Are Prebiotic & Probiotic Skincare Proven to Work?
What is the #skincarescience behind prebiotics and probiotics in skincare? What is the difference between the two? Can they help with acne or rosacea? What is the skin's microbiome? Is it safe to put live bacteria in a cream? Watch the video below as Maleka and Chris discuss the latest It ingredient in skincare.
What is the difference between prebiotic and probiotic?
Probiotic is the good LIVE bacteria you would take in a supplement or a drink.
Prebiotic is the food for the good bacteria that enables it to grow and thrive.
Pathogens are the name of bad bacteria.
What is the microbiome?
The microbiome is the world of bacteria in our gut or on our skin. It is a naturally occurring habitat where good and bad bacteria live in balance. Much like fingerprints, everyone's microbiome is different. It might be unnerving to think about, but we are crawling with bacteria, and some of them are essential for our survival. 2 to 3% of our bodies are made from bacteria.
The skin's microbiome
The Stratum Corneum is the outmost layer of the skin and comprises of dead skin cells. The microbiome is a vital part of having healthy skin.
FDA did a study on hand sanitizers and how they kill all bacteria. In turn, they issued legislation on hand sanitizers. That led the charge to the school of thought - if we can improve the skin's microbiome, we can do x,y,z to the skin.
If your skin microbiome is out of balance (there are more bad than good bacteria) it can cause problems like dryness, inflammation, fine lines, and wrinkles. It is a trigger. With hand sanitizers specifically, if you are killing the good bacteria with it, you are more likely to get allergies. When things are out of balance, that is when the problems start.
An impaired microbiome can contribute to eczema, acne, aging, psoriasis, and inflammation. Pathogens cause acne, and if you have an imbalance, good bacteria isn't enough to mitigate the bad bacteria. Bad bacteria proliferate and can lead to problems.
What are some of the ways we impair the skin microbiome?
If you are over-cleansing with harsh cleansers daily, it can damage the natural balance. Be gentle with your skin. The same happens if you use super-high concentrations of one ingredient like retinol, vitamin C, Alpha, or Beta-Hydroxy acids.
It all comes back to the formula, and what else is in there. With a well-formulated retinol product, it will contain other ingredients that support the skin's barrier. A high dose of one ingredient isn't necessarily the best thing for your skin.
The science behind prebiotic and probiotic skincare
Only ten years ago, we thought there were hundreds of bacteria, but today we know there are trillions. How can we know with certainty which probiotic to put on our skin?
Microbiome and probiotics is an area where the trends drive the market demand and outrun the science.
Probiotics skincare is when a product contains live bacteria. Our understanding of the skin microbiome is still at very early stages. Even though we can put good bacteria in a product, we could be artificially creating an imbalance.
Chris thinks probiotics in a moisturiser is an awful idea. Because bacteria is going to grow. Formula can't contain a preservative because that kills the bacteria. A cream with bacteria and no preservative means bacteria can proliferate and get out of control. Furthermore, it needs a specific environment to live, it can't be too warm or too cold, for example, or it will die.
Prebiotics in skincare is a much better option because they soothe the skin. These types of formulas deliver good things that support a healthy skin microbiome. There is enough scientific data to support the claims that some prebiotics will feed the good bacteria and not the bad. Ferments and Lysates are a prime example of that and Chris labels them as prebiotics. These work as dead bacteria broth. When you supply it to the skin, it reacts accordingly and rebalances itself. It is similar to the flu vaccine. It uses the dead flu virus and it triggers a response. The ferments in Merumaya's products have been scientifically tested and have a positive effect on inflammation and acne.
Is the story about prebiotics in skincare more fear-mongering, or will the science catch up eventually?
We do know prebiotics are safe and work for the skin. In terms of probiotics - it is unclear how safe or effective they are.
Prebiotic and probiotic supplements, gut health, and the skin
Probiotics have been around for ages, in both tablets and drinks. The safety profile is proven, the efficacy isn't. That is why European Safety Food Authority got rid of the claims on the probiotics products. Chris believes they do have a positive impact and help the gut, but they don't have proven health claims. Some posit if you have a healthy gut, it impacts the whole body. Unfortunately, at the moment, there is no data to prove probiotics taken orally help the skin.
With both prebiotic and probiotic supplements, the best way is to judge how you feel. If you have a problem with your stomach, they are worth a try.
Maleka suggests writing down why you decided to take prebiotics or probiotics and what you hope they will help alleviate. After you have taken them for a while, refer to your list and see if you are feeling better.
Are prebiotics and probiotics vegan?
It depends. They are usually derived from a milk protein, so many aren't vegan. It is best to check for each product and look for vegan certifications.
Merumaya products that contain prebiotics
- Iconic Youth serum includes BIODYNES TRF™, a yeast extract that soothes irritation by stimulating cell metabolism and cell respiration.
- Treatment Toner with Vitamin C contains Pheohydrane (Brown and Micro Algae for skin softening and long-term moisturisation).