the beneficial live microorganisms, or good bacteria, found in fermented foods. Known to promote gut health, they’re also said to have a wide range of benefits, including better cardiovascular and mental health.
This explains why we've all been boosting our diets with yoghurt, kombucha and kimchi – but why the interest in probiotic skincare?
Well, because a diverse and balanced microbiome strengthens the skin’s defences against infection, dryness, redness and irritation. It helps to support and repair the skin barrier which plays a crucial role in preventing water loss while limiting the impact of external aggressors such as pollution.
Whether they’re consumed to applied topically, a range of research suggests probiotics can help improve skin function, hydration and health. Often beneficial for inflammatory skin conditions such as acne and eczema, they can also reduce redness while restoring your natural glow.
However, studies focus on live bacteria, which is very difficult to formulate with. Increasingly, it’s prebiotics – and now postbiotics – that are at the centre of the skincare conversation.
What about prebiotics in skincare?
You’re now familiar with probiotics as the ‘good-guys’ of the bacteria world. So, what are prebiotics – and why are they popping up in our skincare products?
Specialised plant fibres, prebiotics are essentially the food probiotics live on. Found in fruits and veg including asparagus, onions and bananas3, they help good bacteria thrive – while inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria.
Why is this important? Well, when our skin’s microflora is out of balance, its defences are down. Our hydrating mechanisms are less effective. We experience increased water loss, dryness, and tight, uncomfortable sensations. At the same time, the skin is more vulnerable to external aggressors such as allergens and pollution. Which means we might experience more inflammation and irritation.
Thankfully, topical prebiotics can help rebalance the microbiome. By helping beneficial bacteria grow faster than harmful microorganisms, they promote healthy, comfortable, hydrated skin. Balancing skin pH levels, they also help combat redness, acne breakouts and dryness.
And, finally, what is postbiotic skincare?
Postbiotic skincare is the new frontier in microbiome-friendly skincare. Essentially, it’s ‘probiotic’ skincare, but formulated with non-live bacteria. Postbiotic skincare instead uses by-products of fermented live bacteria. Postbiotics include certain peptides and fatty acids. However, you’ll see them referred to by names such as ‘lactobacillus ferment’ on skincare packaging4.
What’s the benefit of bypassing probiotics? There are no issues with preserving the live bacteria. Instead, you’re feeding the skin with beneficial by-products that survive the packaging process intact.
Who should use microbiome-friendly skincare?
While anyone can benefit from microbiome-friendly skincare, it should be your first port of call if you suspect your skin is out of balance.
How can you tell? Sensitivity is a major clue. Dryness, redness, itching, acne and accelerated ageing are other signs of an unbalanced microbiome. And a link to inflammatory and dry skin conditions including psoriasis, rosacea and dermatitis has also been established.
Numerous things can upset the skin’s microflora, such as ageing, hormones, UV exposure, pollution, medication, diet and lifestyle factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption.
Rough treatment including aggressive manual exfoliation, the use of stripping sulfates and overuse of retinol and other actives can upset this delicate balance.
If in doubt, go back to skincare basics and consider adding biotics to your regime.
The benefits of biotic skincare
Promoting a healthy bacterial balance and supporting the skin’s barrier function, biotic skincare has benefits for all skin types.
Pre-, pro-, and postbiotic skincare can help to:
- Repair an impaired skin barrier
- Improve hydration
- Reduce dryness
- Reduce redness
- Reduce irritation
- Reduce acne breakouts
- Prevent itching
- Maintain the skin’s natural pH balance
- Reduce flare-ups from eczema, psoriasis and rosacea
- Promote glowing, healthy-looking skin
- Reduce signs of premature ageing
Dermaenergy’s microbiome-supporting skincare
At Dermaenergy, our number one priority is restoring and maintaining skin health. It’s why we recommend gentle enzymatic exfoliation over harsh manual scrubs which can damage the skin barrier. While our clients love the instant results from ingredients like retinol and acids, we know incorrect use of these active ingredients can throw the skin’s microflora out of balance.
With each formula, we therefore aim to balance performance against tolerance. In other words, our products deliver maximum results with minimal irritation.
And for those experiencing signs of an unbalanced microbiome? We’ve included prebiotics and postbiotics in our clinic-only Black Label line. All our Revive moisturisers contain the prebiotic peptide, Fensebiome and postbiotic, Probacillus Revive.
Also formulated with anti-blue light technology, our Revive moisturisers are designed to restore balance and hydration in all skin types. Use AM and PM to support a healthy skin barrier in oily and acne-prone, normal and combination and dry to very dry skin.