Catch the beauty bug: Friendly bacteria aren"t just good for your tummy – they can boost your skin, too


Catch the beauty bug
Friendly bacteria aren't just good for your tummy – they can boost your skin, too


Micro miracles: Eating probiotic yoghurt isn't the only way to get the best out of bacteria

Micro miracles: Eating probiotic yoghurt isn't the only way to get the best out of bacteria

Many people believe that the so-called ‘friendly bacteria’ in yoghurts do wonders for the digestion. New research even claims that these ingredients can help boost our immune systems and control weight.

But probiotics (beneficial bacteria) and prebiotics (essential fuel for the beneficial bacteria) aren’t only good for our tummies, they’re also the latest buzzword in beauty — tackling everything from acne to ageing, skin sensitivity to dehydration.

Clinique, Lancome, Chantecaille, Nude and Revive are just a few of the brands injecting bugs into anti-ageing serums and moisturisers in the belief they help soothe and plump the skin — and can even turn back the clock.

The idea is that probiotics and
prebiotics can improve the balance of bacteria in your skin, in the same
way they are known to improve it in your gut.

We
all have good and bad bacteria already present in our skin, called skin
microflora. However, anything from overly astringent cleansers to
sunburn and alcohol can disturb the balance of bacteria, which, in turn,
affects the skin, causing it to become sensitive or develop acne or
eczema.

Two respected studies have shown that topical probiotics significantly helped eczema and acne by restoring levels of ‘good’ bacteria in the skin.

But before you start slapping a yoghurt drink on your face, experts say that the probiotics used in creams are designed to penetrate the skin in a way that live yoghurt is not able to. They also contain different strains of bacteria.

Clinique has been researching the beauty benefits of friendly bacteria for the past ten years and has found that probiotic creams soothe general irritation and inflammation — which is why it has added a bacteria called Lactobacillus to its Redness Solutions Makeup.

So can these friendly bugs help reduce signs of ageing as well as soothing skin The British skincare company Nude was the first to develop a whole brand of skincare around friendly bacteria. When it launched its Advanced Cellular Renewal Serum, which contained a very high concentration of probiotics, in September 2010, it sold out worldwide.

Holding back the years: Model Helena Christensen, left, and actress Kim Cattrall are fans of Nude's Advanced Cellular Renewal Moisturiser

Holding back the years: Model Helena Christensen, left, and actress Kim Cattrall are fans of Nude's Advanced Cellular Renewal Moisturiser

Holding back the years: Model Helena Christensen, left, and actress Kim Cattrall are fans of Nude's Advanced Cellular Renewal Moisturiser

Celebrities including Helena Christensen, Uma Thurman, Kim Cattrall and Erin O’Connor claimed it was a ‘knock-out’. Three months ago, the company launched its Advanced Cellular Renewal Moisturiser.

‘We are very excited about how probiotics work with the skin to correct ageing, repairing damage and accelerating cellular renewal, so we use them in high concentrations in all our anti-ageing products,’ says Emma Newman, product manager for Nude.

Gut feeling

In a healthy adult colon, there can be up to 500 species of bacteria

‘Probiotics also stimulate the skin’s
immune system, repairing natural defences, preventing collagen damage
and hydrating skin, thereby slowing the ageing process.’

Nude claims that its ‘probiotic technology’ reduces cellular damage by up to 50 per cent, activates cellular renewal by up to 70 per cent while reducing skin irritation by up to 35 per cent, but the trials that came to these conclusions were very small.

Still, Nude is not the only brand to be convinced of the potential of probiotics. Lancome’s top-selling serum Genifique and L’Oreal Paris’s Youth Code contain bacterial extracts for the same reasons.

Sell out: Nude's popular serum contains a high concentration of probiotics

Sell out: Nude's popular serum contains a high concentration of probiotics

For now, however, the experts urge caution. The research into probiotic creams is still in its infancy and for some the proof that it helps combat wrinkles just isn’t there yet. ‘I think there is a lot of hope and hype here,’ says Dr Nick Lowe, consultant dermatologist.

‘While there is some evidence probiotic creams can help with eczema and acne, the research is not there yet to prove it can be anti-ageing.

‘It’s true that if you can reduce inflammation, you can reduce the rate of ageing, but there are many ways to do this that don’t involve probiotics.

‘People should also understand that normal healthy skin has its own very good system for managing bacteria.’

The experts advise sticking to your probiotic supplements or yoghurts for general well-being and maybe trying probiotic creams if you have sensitive, spot-prone skin.

As for turning back the clock — we’ll have to wait and see.