Do Probiotics Belong In Face Cream?

Skincare companies have jumped on board. We ask a pro if you should too.

If you’re a health-conscious eater, you’re likely getting regular doses of probiotics from foods like kefir or kimchi, but have you been applying them topically? Now that probiotics have gained a foothold in the beauty world, they’re turning up in everything from cleansers and creams to eye serums and makeup.

“They’ve become the next buzzword in skincare but not that much research has been done,” says Manhattan dermatologist Francesca Fusco. “Just because they’re great for the gut doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be great on your face. We don’t really know yet.”

The thought is that applying certain cultures topically may benefit skin flora (part of our microbiome) much the way ingesting them can benefit the GI tract. “It’s possible that some probiotics in skincare could inhibit certain unhealthy bacteria on the skin, like acne bacteria, by acting as an anti-bacterial and helping to better balance the skin,” says Fusco. “As a derm, generally speaking, I’d say give it a try but I’d recommend it to people with inflammatory skin conditions.”

Just as probiotic bacteria in the gut have been shown to help curb internal inflammation, some evidence suggests that topically applied probiotics may do the same for sensitive, compromised skin. “Acne, rosacea, and eczema are all tied to inflammation and an impaired skin barrier and in those cases the bacteria may reduce inflammation and aid in skin repair,” Fusco explains.

And there appears to be some overlap: One new study indicates a type of lactobacillus plantarum (a lactic acid bacteria naturally found in fermented foods) may be anti-aging—improving skin hydration and elasticity when taken orally. Reason enough to continue your fermented foods even as you give these skincare products a try.