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prebiotics and probiotics: do they affect our skin health?

We’re always told that bacteria is bad for our skin, right? Wrong! We examine the complexion-boosting world of pre- and probiotics...

prebiotics and probiotics: do they affect our skin health?

There’s a lot of hype about the health benefits of probiotics and prebiotics these days – but usually in relation to gut health. These microorganisms are great for supporting the gut and aiding digestion, and the two work hand-in-hand to build and maintain a healthy colony of bacteria in our body. But now they’re becoming buzzwords in the skincare world, too. Slathering your face in bacteria doesn’t sound like the route to glowing skin… but it might be time to reconsider.


First of all, it’s worth noting the difference between the two. Probiotics are live bacteria that provide several benefits, such as helping to build a healthy immune system and fighting infections. Prebiotics, meanwhile, are dietary fibres that feed the friendly bacteria in our digestive system. Just as these help our gut microbiome – essentially a constellation of tiny living organisms – they can also benefit our skin microbiome.

We spoke to Dr Majid Shah, dermatologist and founder of Artistry Clinic, to find out more: “The skin microbiome is the invisible community of microorganisms, including bacteria, found at the skin’s surface. As the food for these bacteria, prebiotics are essential for a balanced and healthy microbiome, and glowing skin.

“There’s also a connection between gut and skin health. By targeting the gut microbiome and digestive system, probiotics help to balance and boost both your gut and skin health. Topical versions are known for their calming effects on the skin by harnessing a surge of good bacteria to help cells flourish.”

When it comes to probiotics, these create a sort of shield that can improve your skin’s ability to protect itself from environmental stressors that lead to pigmentation and wrinkles. It also helps to create a block for bacteria that could lead to blemishes, soothes irritated skin by reducing inflammation, and balances your complexion.

“Using topical solutions that work directly on the surface of the skin provides a layer of protection and prevents irritants or unhealthy bacteria from coming into contact with the skin,” Dr Majid says. “In fact, this kind of bacteria is responsible for skin conditions such as rosacea, eczema and acne.”

Prebiotics, meanwhile, can be considered as food for the skin. They act as the ‘fuel’ that the good bacteria – the probiotics – need to thrive. This essentially creates a healthier environment for the probiotics to grow in, and boosts their ability to protect your skin.


Now, you may be wondering where these magical little microorganisms are derived from, and the answers might surprise you. Probiotics are found in foods such as yoghurt, kimchi and kefir, while prebiotics are found in garlic, onions, barley, asparagus and flaxseed. Some of these plant extracts go through a fermentation process to create healthy bacteria-packed skincare products such as serums and moisturisers. Prebiotic plant sugars such as xylitol and fructooligosaccharides (what a mouthful!) are also potent sources of prebiotics and natural hydrators that may be utilised for skincare products.

Whilst the concept of friendly bacteria in the skincare industry is still relatively new, with increasing awareness about the importance of these beauty boosters, this is one trend that we certainly don’t see going away anytime soon. Better yet, both probiotics and prebiotics are suitable for all skin types, and are particularly beneficial to people who are prone to inflammation.

Want to try bacteria-boosting products yourself? “Healthy skin starts with a good cleansing product,” Dr Majid says. “Formulations enriched with probiotics and prebiotics guarantee clean skin thanks to their antibacterial action, whilst being gentle with all skin types, even sensitive ones. I would then suggest using a highly-concentrated serum to improve radiance – this is down to the probiotic activity that stimulates cell renewal whilst fighting the bad bacteria present in the skin microbiome. This should always be combined with a hydrating face cream to nourish the skin and even out the complexion for a luminous and glowing appearance.”


Eminence Organic Skin Care Clear Skin Probiotic Cleanser, £32,

Seahorse Plankton + Bright Eyes Probiotic Serum, £20,

Gallinee Prebiotic Youthful Serum, £44.95,

Aurelia Probiotic Skincare Cell Revitalise Day Moisturiser, £22,

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