Pre and Probiotic skincare products have been around for a bit now, but more and more brands are launching products with them inside. When I started hearing about it, I was completely confused but very curious to see what it was all about and how it works. I have gone on a science journey to learn more about these ingredients and what I found was actually pretty shocking... And not in the favour of ANY of these brands, as of right now.
Lets start off with, what is a probiotic? A probiotic is a live bacteria and yeast that you can considered a “good guy”. Bacteria is naturally found inside the body, both good and bad, and probiotics help send food through your gut by affecting nerves that control gut movement. It can be found inside an array of foods, as well as in supplement form. Some types of probiotics include: bifidobacterium, which is found in some dairy products, lactobacillus can be found in yogurts and other fermented foods. To summarize: probiotics are good bacteria that enhance positive gut health. Studies suggest that they can help with inflammatory conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Ok, what is a prebiotic? A prebiotic is type of fiber that our bodies cannot digest. They work as a “food” for the probiotics, helping them survive and reproduce through the process of fermentation. Prebiotics can be found in fiber-rich foods like vegetables, whole grains and fruits! Pre and probiotics are something you 100% have been consuming without even realizing.
Great, so we now know what they are and what they do... But, you may have realized that all of this is about ORAL consumption, and you’re right. All studies have primarily been about oral consumption and what they do internally. So, does that mean that they are good for topical applications on the face? Brands claim that when probiotics are used topically, they can help strengthen the microbiome which reduces transepidermal water loss. They also have claimed that it can help reduce redness, even out skin tone, reduce inflammation, calm irritation, amongst many other things. Well, it’s time to investigate their claims through published studies that is regularly available online, any time, for everyone. For those who didn’t know, anyone can go online and view clinical trials, cosmetic restrictions & bans. Some sites that I use are PubMed, ClinicalTrials.Gov, CosIng, PubChem, and Canadian Cosmetic Ingredients Hotlist. All of these sites will show you different information all regarding cosmetic studies and ingredients.
I was able to find one single study online. One. Compared to the 1000+ studies that are published relating to the benefits of internal effectiveness + benefits. Right off the back, this should be a red flag. But, let’s explore the study together. This was from 2010 using 10% Bifidobacterium cream for 2 months, applied twice a day. The end results were overall positive, the 33 people who tested out the cream with the probiotic in it had an overall improvement to skin sensitivity, minimize transepidermal water loss, and increased hydration. With minimizing transepidermal water loss, this would indicate that their microbiome was not compromised. Non-compromised microbiomes do not allow pathogens to enter and cause inflammation aka sensitive the skin. All of this can help reduce breakouts, reduce fine lines/wrinkles and reduce pigmentation like PIH/PIE. The issue with this study is that it was conducted by Loreal Paris and could have a bias opinion on using the ingredient with the benefits they claim it to have. They own 39 beauty brands and some of those brands do sell products that contain probiotics, obviously bifidobacterium, the ingredient they did a study on. I’m not suggesting that we disregard the entire study, it is important for brands to conduct their own clinical trials as I mentioned in my previous blogpost titled “Clinical Trials Vs. Clinical Studies”, the issue is that when this is the only study that I can find that is a real clinical trial that lasted for longer than a few days and used actual humans, it’s hard to say with certainty that the claims are accurate. I know some may say “well, why would they do a study for this long and then not use the ingredient” and the answer to that is: clinical trials, for anywhere longer than a few weeks costs a lot of money... Especially when you have 66 participants. A brand isn’t going to fork out all this money and then just throw everything away. They need to capitalize off of it somehow and at least break even.
However, this is a great start and a great push into the direction of learning more about how prebiotics and probiotics could benefit the skin with topical usage. But as it stands right now, it is a great start, but there’s still insufficient evidence with a certainty of unbiased opinions.