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New Anti-Aging Benefits Emerge for Probiotics



By Navin M. Geria, Senior Technical Advisor and Principal Doctors Skin Prescription



Published April 3, 2013
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How does smearing yogurt all over your face lead to a clearer complexion and softer, smoother skin that’s less prone to breakouts? This column examines the science surrounding the multibillion-dollar probiotics market. According to the Health and Wellness Trends database, global probiotic product sales are expected to soar from $15.9 billion in 2008 to more than $32 billion in 2014.


Yogurt. Good for your figure and your face?
Probiotic means “in favor of life.” They are defined by the World Health Organization as living microorganisms or good bacteria which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.

Oral probiotic supplements are well recognized for protecting the gut’s microflora and supporting the body’s immune system. Healthy bacteria in the gut improve overall health and, consequently, help slow the aging process, enabling skin to retain its youthful glow much longer. Researchers may reason that topical use of probiotics will confer similar protective balance to the skin, and therefore help keep skin strong, healthy and age resistant.

We all know that skin hosts friendly bacteria. Probiotics work to protect this environment by replacing lost bacteria and preventing further loss with a fully functioning and thriving probiotic environment, making skin balanced, calmer and more resistant to aging. Given that the good-bad interaction of bacteria takes place on the skin’s surface, deep penetration of topical probiotics is not a huge concern. These topical probiotics need not be absorbed too deeply into the stratum corneum, but rather would be more effective if they stayed on the upper layer of the epidermis.

Products and Claims

Consumer magazines, websites and blogs are rife with details about how applying yogurt on the face, billed as a “yogurt facial,” improves the complexion. This is due to the lactic acid found in yogurt, which gently soothes, smoothes and exfoliates skin. The good bacteria in yogurt help to combat pathogenic bacteria that may be at the root, or at least exacerbating areas of redness and swelling. Some spas combine yogurt with dried orange peel powder in their facial preparations, which is rinsed off the face after leaving on for 15 minutes.

Probiotics are also incorporated into cleansers or masks. All these anecdotal probiotic topical treatments have been around for years because they have consumer benefits, thus proving that yogurt is surely an effective beauty boost. In health food stores, we find probiotic-based personal care products such as soaps and lotions. British skin care company Nude was the first to develop and launch a whole line of skin care around friendly bacteria. Clinique, Lancôme, Burt’s Bees, Bioelements Chatecaille, Amala and Revive are just a few of the brands injecting probiotics into anti-aging serums and moisturizers in the belief that they help soothe and plump skin and can even turn back the clock.

Clinique’s Probiotic Anti-Aging Serum contains lactobacillus bifidus cultures encased in soy and milk proteins to help ward off wrinkles and irritation by keeping the skin’s bacterial balance in check. Clinique holds a patent on lactobacillus in cosmetics. Its Redness Solutions Makeup SPF15 helps alleviate mild and moderate rosacea while concealing facial flush.

Burt’s Bees’ intense hydration cream cleanser is also formulated with probiotics, which are said to boost skin’s protective bacterial layer.

L’Oréal Paris Youth Code Serum Intense delivers Biolysat, a concentrated probiotic, with other ingredients that improves barrier function while prompting skin cells to behave like younger versions of themselves.

Amala Rejuvenating Face Cream encourages the growth of good bacteria with pH-normalizing lactic acid, while silver sulfite fights the bad bugs.

The Doctors’ Opinions

There is no unanimous agreement among dermatologists regarding topical anti-aging benefits of probiotics. Richard Gallo, MD, chief of the division of dermatology at the University of California, San Diego, notes that beneficial bugs live in our bodies and help fight off myriad diseases, making them extremely important to us. So why is there difficulty accepting that perhaps the bacteria living on skin are also beneficial to us?

We have good and bad bacteria on our skin, just as they are in our gut, according to Ellen Marmur, MD, an associate professor of dermatology and genetics at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

“If the balance is off-kilter, it can result in acne or rosacea,” explained Dr. Marmur. “The right bacteria may also keep skin young.”

Nick Lowe, a consultant and dermatologist, agrees that probiotics have applications in skin care, but more research is needed.

“There is a lot of hope and hype with probiotics. There is some evidence, probiotics help with eczema and acne, the research is not there yet to prove, it can be anti-aging,” said Lowe. “People should understand that normal healthy skin has its own very good system for managing bacteria. As far as turning back the clock, we will have to wait and see.”

Scientists at the 2007 World Congress of Dermatology produced data showing that probiotics help your body build a better barrier for the skin and gut. Leslie Baumann, MD, a dermatologist, recognizes the potential of helpful bacteria to treat skin disorders. However, the bacteria in your colon are not the same as those on your skin, so you can’t make the leap that if probiotics work internally they are going to work topically.

Research Studies

According to a study published in a recent issue of the Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists (Nov-Dec 2012; 63(6):385-95), certain types of probiotics are good for the skin. Researchers drew the conclusion that probiotics can really work if you use enough of the right kind. The bad news is that yogurt won’t have the same effect because it contains lactobacillus casei a different kind of probiotic. If you want to get the right kind (lactobacillus plantarum) from natural food products, you would have to rub sauerkraut, pickles, brined olives, or sourdough on your face.

According to Natural Solutions (Jul. 2008, issue 109, p.89), probiotics can clear up one’s complexion. Authors concluded that when the good bacteria enter the body, they strengthen the skin’s acid mantle and protects the outermost layer of the skin from pathogens and free radicals.

Basic Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines for probiotic use suggest less than 1000 CFU except for eye area products, where the suggested limit is less than 500 CFU. It is estimated that most cosmetic use for probiotics is around 10 CFU.

More Research Is Needed

Research is emerging to explain how probiotics interact with skin as well as which strains are most beneficial and whether topical or oral preparations work best. We do not know how many microorganisms that naturally reside on the skin are friendly and beneficial and combat the inflammation that causes premature aging and wrinkling, just as they reduce gut inflammation.

There will always be a market for anti-aging products with bioactive natural actives. Their popularity is due, in part, to consumer perception that natural ingredients are well suited for soothing problem skin.
Consumers believe that harsh, chemically-derived products are strictly verboten for anyone with irritated skin. These consumers reason that these chemicals disrupt skin’s healthy eco-balance of the skin, strip and irritate it.


Navin M. Geria
Senior Technical Advisor and PrincipalDoctors Skin Prescription
E-mail: tokuho02@optonline.net

Navin Geria, ex-Pfizer Research Fellow, is senior technical advisor and principal of the dermatological research company, Doctors Skin Prescription (DSP), Boston, founded by dermatologist David J. Goldberg M.D.J.D. and plastic surgeon William P. Adams M.D.F.A.C.S. Geria has more than 30 years of experience in the personal care industry and was previously with Clairol, Warner-Lambert, Schick, Bristol-Myers and most recently SpaDermaceuticals. He has earned nearly 20 US patents, has been published extensively and has been both a speaker and a moderator at cosmetic industry events.


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