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All about prebiotics and probiotics in skincare: What they are, the differences between the two, and more

All about prebiotics and probiotics in skincare: What they are, the differences between the two, and more

Gut instinct

Text: Brandon Alexius Chia


Image: Instragram | @alliesofskin
Image: Instragram | @paulaschoice

The phrase: "you are what you eat" has been around for decades, and we are certainly no strangers to it. Of course, you're not going to look like a cheese-laden slice of pizza after finishing an entire slab of it — rather, the adage has more to do with the impact of food on your overall well-being. It stands to reason, then, that what you eat has a weighty influence on your skin health, too. It's why we've been witnessing a migration of pre- and probiotics from the food industry to the beauty realm; a new wave of topical products comprising either of the two that are designed to give you a radiant complexion. What does it do, exactly, and how should you implement 'em into your skincare regime? We answer all your burning questions, below.

Wait, prebiotics and probiotics are two different things?

Long story short: yes. Both prebiotics and probiotics are commonly found in food and drinks that we consume daily such as yogurt and Yakult. Starting with probiotics, it is defined as a group of good bacteria — derived from fermentation — that works to support other good bacteria in our digestive system and skin. It also prevents the entry of bad bacteria. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are the food source — usually in the form of carbohydrates or glucose — that allow for the probiotics to continue living and doing their job. Thus, this means prebiotics increases the efficiency and effectiveness of good bacteria, including the ones we produce naturally.

All about prebiotics and probiotics in skincare: What they are, the differences between the two, and more (фото 1)


So, bacteria on your skin isn't a bad thing, per se?

Bacteria is indeed the leading cause for acne — and no one wants to have acne. However, the trillions of little organisms on our faces actually help to create a microbiome that prevents our skin from developing conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. Not to mention that a strong skin barrier is formed due to this microbiome — so if you want smooth and glowy skin, prebiotics and probiotics might be something you want to look into.


Okay, so how do the two differ in terms of topical skincare products?

Think of them as the Bonnie and Clyde of the skincare world. Probiotics prevent bad bacteria from spreading while also supporting existing good bacteria. This, in turn, helps to prevent inflammatory conditions such as acne. Aside from keeping the probiotics well–fed, prebiotics also keep the pH value of our skin at an ideal level of 4.5 to 5.75. A lot of our skincare products (such as facial cleansers and vitamin C serums) tend to alter our pH levels, which kills all good bacteria we have. Hence, prebiotics are known to fortify our skin barrier over time, where it prevents environmental irritants from causing inflammation all while keeping said probiotics healthy so they can eradicate pimples and signs of ageing. Win-win, indeed.

All about prebiotics and probiotics in skincare: What they are, the differences between the two, and more (фото 2)


Do we have to implement both of them into our routines for them to work?

The great thing about these ingredients is that they can do wonders without each other because our skin naturally produces both of it. However, we can boost its effects when we apply both prebiotics and probiotics topically. It should be noted, however, that awhile they are good for treating acne, pre- and probiotics have little-to-no effect on cystic or hormonal acne — we recommend you seek the professional opinion of a dermatologist if you're looking to treat more serious conditions.

What are some product recommendations?

We're glad you asked. Here are some products that we think will set you on the right path:

Allies of Skin Prebiotics & Niacinamide Pore Refining Booster

This powerhouse serum contains both pre- and probiotics; 10 percent niacinamide; and other pore- refining and -brightening ingredients to grant a radiant complexion without compromising on your skin barrier. Bonus: the lightweight formula can be easily incorporated alongside any other products including facial oils.


Algenist Alive Prebiotic Balancing Moisturiser

This lightweight cream will nourish and hydrate your skin while protecting it from the harmful UV rays  with SPF 15. Its algae–derived pre- and probiotics, on the other hand, will work to bring balance to your skin's bacteria colonies.


Lancôme Advanced Génifique Serum

This little bottle is revered by so many people for its anti–ageing properties. The serum comprises a blend of seven different pre- and probiotics that will provide your skin with the nutrients to build up its defenses. The product claims that visible results can be seen in just seven days as well. Talk about potent, huh?


Gallinée Face Foaming Cleanser

Formulated for sensitive and eczema–prone skin, this cleanser includes a mix of lactic acid with prebiotics to ensure that the microbiome is well taken care of without drying out your skin. The cleanser is at a pH level of five, too, which works for most complexions out there.


Paula's Choice Probiotic Nutrient Moisturiser

Not only does this product contain pre and probiotics, but it also has postbiotics: bioactive compounds that are great for hydration and anti–inflammatory purposes. This triple threat moisturiser will have your skin feeling soft and supple in no time.