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Demystifying Topical Prebiotics, Probiotics and Your Skin’s Microbiome


We often associate the word bacteria with scary-looking looking germs that wreak havoc on our body, but it’s incorrect to lump all bacteria into one giant “bad for you” category. The truth is that bacteria come in all shapes and sizes, and that good bacteria actually play an important role in bringing balance to both the inside and outside of our bodies.

For example, you’re probably acquainted with probiotic pills, which promote gut health and keep things moving smoothly (quite literally) through our digestive tract via supplemental good bacteria. As oral probiotics help regulate our insides, topical prebiotics can help keep our skin’s delicate microbiome balanced. And a healthy skin microbiome? Well, that translates into an improvement in our skin’s barrier function, which helps support skin that’s notably radiant, clear, and youthful-looking.

Admittedly, the subject of our skin’s microbiome, microflora, and topical pre and probiotics can be a little confounding, so in honor of our new PORELESS Skincare Collection (featuring prebiotics!) we’re breaking it all down into digestible pieces for you.

What Does Our Skin’s Microbiome Consist Of?

Though you cannot see the facets of your skin’s microbiome with your bare eyes, an entire world of tiny organisms come to life when you examine skin under a powerful microscope.

“Your microbiome consists of bacteria…that live in your nose, mouth, and across your skin. It is a critical aspect of your individual immune system, and therefore works to keep your skin healthy and balanced,” says Holly Montgomery, a clinical aesthetician working alongside dermatologist Dr. Marnie Nussbaum.

She notes that when we refer to microflora, that’s simply another name for the naturally protective bacteria that reside on top of our skin. Good bacteria are absolutely essential in terms of helping combat issues that can negatively impact the look skin.

Signs That Your Skin’s Microbiome is Compromised

Think of bacteria as tiny workers constantly tidying and making sure everything’s in order across your epidermis. Without the good bacteria, our skin would be a mess. An imbalance can also lead to issues.

“Signs that your skin’s microbiome is unbalanced or has become compromised include dullness, redness, irritation, and possibly a higher susceptibility to skin ailments. Those include acne, excessive oiliness, and dryness, including dry, rough patches,” says Montgomery.

A 2014 study also found a correlation between a compromised skin microbiome and frequency of rosacea, psoriasis, and/or acne. In that sense, try thinking of your skin as a vegetable garden. The more it’s nurtured, the better your vegetables and the bigger your yield. The garden needs weeds removed, a balanced pH level, and all the right food, and your skin requires that same attention and care in order to thrive.

Where Do Topical Pre and Probiotics Come Into Play?

In the same way you can take probiotics to aid in your gut health, you can apply topical pre and probiotics in order to improve your skin’s microbiome.

“In short, pre-biotics feed or nurture a healthy microbiome — [think of them like food for good bacteria] — and probiotics supplement your microbiome by adding more good bacteria. Together, pre and probiotics ensure homeostasis as they work hand-in-hand to best propagate the system of bacteria, yeasts, and parasites that make up your microbiome,” says Montgomery. She adds, “When applied topically, they can help to better balance skin.”

Lucky for you, skincare companies including bareMinerals have made nourishing your skin via topical prebiotics way easier. For example, our new PORELESS Collection features prebiotics, blended with skin-refining superfruits, to help minimize the look of pores. Within the collection you’ll find our Clay Cleanser, Oil-Free Moisturizer, and Exfoliating Essence (which acts like a naturally-derived micropeel), each of which are carefully formulated with a blend of two key nutrient-rich prebiotics — Sugar Cane and Sugar Maple — paired with exfoliating superfruits — Bilberry, Nonifruit, Orange and Lemon Extracts. The result is brighter, healthy-looking skin, and smaller-looking pores.

What Sort of Visual Impact Can I Expect When Using Pre and Probiotics?

You know what happens when your skin is unbalanced, but let’s talk about what your skin can look like when it’s being consistently nourished. Montgomery says, “Topical application of pre and probiotics [help create] skin that radiates [with a] healthy-looking glow.”

If you’re wondering if you’re a prime candidate for topical pre and probiotic skincare, the answer is yes. And while you’re at it, make sure you’re nourishing your inner microbiome, as well. Montgomery notes, “It’s also critical to remember that the microbiome of your skin closely relates to that of your gut.” To that end, a healthy, well-balanced diet full of fresh produce is also recommended.

Here’s to being healthy on the inside and healthy-looking on the outside!