Could your face really be too clean?
We're taught from a young age that bacteria = bad germs. While there is such a thing as bad bacteria—like the kind that can lead to sickness or infection—there are also thousands of good bacteria that live on our body and are beneficial. When they're stripped away by overly harsh cleansing habits, our skin barrier can become vulnerable, which can lead to breakouts and a dull complexion.
"Probiotics naturally live on the surface of skin, creating a protective veil referred to as the skin’s microbiome," says Sandy Skotnicki, MD, a dermatologist in Toronto and author of Beyond Soap, which takes a deep dive into this topic. Dr. Skotnicki recommends applying topical probiotics and prebiotics to help feed existing bacteria and balance the skin that is often left defenseless from over-cleansing. When the microbiome is balanced, she explains, "it helps offset factors that can negatively influence skin, such as factors that lead to redness, dryness, and a weakened surface that more quickly shows signs of aging from environmental attack."
In addition to topical products, you can preserve the microbiome by not cleansing as much, she says. Unless you have acneic or oily skin, you can get away with just rinsing with water in the morning. Dr. Skotnicki recommends micellar water, which is super gentle (we like Bioderma Sensibo H20 Micellar Water). Cleansers to avoid: those that can be stripping, such as foamy or soap-based formulas that lather. These often have harsh surfactants that can disrupt the good bacteria.
Here are some of our favorite probiotic and prebiotic skincare products that will help get your skin in tip-top shape.
Dr. Brandt Bright Biotic
One of the biggest skin concerns women face is discoloration, typically the result of sun damage, leftover acne spots, or pigmentation that has developed with age. This product hybrid packs fruit enzymes that resurface the skin and the brand's Biotic Balancing Complex, a blend of probiotics and prebiotics which helps to balance bacteria and strengthen skin's barrier—when it's performing optimally, it helps block out environmental aggressors like pollution.
First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Acne Clearing Charcoal Cleanser with Probiotics
If you have oily or acneic skin, you're going to love this. The trio of charcoal, salicylic acid, and yogurt extract-powered probiotics draws out impurities from skin without stripping it and works to treat and prevent breakouts. The goal: nix the gunk and reveal a clear, healthy complexion.
Elizabeth Arden SuperStart Probiotic Cleanser Whip to Clay
If the luxe texture of this whipped mousse cleanser isn't enough to win you over, the results will. The clay-meets-probiotic formula foams into a soft lather and washes away makeup while simultaneously hydrating skin and helping to minimize the look of pores.
REN Clean Skincare Perfect Canvas
Expanding beyond skincare and into the realm of makeup, this probiotic-laced primer is silicone-free, but still manages to feel smooth as silk on skin. It's the perfect first step before your base because it helps balance the skin's flora and encourages good bacteria to grow, creating a nice barrier between your skin and the cosmetics you apply on top.
Biossance Squalane + Probiotic Gel Moisturizer
The perfect lightweight gel moisturizer, especially for those who don't like the feel of a heavy cream. It leaves skin with a glow from the dewy formula, but also improves skin over time because of hydrating, sugar-derived squalane and probiotics, which aid in the production of proteins and enzymes that enhance skin's quality.
TULA Skincare Multispectrum Eye Renewal Serum
Perk up tired eyes with this super-moisturizing eye cream. The metal tip applicator feels cool to the touch and helps depuff the eye area. Click the top to release just enough serum—apply it on the orbital bone, never straight to the lid. The probiotic formula works to minimize fine lines and make the area appear brighter and more radiant.
Zelens Z-Balance Facial Mist
Restore moisture with the blend of prebiotics and probiotics in this facial mist. It's oil-free and has plant humectants that prevent water loss and keep skin looking plump and youthful. Spritz throughout the day as a pick-me-up with benefits.