Probiotics — “friendly” bacteria believed to support skin health via the microbiome — have been fodder for skin-care formulators for years (Tula and Mother Dirt, two pioneers in the probiotic skin-care space, hit the market in 2014 and 2015, respectively). Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, the concept of slathering living organisms over one’s face felt, at first, fairly fringe.
Fast-forward to 2020, and bacteria is booming: Mainstay brands offer probiotic-packed potions, and probiotic-peddling skin-care brands — for which a healthy microbiome is the raison d’etre — are cropping up at an unprecedented rate.
As for the future of bacteria-based skin-care in 2021? Scientists, derms, and skin-care brands agree: mass proliferation is on the horizon. Sheila Farhang, a board-certified dermatologist in Oro Valley, Arizona, goes as far as calling the microbiome — and the “bugs” that support it — “the future of dermatology and skin care.”
Why? Well, for too many reasons to spell out here and now. As an overarching theme, though, a healthy, balanced microbiome equals healthy, balanced skin. Conversely, imbalances in the microbiome can trigger myriad skin conditions, including acne and eczema, Farhang explains. One particularly fascinating find: a link between acne, acne medication (specifically, isotretinoin), and the microbiome. “Isotretinoin helps acne because it also balances the skin microbiome,” Farhang shares.
As “microbiome-friendly” skin care moves to the mass market, experts say it’s important to do your homework. “Really look at the research [in this space],” Farhang cautions, “because products can claim ‘microbiome’ but not deliver.”
Elsa Jungman, a skin-care pharmacologist who studies the microbiome, agrees wholeheartedly. If you’re looking for live bacteria, she says, “It’s important to understand that probiotics are defined as ‘live organisms.'” Her advice: Seek out companies that have ample research to support their claims. (Jungman recently launched an eponymous microbiome-friendly skin-care brand backed by a team of like-minded scientists.)
There’s more to the microbiome madness. In addition to probiotics, the skin-care market will likely push “pre-” and “post-” biotics in 2021. Simply put, these “biotics” flank probiotics and support the microbiome as a whole. “Prebiotics are food for our microbiome,” Jungman notes, whereas postbiotics are “products from the [probiotic] microorganisms [like] lipid[s] and proteins.”
Founder of Peach & Lily, Alicia Yoon, is already seeing what she calls the “next generation” of microbiome-supporting ingredients in Korean skin-care labs, including plant-based probiotics. You’ll find a vegan “biotic” blend derived from radish ferment, lactobacillus ferment, and fructooligosaccharides in Peach & Lily’s latest launch, Glass Skin Water-Gel Moisturizer.
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