When it comes to skincare, in the past, the beauty industry has been pretty much unequivocal about its approach to bacteria—its presence is an unwanted nasty on the surface of our squeaky-clean skin. Until now, that is. This year, there's been a huge shift in skincare brands turning everything I thought I knew about bacteria on its head. From U.S. skincare brand Mother Dirt to London-based skincare brand Gallinée, there's a new wave of products on the market that are specially formulated to restore good bacteria to our skin and educate us on the benefits it can naturally offer.
Also known as probiotic skincare (probiotic is just another way of saying good bacteria), these products are designed to nurture the good bacteria on your skin to encourage a healthier complexion. Despite my initial scepticism, I've been putting one such product on my face for the past few weeks and can already see a change in my skin for the better. Keep scrolling to find out why happy germs equal happy skin, what probiotic skincare really is and to shop the new wave of probiotic skincare products.
What is good bacteria, anyway?
To understand the science behind the probiotic skincare trend, I caught up with Marie Drago, founder of Gallinée and a doctor in pharmacy with over 15 years of experience in the skincare industry. First up, it's less about bacteria and more about the microbiome (aka "the ecosystem of micro-organisms that live in and on you," Drago explains).
Rather than something to be scared of, you should view your skin bacteria as "your own personal rainforest: lush, unexplored, vital for your well-being and something to tend for," she adds. Sounds almost utopian, right? Well, in a way, it is. Your skin's natural bacteria plays a huge part in protecting the surface layer of your skin by keeping "bad" bacteria out.
"Your microbiome is also good at keeping your immune system in check by helping it to recognise pathogen bacteria and teaching it not to overreact to normal signs," Drago explains.
What happens when you remove all good bacteria from your skin?
So the presence of bacteria on your skin is definitely a good thing, but when your microbiome is out of whack, there can be a whole host of issues. "When the microbiome is out of balance, it can lead to other bacteria invading the space," Drago points out. Acne and eczema are two of the most common skin complaints caused by this imbalance, but it can also lead to sensitive skin, inflammation, and premature ageing.
Drago is certain that bacteria will become a key focus for even more skincare brands this year: "Science is showing the clear link between microbiome imbalance and inflammatory diseases such as acne and eczema. It forces the industry to rethink the way we are dealing with these issues," she says.
How can you keep your good bacteria in check?
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."
Drago also points out that encouraging good bacteria isn't just about what you put on your skin, but what you consume too: "Diet also plays a role, so try to feed your gut bacteria with a lot of diverse food and a lot of fibres. I read a study recently that said that having plants in the house is good for the skin's microbiome."
Which brands should you be looking out for?
I've been a huge fan of Gallinée since discovering them via Birchbox last year. Drago worked tirelessly to produce a patented complex of prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics (lactic acid in Gallinée's case) that were formulated specifically to support your skin's good bacteria. And although the brand was born in London, the products really help you to achieve that healthy, French-girl glow—a testament to Drago's French roots.
This year, though, I got my hands on the Mother Dirt AO+ Mist and have genuinely noticed an improvement in the condition of my skin. A representative for the brand explains that it's the "only product on the market that contains a patented live culture of ammonia oxidizing bacteria—a 'peacekeeping' microorganism long lost on human skin that combats sensitivity, skin texture and other skin concerns."
I've been using it as the final step in my skincare routine for the past few weeks and have noticed a reduction in the number of breakouts I've been having and an improvement in how soft and bright my skin is.
Keep scrolling to shop some of my tried-and-tested probiotic skincare favourites.
Keep this spray in the fridge and use it as the final step in your skincare routine to put good bacteria back onto your skin. With continued use, you should actually be able to minimise the number of products that you use on a daily basis as your skin concerns diminish.
A potent yet gentle blend of good bacteria, fern prebiotics and brightening lactic acid to boost radiance, refine skin texture and keep your skin feeling healthy and hydrated. I have gone through bottles and bottles of this stuff. It's that good.
I was immediately intrigued when this stick cleanser landed on my desk a couple of weeks ago. Not only is it formulated with natural prebiotics and fermented antioxidants to feed your skin's good bacteria, but it also does an amazing job of dissolving makeup and dirt so your skin looks clear and bright. Plus, I love how travel-friendly it is.
This new collection from ESPA is clinically proven to nurture and support your skin's microbiome. It helps to smooth lines, fade dark circles and reduce puffiness. Plus, the metal applicator feels incredible on your skin.
Enriched with pre and probiotic complexes, this calming mask helps to strengthen your skin's natural defences and improve skin radiance by resurfacing and smoothing the surface of your skin. Yes, it's pricey, but if you suffer from acne, eczema or stressed skin, then your complexion will thank you for using it.
Containing 1 billion live probiotics per millilitre, this soothing moisturiser reduces excess shine without compromising on hydration.