Probiotics have been the beauty and healthcare industries’ darlings for years. Even The Wall Street Journal has joined the hype, so it’s tempting to invest in them. Yet, as is often the case, so-called “natural” remedies are often bogged down by pseudoscience.
Probiotics are live bacteria that straddle scientific and alternative medicine. They replete your bacterial ecosystem, but not all of them are useful. Lactobacillus reuteri, while beneficial to the digestive tract, are not needed on the surface of the skin. Nor are bifidobacterium or saccharomyces. Your skin relies on other organisms such as staphylococci and micrococci. They exist at balanced levels when the skin is in good condition, which doesn’t necessarily mean that applying them can boost dermal health. Not all skin is unhealthy, so the results of topical probiotic studies have been patchy. Manufacturers are, however, beginning to do randomized trials to find out what they can do for skin conditions like acne.
Dermatology Times reports that bacterial cultures can affect the pH of skin to discourage the growth of pathogens. Probiotics are also said to quash this kind of growth. Thus far, a 5% lactobacillus plantarum extract appears to bring acne lesions under control, while topical streptococcus thermophiles seems to treat skin sensitivity. These trials are relatively preliminary, so more research is needed to establish whether probiotics live up to the hype.
Dr. Steve Novella concedes that they are interesting enough to research, but is not yet sold on the studies that have emerged to date. Much of the data are contradictory, so until systematic reviews emerge, topical probiotic creams will remain shrouded in mystery.
Even so, the evidence for them is more solid than that of many other cosmetic ingredients. In the near future, the data should begin to stack up. For more information on producing your own formulations, contact Healthy Solutions.