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Probiotics For Skin: Are They Effective?

Katelyn Hagerty

Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 1/23/2022

In the last few years, you’ve probably heard a lot about the importance of gut health and how oral probiotics can help keep it in tip-top shape. Nowadays, there are a variety of probiotic products on the market — from pills to yogurt drinks and beyond. 

But what exactly are probiotic supplements? They contain friendly bacteria that can ensure you have a healthy microbiome in your gut. This can aid in digestion and even keep sickness at bay.

Your skin also has a microbiome (meaning, there’re lots of bacteria that live on the skin’s surface) and, recently, probiotic skin care has become quite the thing. 

What Is Probiotic Skin Care? 

The surface of your skin is packed with thousands of different species of bacteria. These bacteria make up something called your skin’s microbiome. 

But before you’re tempted to vomit, know this: it’s a good thing to have skin packed with bacteria. That bacteria can help protect your face from environmental factors, prevent dry skin and more.

But, if your skin’s microbiome gets out of whack, it can wreak havoc on your complexion and cause acne, rosacea, premature aging, eczema and dryness. 

As for what can throw off your skin’s microbiome? It can be anything — from medications you take, to the weather, to the face wash you use.

Now that you know that an off-balance microbiome can cause skin issues, you can probably guess what the goal of probiotic skin care is: to keep the good bacteria balanced and working in your favor, and prevent bad bacteria from causing skin issues. 

There are topical creams that contain live cultures of bacteria. 

There are also creams that are labeled prebiotics.

While probiotics help keep good bacteria in balance, prebiotics contain ingredients believed to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria. 

Additionally, there are oral pills that claim to help keep your skin’s microbiome in check.

With all the options available, the next logical question is:

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Does Probiotic Skin Care Work? 

In short? It may. There’s some research that suggests oral and topical probiotics may help to prevent as well as treat certain skin issues.

One systematic review of both human and animal studies suggested that applying probiotic skin care products may help to address acne, eczema and dry skin. 

However, the researchers were very clear to note that more research is needed before that can be definitively concluded. 

There have also been a number of small studies that found probiotics may help with skin aging, wound healing and possibly even skin cancer.

Yet another batch of research suggested that certain probiotics may encourage good bacteria that can help restore the skin’s normal pH balance and fight free radicals. 

Free radicals form naturally and they can damage the cellular structures of the skin. 

Environmental factors (like UV light and pollution) can increase these free radicals.

Specific Probiotics That May Help Skin

If you want to try this type of skin care to boost your skin’s healthy bacteria and help your skin microbiome, it helps to know which probiotic extracts can help. 

Here are a few of the heavy hitters:

  • S Thermophiles may increase skin ceramides, which help promote cellular function in the skin. It may also improve atopic dermatitis. 

  • V Filiformis was shown in some studies to improve atopic dermatitis after two weeks, redness, scaling and itchiness. 

  • S Thermophilus led to an increase in ceramides and hydration.

  • Lactobacillus may help with inflammation.

  • B. Coagulans may help with acne, though more research needs to be done.

Science-Backed Skin Care Alternatives

Not sure you want to go all in on probiotic skin care? Or perhaps you just want to wait until there’s a bit more research to back up the benefits? We get it. 

Luckily, there are a variety of products out there that have been well-researched. Seriously, no matter what your skin needs (hydration, clearing up, overall health), there’s something for you. 

Here are some go-to’s that are backed by science: 

  • Cleanser: Research has found that using a high-quality cleanser can keep skin healthy and reduce acne. Opt for a non-abrasive wash without alcohol (which can dry out your skin). Something labeled “non-comedogenic” is also your friend — it means it won’t clog pores. Hers offers a facial cleanser that is all of these things. 

  • Moisturizer: This product is a must in any skin care routine. It hydrates skin, smooths it and can also help out your skin barrier — which is what protects your complexion from environmental factors. Have oily skin? You still need to use one. If you don’t, you may increase your oil production. If your skin gets a bit dry, it signals your body to produce more oil. Hers has a moisturizer specifically made for acne-prone skin.

  • Sunscreen: This is one product not to skimp on. Not only does your face need protection to prevent skin cancer, using sunscreen can help prevent aging.Research suggests that UV exposure can reduce elastic properties in the skin, leading to sagging or wrinkles. So, look for a broad-spectrum formula with a minimum of SPF 30.

  • Tretinoin: Looking to fight acne? Consider tretinoin in a prescription topical cream. It works by encouraging your skin to shed dead skin cells (which can lead to breakouts). Hers has an acne cream that incorporates both tretinoin and clindamycin, an antibiotic that stops blemish-causing bacteria from multiplying. 

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Probiotics For Skin

While probiotics are traditionally thought of as a way to boost gut health, they may also help your skin. 

That’s because, just like your gut, your skin has its own microbiome — meaning, tons of good bacteria live on your skin surface. 

Certain things — like medication or environmental factors — can negatively affect your skin’s microbiome and even introduce bad bacteria to your skin. 

When harmful bacteria outweigh healthy bacteria, it can result in the development of a skin condition like acne, eczema, sensitive skin, rosacea, dry skin and beyond. 

Probiotic skin care may address these issues and get your skin’s microbiome back in shape. 

From topical probiotics to oral probiotics specifically made to improve your skin, there are a number of products on the market now. 

Though more research is needed before anyone can say anything definitively, the literature out there is supportive.

Research has shown that using probiotic skin care may help with acne, counteract dryness and eczema and can even address skin issues associated with aging. 

Specific probiotic strains that can help include S thermophiles, lactobacillus and more.

If you’re worried your skin’s microbiome is in need of balancing or are dealing with skin issues that need to be addressed, it may be beneficial to speak with a healthcare professional

They’ll be able to look at your skin type and help you assess what your skin needs (including if your healthy bacteria is out of alignment and you need probiotics for skin health) so you can achieve flawless, healthy skin.

6 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. What Are Probiotic Skin Care Products — And Do You Need Them? Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-are-probiotic-skin-care-products-and-do-you-need-them/
  2. Boxberger, M., Cenizo, V., Cassir, N., et al., (2021). Challenges in exploring and manipulating the human skin microbiome. Microbiome. Retrieved from https://microbiomejournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40168-021-01062-5#Sec8
  3. Knackstedt, R., Knackstedt, T., Gatherwright, J., (2019). The role of topical probiotics in skin conditions: A systematic review of animal and human studies and implications for future therapies. Experimental Dermatology. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/exd.14032
  4. Yu, Y., Dunaway, S., Champer, J., et al., (2019). Changing our microbiome: probiotics in dermatology. Br J Dermatol. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31049923/
  5. Kober, M., Bowe, W., (2015). The effect of probiotics on immune regulation, acne, and photoaging. International Journal of Women’s Dermatology. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352647515000155.
  6. Coderch, L., Lopez, O., de la Maza, A., Parra, J., (2003). Ceramides and Skin Function. Am J Clin Dermatol. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12553851/

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.