By Alex Laws
Probiotics have had the internet buzzing since Jamie Lee Curtis fronted the much-parodied Activia yogurt campaigns. It’s no secret that maintaining a balance of good and bad bacteria is integral for intestinal health, but putting bacteria on your face?
With links to increased efficiency of the immune system and helping to decrease inflammation, when it comes to probiotics there may be more benefits to digest.
Dr. Lisa Kellett, dermatologist at Toronto’s DLK on Avenue, says she started noticing the ingredient appearing in skincare as early as 2009. “It’s thought that they might have microbial activity against the organism that causes acne,” she says. “There have been studies about its use in terms of lesion counts for acne and sensitive skin studies. We know that we did see some decrease in lesion size and a decrease in redness.”
Aside from being used to treat acne, probiotics have also been found to have calming properties for sensitive skin. A 2012 study in the Journal of Cosmetic Science (conducted on behalf of Estée Lauder) found that lactobacillus extract, a bacteria common in fermented foods like yogurt as well as dietary supplements, “was effective in reducing skin erythema,” which is a superficial reddening.
Perhaps unsurprisingly then, companies launching antiredness products ate it up. Clinique was a particularly early adopter in mainstream beauty when its Redness Solutions Makeup Broad Spectrum SPF 15 with Probiotic Technology hit the market in November 2010, designed for people with mild to moderate rosacea. Featuring an extract of cultured lactobacillus plantarum, which is said to boost skin health and increase the skin’s barrier function, it also benefits from other food-derived ingredients like murumuru butter and mushroom extract, which further help, respectively, to protect and soothe.
Further afield, UK-based skincare and cosmetics line Pixi, which launched a selection of core products at Shoppers Drug Mart in February, incorporates probiotic lactococcus ferment lysate, derived from a fermented dairy source, into one of its hero products. The Glow O2 Oxygen Mask strengthens and detoxifies, says Amanda Bell, Pixi’s global director of artistry and education. “It contains probiotics which are a very soothing ingredient when applied topically.”
While skincare featuring probiotics is readily available in Canada, variations exist between the different types of bacteria, and, says Dr. Kellett, “at this point in time we really need more evidence-based medicine to show how effective it is in skincare.” Whether you eat your yogurt or wear it, a slew of beauty companies are turning to probiotics for their calming properties. And, well, there are weirder things to put on your face.