Application and Effectiveness of Probiotics in Dermatology and Cosmetic Products

Skincare is something that can’t be taken lightly. Just like a gambler always looks for the best payouts when playing at Australian, American or Canadian casinos, a person caring about their skin state wants a quick and effective solution for addressing skin problems. So, whether probiotics are effective and safe to be used in dermatology remains an actual topic for many people and skincare companies. 

Probiotics are supplements that contain live microbes that can improve or maintain the normal microflora of the human body. Overall, research on the safety and effectiveness of probiotics in dermatology is way too preliminary. If we look at some earlier studies, we can see that they indicate oral probiotics to be helpful for several health conditions. This theory, in turn, led scientists in this field to do more research to understand if they can also be helpful as a topical treatment.

However, scientists Christopher Wallen-Russell and Samuel Wallen-Russell from Pavane Research Centre claim the opposite. They state that probiotics don’t satisfy the criteria for efficient use because of the incomplete knowledge of the skin microbiome. In addition, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) also doesn’t regulate topical probiotics.

Which league of scientists is right, and what are some use cases for probiotics in skincare products? In this article, we will unpack all these questions.

Probiotic Skincare – A Brief Overview

To know whether probiotics are helpful or harmful, we first should understand what exactly they are. In a few words, probiotics are live microbes that are beneficial for people’s health. They support the healthy bacteria in the human body and make the “bad” bacteria back off.

As for probiotic skincare, it covers treatment products that contain topical probiotics. Those probiotics that allow the application of live microorganisms to the skin’s surface are called topical.

Supporters claim that probiotics have many benefits, like anti-ageing, anti-inflammatory, and whitening effects. As for the scientists against this idea, they think that there are not enough tests and studies to prove the risk-free nature of probiotics in skincare.

What Are the Most Commonly Used Probiotics in Dermatology

Here are some of the common species you can find in skincare products. These probiotics are mainly used to produce deodorants, masks, creams, exfoliants, balms, cleansers, foundations, and more.

  • Lactococcus (the first genetically modified bacteria to be used alive for treating human diseases)
  • Lactobacillus (any of a group of gram-positive, rod-shaped bacteria from the family of Lactobacillaceae that can produce lactic acid)
  • Streptococcus thermophilus (a fermentative facultative anaerobe of the viridans group)

One thing to note is that even though these products may have microbes among their ingredients, it’s not always possible to determine whether they are alive or not. It’s because many skincare production firms use preservatives to prolong the expiry date of products and guarantee their safety.

When Probiotics are Effective to Use in Skincare

(Source: Freepik)

Skin issues and diseases are quite widespread all over the world. According to the Australasian College of Dermatologists, in Australia, over 1 million people, which is 4% of the total population, suffer from some kind of long-term skin condition. In the USA, this number is even higher, at 84.5 million. That’s why scientists are always looking for possible microorganisms and ingredients that can help cure some of these diseases. And the use of probiotics is one of them.

Here are some of the cases and examples where oral probiotics are pretty effective and helpful. Let’s have a look.

Reducing the Visible Signs of Ageing

According to the 2023 findings of PubMed Central, probiotics can have many benefits when it comes to skin ageing. They have reviewed the effects of these microorganisms on the skin through animal testing and clinical trials and found that probiotics can be used to 

  • Reduce oxidative stress
  • Restore acidic skin pH
  • Improve the function of the skin barrier
  • Reduce UV light damage

Probiotics can help to reduce some crucial ageing signs like sun damage. In addition, they can also fight against chronological ageing by suppressing cell decay and extending the cell cycle.

Acne Treatment

Based on data provided by the National Institutes of Health, acne is among the top eight commonly found skin issues in the global population. According to the 2018 paper by C. Dessinioti, E. Platsidaki, C. Zisimou, and C. Antoniou, topical probiotics can address the problems created by acne. 

Precisely, they can reduce Cutibacterium acnes level on the skin, a special kind of bacteria in hair follicles and greatly related to acne. However, this is only a speculation and theory that needs more research and trials to prove its effectiveness and safety.

Wound Healing 

Another group of scientists suggests that topical probiotics may successfully accelerate wound healing. PubMed Central conducted research in 2005 to study the role of the probiotic Lactobacillus plantarum in preventing wound infections. 

After thoroughly testing it in mice and test tubes, they concluded that the probiotic could improve tissue repair and inhibit infection development. However, this also needs more investigation and major scale testing.

Possible Threats of Using Probiotics in Skincare 

As the studies and research on the effectiveness of probiotics are still in the ongoing phase, the absolute benefits and dangers they can bring are not yet clear. However, if we look at already completed trials and analyses, we can see that there are multiple risks regarding the safety of tropical probiotic treatment. 

The core risks associated with probiotic skincare are allergies and hypersensitivity to the product ingredients, which can cause dryness, itching, rash, and inflammation.

To sum up, probiotics have both positive and negative effects when used in skincare products. On the one hand, they can cure many skin diseases and speed up the wound-healing process. On the other hand, the wrong usage of such microorganisms can cause inflammation and allergies. So, whether they should be used in dermatology or not is yet a question that requires more studies and research.

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