We’re well versed in taking probiotics to keep our gut healthy and happy, but when we heard that popping them daily could improve our skin as well as our digestive tract, we were all ears. Not just a throwaway marketing spin (we did ask), recent research has shown that after 12 weeks of taking a probiotic, testers had a reduction in wrinkle depth while skin radiance and elasticity increased by 13.17%.
This is because when the gut is ticking over nicely, excess waste products and toxins can be removed via the bowels as opposed to the skin. And there we were blaming that chocolate bar for our breakout. It might be coming from the stomach, but not as we knew it. Rather than what we’re eating, it’s how well we’re digesting it (or not) that could be to blame.
Plus when there are internal blockages, as well as a sluggish, imbalanced microflora, internal inflammation flares up, which then can manifest itself in things like eczema and psoriasis. So it’s not just spots our gut is giving us, as it could also be to blame for our dull, dry, lined and lumpy complexions too.
Intrigued, we set out to delve a little deeper into the subject to find out if probiotics prevent skin ageing once and for all.
HOW CAN PROBIOTICS STOP PIMPLES?
“Specific strains of probiotics appear to stimulate more regulatory or calming immune cells and help keep inflammation at bay,” explains Natalie Lamb, nutritional therapist and advisor for BioKult. “However, research also indicates that they may help to reduce acne caused by excess production of sebum, which is often initially triggered by stress and its consequential effect on the gut flora. Traditionally we would have eaten fermented foods on a daily basis and not been subjected to environmental or lifestyle factors that can disrupt the microflora such as antibiotics, pollution, unhealthy foods and chronic stress.”
Alongside stress, age has an impact. We know our collagen levels start to deplete as we reach our mid to late 20s, but so does the diversity and composition of our gut microbiota. If you’re not following an antioxidant-rich and fatty acid–filled food plan or you suffer from stress, IBS or live in sunny or highly polluted areas, it’s likely you’re putting unwanted pressure on your microbiome. That would be most of us then.
THE SUPER STRAINS
Probiotic supplements often contain over a billion bacteria, and we’re made up of trillions, according to Lamb, so while it’s good to take a multi-strain product to cover all bases, we were interested to find out if there are any go-tos we should be looking for to improve our skin. “Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains are the two most commonly used and have a large number of emerging skincare studies being produced around them,” Lamb told us. “Bifidobacteria breve has been indicated to prevent photoageing and improve the symptoms of rosacea. Lactobacillus plantarum has been found to improve skin hydration, wrinkles, skin gloss and elasticity.”
If you feel like you’re already popping enough pills and protein powders, there’s always the option of adding fermented foods or some strained yoghurt into your daily meal plan. At Mandira London, the UK’s first dedicated fresh yoghurt bar, it offers everything from drinkable bio-live smoothies and kefirs to bowls of its Bio Dairy Culture blend. “The yoghurt includes the active bacteria bifidobacterium, which combats problem skin, lactobacillus bulgaricus for skin tone and glow and streptococcus thermophiles, which is known to help with inflammation, sensitivity and skin hydration,” says Deyvi Sidi-Sarfati, co-founder of Mandira.
If you’re lactose-free, fret not. While coconut kefir doesn’t contain as many strains of bacteria as dairy-based versions, it’s still a valid option. And as a heads up, dairy kefir is often void of lactose, as the kefir grains consume it during the fermentation process.
HOW QUICKLY WILL I SEE RESULTS?
Like anything skincare, you need to give it at least a month (or one full skin cycle) before you’re likely to see a difference. Recent tests spanning over 12 weeks showed results were improved further. This is all based on a daily dosage, and of course, it depends how healthy or off-kilter your gut was in the first place. Make sure you check things like expiry dates and some probiotics need to be stored in the fridge. Also look for buzzwords on the box like the number of live organisms and the exact strains used to ensure you’re getting exactly what you need for your skin.
What’s good is that despite an initial commitment, you’re not tied down to taking them every day forever. While that will guarantee good maintenance, once you get your gut back on track, a healthy diet will mean your clearer skin should continue to prosper.
Ready to try probiotics out for yourself? We’ve selected three of our favourite formulas below.