I Asked the Pros if Probiotics Could Really Make a Difference in My Skin

A gastroenterologist, dermatologist and dietician walked into a bar... just kidding. They gave me their expert opinions on "good bacteria."

When it comes to caring for my skin, I’ll try just about anything to attempt to keep my skin looking youthful. I don't flinch at the thought of 24k gold products. Products with snail juice? You betcha. Blood facial? OK, maybe there are some things I won’t do. Yet.

I’ve been hearing a lot about probiotics being used in skincare products these days, and that’s a beauty trend that seems a bit easier to swallow. (See what I did there?) It makes sense as to why it would work. Probiotics are really just “good bacteria” that, when ingested, help your body counteract the bad bacteria, so why not apply this logic to skincare?

Before wasting any money on the trend, I asked some of the professionals out there if this was really a worthwhile investment.

Dr. Roshini Raj, a gastroenterologist who turned her knowledge of probiotics into the skincare brand Tula, is clearly a believer (and, might I add, her skin is flawless). She says:

Topical probiotics help strengthen the skin’s natural defense mechanisms, making it more resistant to damage from environmental stressors. By forming a protective shield on the skin’s surface, they also stop your cells from "seeing" or reacting to bad bacteria and developing inflammation, which may age your skin and aggravate acne or rosacea. Probiotics may also help improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles so they can be effective at fighting the signs of aging. Probiotics also help with skin conditions such acne, rosacea or eczema thanks to their ability to secrete anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial substances. In fact, the American Academy of Dermatology called probiotics a new beauty breakthrough for their skin healing, calming, and anti-microbial benefits.”

This is fabulous news for me, and got me thinking that if I’m putting probiotics on my skin, I should probably be ingesting them as well.

Dr. Howard Sobel, dermatologist, told me some alarming things that stress does to your gut, and subsequently your skin, that probiotics can help fix.

Stress, anxiety, and depression can contribute to altered gut flora and GI leakage, which, in turn, can result in a systemic inflammatory response such as acne, rosacea, or dermatitis. Oral probiotics have shown some success in treating skin conditions, especially when combined with some standard treatments.

Of course, I am already aware that stress can do a number on your skin, but hearing it put in scientific terms, straight from a doctor’s mouth, made it hit home for me. Could my cystic acne spells be caused from stress? And if that’s the cause, can probiotics be the solution?

I’m going with a three-step approach to try and clear up my skin, and, coincidentally, when I started this experiment, I had a giant, painful cyst on my face just waiting to be cured.

Step 1 is to try and eliminate stress and anxiety from my daily life. (Since this is a near impossible task, Steps 2 and 3 should help me out a little.) Yoga definitely helps my stress levels, but I’m finding major catharsis by taking up boxing. There’s nothing that can alleviate stress like beating the crap out of a punching bag for 45 minutes, let me tell you.

Step 2 is ingesting probiotics. To expand on what Dr. Sobel said, I asked Amanda Foti, Senior Registered Dietician of Selvera Wellness, about the best sources for probiotics.

Gut health is of the utmost importance as it’s connected to immune health, weight management, and energy levels. The most important thing is to make sure that you’re getting a reliable source of probiotics. Consuming a well-balanced diet with various sources of probiotics is ideal. Foods rich in probiotics include yogurt, kefir, and fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, miso, and even sour pickles.

On top of making sure I’m getting some probiotics in my food, I’ve also started taking HUM Gut Instinct every day. The company is aimed at beauty-obsessed folks, so I figure the 10 different strains of probiotic bacteria in the formula have got to be great for the skin.

I didn’t have too much trouble finding skincare products with probiotics in them, but it wasn’t quite as easy as I thought. I figured products with goat’s milk or yogurt in them would contain probiotics, but that’s actually not the case. Fortunately, I found some real winners in the probiotic skincare game that I’ve been able to inject into my routine for Step 3: apply probiotics topically.

It only made sense to look at Dr. Raj’s skincare line, Tula, and I’m fully in love. It’s the most simple skincare line, but it just works. You don’t have a lot to choose from, so it’s not confusing, because the products work on a variety of skin types.

Purifying Face Cleanser is a foaming face wash, which you follow up with the fabulous, lightweight Illuminating Face Serum; then the Hydrating Day & Night Cream leaves skin feeling moisturized, but not greasy. There are a few other products in the line that I haven't tried yet (like an eye cream and a face mask) but my skin feels fantastic.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that one of my favorite product lines that I already use contains probiotics. No wonder they make my skin look so good! The entire Rodial Super Acids line contains probiotics, and though I haven’t used the whole line, I have three of their amazing products in my rotation already. Don’t be scared of the name — these aren’t going to irritate your skin with harsh exfoliants. The line uses fruit acids to exfoliate the skin, and it’s surprisingly gentle.

I like to start my morning with Super Acids X-treme Pore Shrink Cleansing Pads instead of washing my face with a soap or foaming cleanser. I usually save that for nighttime when I need to wash all the sins of the day away. Super Acids X-treme After-Party Scrub is an exfoliator for people who don’t like feeling like they’re scrubbing their skin off. (It needs to be said because my boyfriend loves those harsh scrubbers with gigantic exfoliators in them, or he doesn’t feel like his face is clean).

Super Acids X-treme Hangover Mask is my favorite clay-type mask I’ve ever used. This doesn’t give me that drying feeling like other clay masks do. I usually save it for special occasions because it makes me feel like a hot model, but now that I know the products are powered by probiotics, as well as fruit acids, I am going to start using it once a week.

NUDE doesn’t have probiotics in all of their skincare products, but they are in a lot of them. I was immediately drawn to two products: Advanced Renewal Overnight Repair Mask and Advanced Renewal Eye Complex.

The Eye Complex is a serum and you only need the tiniest bit to cover your whole eye area (aka I used a whole pump the first time and basically ended up slathering eye serum over my entire face so I didn’t waste it.) The Overnight Repair Mask is a deceiving name because it feels the same as any other night cream upon application, but all night, your face is soaking up that probiotic goodness, along with honey, omegas 6 and 9, and hyaluronic acid. It’s pretty gentle, so you could use every night; I hate when people try to tell me I can only use something once or twice a week. I WANT MY SKIN TO FEEL LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME. But I’m sure my behavior is probably excessive and you only need to use a couple times a week.

I’m happy to report that my painful cyst is nearly gone after a week of taking probiotics internally and applying them topically in my beauty products. And no additional breakouts have happened.

  • Have you tried any skincare products with probiotics in them?
  • Which probiotics products, if any, are you likely to try (face cream, eye cream, serum)?