How Skin Probiotics Work—and Whether or Not You Should Use Them

Natasha Burton
Bowl of fresh mixed berries and yogurt

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You’ve likely heard about using probiotics to help balance gut health, which in turn can help your skin (not to mention your overall body function). And perhaps you’ve read a DIY face mask recipe or two that calls for putting yogurt on your skin. But, chances are the idea of using probiotics topically hadn’t really come up all too often.

However, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, probiotics can actually do quite a lot to ease a number of skin issues, from decreasing sensitivity and redness to protecting against environmental damage.

Board-certified dermatologist David E. Bank says that while more research should be done to confirm their positive effects, “topical probiotics may have the ability to calm the skin and soothe inflammation by normalizing the bacterial population on the skin with “good” bacteria.”

Are these millions of good bacteria right for your skin? Here’s the lowdown on how they work and how to use them.

How probiotics work:

According to board certified gastroenterologist and internist Dr. Roshini Raj, co-founder of TULA, a skincare line that incorporates probiotics, topical probiotics, which can be applied directly to your skin, help strengthen natural skin defenses, lower the stress level in the skin and reduce skin sensitivity, all of which can make a pretty big impact on the health of your skin and how fast it ages.

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“By secreting anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory substances, probiotics form a protective shield on the skin’s surface, which stops your cells from ‘seeing’ or reacting to bad bacteria and developing inflammation, which may aggravate acne or rosacea and lead to flare-ups,” she explains. “In this way, probiotics send a calming signal to your skin, which would otherwise react to the bad bacteria, provoking an immune reaction and triggering inflammation. Because probiotics improve the skin barrier function, they may help reduce stinging, burning and dryness that often accompanies rosacea and eczema.”

Which skin types can benefit:

While probiotics are safe for all skin types—including, apparently, even sensitive skin—it appears that aging skin may get the biggest boost from using them.Probiotics may help improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles—there is also some evidence showing that probiotics may help to build collagen,” Raj says.

When it comes to acne, however, probiotics alone won’t do the trick. Yet, Bank notes that “antibiotic treatment for acne can disrupt the normal flora and probiotics can help to normalize these bacteria.”

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How probiotics can fit into your skincare routine

“Topical probiotics can be used as part of your daily beauty routine,” Raj says. “A few skin care lines on the market, including my TULA line, already use extracts of probiotics in their skin care products. You can also incorporate probiotics into your beauty routine by making your own at-home mask with Greek yogurt and use it twice a week.”

To supercharge the health of your skin, Raj suggests applying topical probiotics and ingesting them, given the link between gut health and your skin. However, Bank does warn that adding probiotics to one’s diet can cause bloating or intestinal gas so its important to be aware of that before ingesting them on the regular just in case.