If Your Skin Is Stressed, Try Changing This One Easy Part of Your Routine

For years, the beauty industry has been telling us to blitz our faces with acids, scrubs, retinols and peels in the name of glow. We have been told that exfoliation is key to healthy skin and that finding ways to increase our skin's natural cellular turnover is paramount in maintaining a youthful complexion. And although these statements aren't incorrect, there's no doubt that there's been an evident lack of education around such advice. In fact, you might have noticed more recently that there has been an apparent surge in skincare launches that focus on nourishment, hydration and healing—and this is no coincidence.

The truth is an abundance of active ingredients and "stripping" skincare products (think exfoliants and decongesting cleansers) negatively affect skin by swinging its pH level and damaging its natural defence systems (such as the skin barrier). It's not that we shouldn't be using such a products; it's that when we're exfoliating or speeding up our cell turnover with ingredients such as retinol, it's imperative we re-feed our skin the stuff it needs to function healthily and keep irritants away. If your skin goes too long without its natural defence systems, it could turn red, dry, itchy, tight and breakout-prone in no time. To help such a situation (and prevent it from happening again), you might benefit from probiotic skincare.


(Image credit: @SASHA.MEI)

Chances are, you will have heard of probiotics before. Often found in health food aisles of supermarkets and pharmacies, probiotics are typically sold and marketed within the realm of gut health. But it turns out probiotics can really help your skin, too. In fact, they just might be the answer to healthy skin that functions at optimum levels. And the good news is they couldn't be easier to add to your routine. Intrigued? This is everything you need to know about probiotic skincare, from what it is to why it's beneficial and the best products to shop.

1. What Is the Skin Microbiome?


(Image credit: @AYSHA.SOW)

Understanding the role of probiotics starts with understanding the role of the microbiome. Essentially, our bodies function alongside a whole network of microorganisms that cohabit in certain areas. For example, we have very prominent microbiomes in our guts and up our noses��in fact, we have living microbiomes in virtually every part of our bodies. These microbiomes are made up of trillions of microbes, consisting of bacteria, fungi and viruses, that help our bodies function and protect it from harm.

And yep, you guessed it, our skin's microbiome is really important, too. "Essentially, your skin's microbiome prevents organisms such as fungi, viruses and infections penetrating your skin and causing issues such as infection and inflammation,” explains Lauren Hamilton, cosmetic doctor and co-founder of Victor & Garth skin clinic. "Known as ‘residential organisms,’ they vary based on where they best thrive; be it within the fatty debris around the sebaceous follicles or within the moist environment of the scalp. Should they become unbalanced, problems can arise,” she adds.

Keeping your skin happy relies on a balanced microbiome. When the microbiome is out of balance, it can lead to other bacteria invading the space," says Marie Drago, pharmacist and founder of Gallinée Skincare. "Science is showing the clear link between microbiome imbalance and inflammatory diseases such as acne and eczema," she says.

2. What Are Probiotics?


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In short, probiotics are forms of "good" bacteria, and they play an important role in keeping your microbiome balanced. Blitzing your skin with exfoliants and boosting its cellular turnover too rapidly can often cause irritation and subsequent issues because it throws your microbiome out of whack. While ridding your skin of bacteria might seem like a good way of preventing acne and irritation, it's important to remember there's a whole bunch of good bacteria that your skin thrives off of that might also get lost in the process.

Probiotic skincare can help to add living microbes back onto the skin. This can aid in restoring the balance of the skin's microbiome, fighting bad bacteria, reducing irritation and building a defensive barrier to keep skin hydrated, happy and healthy.

You might also see talk of pre- and postbiotics on skincare bottles—things can get a bit technical here, but it's worth knowing the differences really only relate to the process of the ingredient delivery. Don't get too confused; they all promise to do more or less the same thing, and that's keep your skin's good bacteria thriving.

3. How Can You Look After the Skin Microbiome?

It might be tempting to reach for harsh, blemish-busting acids when faced with a breakout or the richest moisturiser you can find to combat an inflamed complexion, but the best way to keep your good bacteria in check is to be gentle. "Don't overwash, use hot water or rub your skin too much," Drago recommends. "Avoid products with alcohol or a high pH level, like normal soaps."

If you have reason to believe your microbiome is unbalanced or perhaps you just want to keep your microbiome as healthy and balanced as possible, keep scrolling to shop the best probiotic skincare products out there.

Shop Our Picks of the Best Probiotic Skincare Products

Next Up: 15 Expert-Approved Tips to Help Combat Dry Skin

This story was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.

Freelance Beauty Editor

Shannon Lawlor is a renowned beauty journalist and has contributed to Who What Wear’s beauty content since 2020. As a leading beauty editor, expert and brand consultant, she has over eight years of experience working for some of the industry’s most esteemed titles, including Who What Wear (of course), Glamour UK, Stylist, Refinery29 and Fabulous. Having also worked behind the scenes with some of the industry’s biggest brands and retailers, Shannon has a unique insight into what people really want from their beauty routines. Understanding that beauty lovers seek honest, open and responsible advice, she has it made her mission to demystify the intimidating world of beauty, taking a no-frills approach to the most relatable topics. While Shannon is the first to admit she doesn’t hold the answer to every beauty question out there, she is dedicated to sharing her expert insights in a bid to help. As a self-proclaimed lazy girl, Shannon has an affinity for easy-to-use, foolproof beauty products and has made it her mission to scope out the best of the best. When she’s not working, Shannon is likely soaking in the bath or giving no-holds-barred beauty reviews on Instagram from her bathroom floor.