What are probiotics, and how do they relate to skincare?
We used to think that skin was entirely ‘human’. However, results from recent studies looking at the microbes present on skin have made it clear that this is not the case. It is now abundantly clear that the skin is home to a vast number of microbes. These microbes exist as an ecosystem, which - when healthy and balanced - means healthy, happy skin. Unfortunately, there are many elements of our modern lives that have disrupted the delicate balance of the skin microbiome.
Probiotics are living beneficial microbes that offer a promising way of improving the health of the skin’s ecosystem. They can be used to shift the microbiome in a healthy direction, restoring balance and improving skin health in a vast number of ways.
Where are probiotics found, and how are they included in skincare products?
Probiotic strains have been isolated from many sources, including fermented foods, healthy human skin, and even healthy faeces (though none of our strains are from this particular source). That said, they are selected for the benefits they provide, and no part of their source accompanies them to their place in any products.
There are a few types of ‘probiotic’ ingredients:
- Prebiotics are nutrients that selectively feed beneficial microbes.
- Postbiotics are preparations of inactive (non-living) microbes.
- True probiotics are living organisms that provide health benefits.
Keeping true probiotics alive and stable in a skincare product takes some careful strategising, and there are currently a few different solutions to this challenge.
We suspend particles containing live (but dormant) microbes in oil, where they don’t have access to the water they need to grow. When you apply the product to your skin, the microbes encounter the water present there, and can begin to colonise the ecosystem of your skin.
What are some of the other essential ingredients included in probiotic skincare products?
There are some other ingredient types that can help shift the microbiome in a positive direction:
- Prebiotics are nutrient sources that selectively feed beneficial microbes, allowing them to outcompete potentially harmful microbes. We include a few different prebiotic ingredients in our products.
- Postbiotics are inactive microbes or microbial preparations, which also provide health benefits. They can contain substances that inhibit harmful microbes, while also improving the skin’s own defence mechanisms. There are some other important considerations for microbiome skincare products, such as the avoidance of harsh preservatives, which kill microbes, including beneficial ones.
Are all topical probiotic solutions created equal? What sets yours apart?
Not all skincare is equal. Microbiome skincare poses additional challenges, so finding effective solutions takes a lot of research and expertise. Each probiotic strain and each type of probiotic ingredient has its own effect, so these ingredients need to be carefully tested and selected for the desired results. Esse launched the world’s first live probiotic product in 2015, and has been developing new microbiome skincare solutions based on the latest research since 2009. We don’t just include probiotic ingredients in our products - we consider the skin's microbiome in all aspects of our product design. We also know that our products work.
Who can benefit from these products? Are they more suitable to certain skin types?
Anyone can use these products, as probiotics intervene in several key areas of skin health, improving the skin’s state as a whole. This makes them a versatile solution capable of improving the health of any skin type.
What does it mean to ‘rewild’ the skin?
Rewilding is a concept that originated in macro environments, such as forests – the goal being to replant tree species and reintroduce other lost biodiversity to an ecosystem that has been damaged by farming or deforestation. We (modern humans) find ourselves in a situation in which we have damaged the ecosystem of the skin, having lost many beneficial microbial allies. Our goal is to bring a healthy, diverse ecosystem back to human skin. That’s what rewilding is all about.
What are the latest developments in science and biotechnology as they relate to skincare?
There is always a lot being written in academic literature about the skin microbiome. Lately, there has been considerable attention on the relationship between the microbiome and UV exposure. Both on the ability of healthy microbes to protect our skin from UV damage, as well as the effect of UV damage on the microbiome. We are currently looking into some developments to make use of this new knowledge.
If there’s one thing that the research is making abundantly clear, it’s that the health of your skin microbiome is important for your whole body. Mess it up, and you increase your risk of a vast array of systemic health problems – cancer, allergies, asthma…the list goes on. Stop using products that contain harsh preservatives; think twice before using very foamy cleansers (they strip the skin’s microbiome and its important natural oils); and try to use make-up and sunscreen that supports your skin’s ecology rather than disrupting it.