Beauty biotics: what you need to know about the skin’s microbiome

19 May 2022
By Sarah Murray

A balanced microbiome means healthy, happy skin.

Image: Gallerystock.

We don’t like to think about it, but our skin is home to billions of bacteria, fungi and viruses. In fact, human skin is home to one billion microorganisms per square centimetre. A number like that is enough to make your skin crawl, but contrary to how creepy they sound, all those microbes are actually a good thing, and it’s essential to keep them — your skin’s microbiome — happy and healthy. 

“The skin microbiome is a beneficial living ecosystem of microorganisms and an integral part of the skin’s surface,” says Education Manager at Lancôme Lindi Botes. “It forms part of the first line of defence between your skin and the external environment.”

By now, many of us are aware of how we can support our gut microbiome with prebiotic and probiotic food and drinks, yet the skin’s microbiome is relatively uncharted territory. Lately, though, a host of products have come onto the market that also tout prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics to help keep the skin’s microbiome sweet. Why are they gaining so much traction in the beauty industry now? 

“There’s ongoing research into the beneficial effect that pre-, pro- and postbiotics may have on the health of the skin microbiome, and in the past couple of years, we’ve seen how important skin barrier health has become in treating certain conditions and even signs of premature ageing,” says Botes.

Common skin issues associated with a disrupted microbiome or altered skin barrier function include rosacea and atopic dermatitis, but sometimes clues that your skin’s barrier function may be impaired can be less dramatic, such as tightness, dryness and breakouts. 

So, what disrupts the microbiome? Well, a lot of things, actually. Internal and external aggressors like the rigours of ageing, a poor diet, medication, stress, seasonal changes, environmental pollution, UV light, travelling and a too-aggressive skincare routine are all culprits. These days, there’s also the issue of wearing a pandemic-prescribed protective face covering. “Seeing stressed skin daily is the new normal, because the skin barrier can become weakened through mask wearing,” says Botes. “There’s constant friction, rubbing and increased heat and humidity, so we see many people experiencing ‘maskne’ [mask-induced acne].”

The good stuff

If harnessing the powers of prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics can help improve your skin microbiome, how do we sign ourselves up? Such supporters can be applied topically, but because our gut health is linked to our skin health, as well as skincare, it pays to consider what’s in your pantry and your state of mind as well. “Improving your diet and certain lifestyle factors will help you achieve a healthy, balanced skin microbiome,” says Botes. Given there are so many topical options on offer, you don’t want choosing one to become another stress, so here’s a selection of microbiome-minded skincare that we recommend.

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Lancôme Advanced Génifique Sensitive, $147.

Features: Seven pre- and probiotic-derived fractions and antioxidant ferulic acid.

Results: Helps keep sensitive skin soothed and strong, while protecting against
daily aggressors.

Unconditional Skincare Co Live Probiotic Hydration Serum, $94.

Features: Enriched with BLIS Q24®, a powerful patent-pending live probiotic that works with
your skin to actively balance, restore and protect your microbiome.

Results: Balances, hydrates and restores skin to
its healthy, radiant best.

Gallinée Face Vinegar, $52. 

Features: Uses prebiotic actibiome to calm stressed skin and prevent further irritation. 

Results: Repairs and hydrates in just one swipe. Pores
look smaller and skin looks brighter.

Tula 24-7 Moisture Hydrating Day & Night Cream, $117.

Features: Created by a gastroenterologist and infused with prebiotics, probiotic extracts, peptides and moisturing ingredient squalane.

Results: Leaves your complexion hydrated, supple, plump and glowing.

Cultured Biomecare Biome One Cleansing Balm, $63. 

Features: A prebiotic effect to support microbiome resilience and rebalance the skin. 

Results: Gently removes make-up and dirt. Skin becomes less prone to oiliness, irritation and breakouts. 

Avène Tolérance Control Soothing Skin Recovery Cream, $29.59. 

Features: Postbiotic ingredients that strengthen the
skin barrier, making it particularly good for those with sensitive skin. 

Results: Calms dry skin, even skin that’s prone to eczema. 

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