Probiotics: Next Big Thing?

We live in a world where appearances matter! For those with troubled skin, the struggle to get acne under control can be emotionally demoralizing … as I can personally attest. As an adult with constant breakouts, I know having acne flare up is as disturbing as it is for a teen. It’s one thing to go to high school with a pimple when everyone has one but it’s another thing to have a blemish when you don’t want to cover up with tons of makeup to take your kids to the YMCA or when you are telling someone you write for the beauty industry. There is hope in new research on probiotics for acne.

In recent years, ingested probiotics have become synonymous with helping maintain good digestive health as well as regulating the immune system. Such a robust immune system is necessary for the proper function of every other part of the body. Whether as live active cultures found in some yogurts or as daily supplements, probiotics are live, “friendly” bacteria that have been shown to benefit a person’s health. Emerging research is finding that just as inflammation in the gut can cause inflammation in the body, it can lead also to inflammation in the skin. Restoring beneficial bacteria appears to reduce skin inflammation from the outside, thus improving acne. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin prone to acne has shown improvement with daily probiotic use.

In addition to taking probiotics internally, there’s some research showing that topical probiotics can reduce acne as well. A study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science, for example, explained that lactobacillus extract at 5% can be used to effectively treat mild acne lesions when topically applied.

While more studies are needed, some cosmetics and personal care manufacturers such as Clinique, Lancôme, Burt’s Bees, Bioelements have started using probiotics in their topical products.

The idea behind such products is that when the skin’s bacteria levels are not in proper balance, it becomes more susceptible to harmful bacteria, pollutants, free radicals, and allergens. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that battle the harmful microbes. With regular use, toxin-producing bacteria are reduced, including those behind the appearance of ugly acne eruptions.

Dr Lili Fan uses Lactobacillus acidophillus, a lactic acid-producing organism responsible for yogurt and buttermilk. “Acne bacteria is very unique and most actives only make the environment unsuitable for growth, without eliminating the bacteria itself, whereas probiotics work to clean up the surface of the skin,” explained founder Lili Fan, MD. The brand’s pharmaceutical-grade probiotic is bred from rice protein, which has fewer sensitivities compared to milk—and a better scent. I tried her anti-aging line and while it did little to alleviate any adult acne, I did fall in love with the Age Defying Probiotic Eye Serum. The brand is in development of a line specifically for acne care as well.

“We’ve known for centuries the effectiveness of probiotics on the skin, now we just need to study more on how they work”, said Fan. “Probiotics can be the great opportunity for next level of cosmeceutical as long as it is used properly. It is not a medical biological products and there is no FDA regulation for it yet.”

Please note: A product containing a probiotic may be categorized as a biological product by the FDA, particularly if marketed as an acne care solution and subject to the FDA’s Public Health Service Act. The FDA’s current position is that a probiotic product intended for use as a “drug” is also a “biological product.” If a probiotic also falls within the definition of a “new drug,” it is subject not only to rigid premarket clearance requirements but also to the testing requirements of the Investigational New Drug application, with regard to clinical studies. These requirements include formal notification of the FDA about the intent to conduct clinical studies, submission to the FDA of comprehensive test protocols, development of an investigation plan and institutional review board oversight. –Cited from Food and Drugs 2007, Rita Narayanan, Journal of Agriculture Sciences

Read more about acne care solutions in the November/December 2014 issue of EuroCosmetics magazine in its new column “Sara Speaks.”

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