truth about probiotics in skincare

Remember the good old days when you were running away from bacteria as fast as your little legs would carry you, lest they kill you off?

Now you’re all rushing to eat them up, gobble them down, slather them on your skin…

My, how times have changed! There’s no doubt probiotics are the future of skincare. But, are we there yet? Or are all the probiotic creams that are flooding the skincare aisles atm surfing on a trend too quickly?

Let’s investigate:

What Are Probiotics?

Did you know that your skin is covered in bacteria? Your body has more bacteria than cells! Eww, I know.

Some of these bacteria are good. Some are bad. What matters is that they’re in balance. When a certain bacteria reproduces and spreads too much, you get acne, dandruff and other annoying stuff like that.

Up until now, we’ve dealt with them with antibiotics, ie stuff that kills the bad bacteria. But, lately, someone thought, “Mmmm, why not take the opposite approach? Why not give skin more of the good bacteria?”

Probiotics are the good bacteria. Their job is to strengthen your skin and restore or maintain a good balance of bacteria.

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How Do Probiotics Benefit Skin?

Quick science lesson: your skin has a natural pH of 4.7. At this pH, it’s perfectly healthy and well-equipped to fight off the bad bacteria and all the havoc they cause (think acne or eczema).

When you mess with your skin’s pH, bad things happen. Take cleansing. You can’t not wash your face but most cleansers on the market have a high pH that ranges between 7 and 12!

Harsh cleansers destroy the protective barrier on your skin (you know when this happens: your skin turns all dry and red). This changes your microbioma (the population of bacteria on your skin): the good bacteria slowly disappear and the bad ones take hold.

When you alter your skin’s pH, you’re basically destroying your skin’s natural defences. Not smart, my friend.

That’s where probiotics come in. Probiotics can lower your skin’s pH, keeping your microbioma balanced.

Related: Why You Should Switch To A Low Ph Cleanser (Plus My Fave Picks)

What Are The Best Probiotics For Skincare?

This is where it gets tricky. Scientists have been so busy figuring out how to kill bacteria so they wouldn’t kill us, they didn’t exactly spend much time studying which ones are good for us. It just wasn’t a priority…

We don’t know which the best probiotics for skin are yet. So, I’ll just talk about the two most used in skincare to give you an idea of what probiotics can do. Deal?

Bifida Ferment Lysate

Most of the research on Bifida Ferment Lysate has been done by L’Oreal. Of course, they say it’s a miracle worker that can repair DNA damage, hydrate your skin and turn the clock back 20 years. If only!

But, I’ve found an independent study that shows Bifidobacterium Longum Lysate soothes inflammation, reduces dryness and increases “skin resistance against physical and chemical aggression“.

If your skin is very dry or becomes irritated and throws a tantrum every time it comes in contact with something new, this bacteria could save the day.


Lactobacillus Plantarum is a bacteria that works by creating antimicrobial peptides. According to a 2012 study, it can reduce erythema, repair skin’s barrier and help treat acne.

But, only in concentrations of 5% or higher. Lower amounts are useless. Guess what? Skincare companies don’t usually use that much. 🙁

Do Probiotics In Skincare Really Work?

Probiotics in skincare are dead.

That’s a problem. The good bacteria on your skin are alive. If you want to replenish them and rebalance your microflora, you need live bacteria.

But how can live bacteria live in a skincare product? What can they eat there? Atm, you simply can’t put live bacteria in skincare creams. 🙁

So, are probiotics useless? Not really. As we’ve seen above, one study shows they can help. But, HOW?

By training your immune system. My friend Cheryl of Honesty For Your Skin explains it perfectly on her blog:

“In the same way a flu vaccine uses dead bacteria to teach your immune system to build resilience, dead-probiotic cultures also directly teach your skin’s immune system to be healthier.”

What Are The Best Skincare Products With Probiotics?

If you have dry or sensitive skin that gets irritated easily or are dealing with eczema, these may help:

  • Aurelia Probiotics Skincare Revitalise & Glow Serum (£57.00/$96.00): available at Cult Beauty
  • Missha Time Revolution Night Repair Science Activator Ampoule ($49.00): available at Sokoglam

The Bottom Line

Probiotics aren’t a must. It’ll take a long time before we can put live bacteria in a cream or serum. Until then, they can only train your immune system not to throw a tantrum so often. If you have dry or sensitive skin, they’re worth a try.