Don’t go for the anti-bacterial overkill, your skin needs its probiotics & your love, says Dr Deepali Bhardwaj
How many times have you checked that “anti-bacterial” label before buying beauty products? Well, every single time. But recent research in dermatology shows bacteria are not only vital for maintaining the natural glow on your skin but also ward off many skin diseases. Now, before you drop your jaw or rue over the fact that you have been sold a faulty beauty paradigm all these years, it is important that you understand the biology and chemistry of your skin microflora, which is predominated by probiotics this Mother’s Day.
So, what exactly are probiotics and how are they beneficial for your skin?
Probiotics are live micro-organism in your own body or on your skin. But these are good microbes and have plenty of health benefits. They boost your body’s immune response. There is a renewed interest in the study of health benefits of probiotics. We have known for some time the health benefits of a good and stable gut microbiome. Which is what explains the rise in popularity of probiotic rich yoghurt and health drinks. But the same understanding is now being experimented with in the beauty industry and there are way too many benefits to ignore this significant development.
Your skin’s natural microbiota is a protective shield against invasion by pathogens that provoke immune reactions. To put it simply the good bacteria are constantly putting up a fight against the bad ones – the ones that can cause skin irritation, inflammation, acne breakouts and other skin diseases.
Three main components in your skin microbiota
There are three main components in your skin microbiota – probiotics, as defined earlier as the good microbes, the prebiotics – the food on which the good microbes feed on and post biotics – the chemicals released by the microbes. These chemicals like anti-bacterial peptides are of immense benefit as they eliminate harmful bacteria.
Now, you might also want to understand that your entire body skin might not have the same flora. Apart from macro flora, there is micro flora depending on how dry or moist an area of the body is. More importantly, both micro and macro flora of the body are disturbed by environmental stressors. There is enough evidence to show that the cause of many skin diseases is a depleted skin microbial diversity due to environmental causes, although genetic factors could also account for it.
Research shows that diminished cutaneous microbes is seen in over 90% of individuals with eczema in contrast to only 5% of unaffected individuals. Living in concrete jungles, braving constant traffic jams amid pollution, rapid urbanization, climate change and complete disconnect with nature have a direct impact on our skin’s micro and macroflora. And it is the good bacteria that’s being killed in thousands. Altering life-style choices can only help you so much because living in an urban setting has its own set of challenges as much for you as for your skin. So, opting for probiotic rich skin products could be a wise choice to make.
Use of probiotics
Use of probiotics in natural form or its cosmetic use fortifies the skin against the impact of environmental stressors, such as free radicals, UV radiation, excessive screentime, pollution, poor lifestyle choices, climate change, toxins and allergens, xenobiotics etc. Apart from environmental stressors, what might be causing irreparable damage to your skin is over-sanitization. I have seen my clients suffer year-long dandruff problem, despite using anti-dandruff shampoos and from sensitive skin syndrome. One of the reasons for these ailments lies in our obsession with washing and cleaning our scalp and facial skin more frequently than required. Over-washing, shampooing, exfoliation causes yeast disbalance, which in turn causes pH disbalance. Harsh chemicals in your makeup can also kill good bacteria.
Several conditions like rosacea and sensitive skin syndrome, early greying of hair are all result of over washing and consequent pH disbalance. Skin conditions like psoriasis, acne vulgaris, rosacea, atopic dermatitis, and telangiectasias or broken capillaries and blood vessels and signs of ageing can be countered by eating probiotic rich curd and applying it topically too. I always recommend my clients, especially older women dealing with skin damage problems, to both eat and apply curd.
The cosmetic use of probiotics is a new phenomenon.
Most of the probiotic technology in skincare is obtained from bacteria cultures commonly used to prepare yoghurt. Newer probiotics and prebiotics products are being launched to not only enhance the skin’s natural immune response but also as a treatment for several skin diseases. One of the ways of enhancing the effects of probiotics is to apply prebiotics, to ensure the right kind of food for the right kind of skin flora. Probiotic rich products help to strengthen skin barrier, optimize the skin’s ability to remodel collagen and elastin and reduce inflammation which limits flare-ups and has anti-ageing properties.
They stimulate skin’s repair and renewal capacities and keep the skin optimally hydrated maintaining cutaneous homeostatis. What’s the icing on the cake is the fact that probiotics can be used for all skin types. But one must not use over-the-counter products without consulting an aesthetician because your skin’s microflora might be different from another’s. Even within your own body the microbial diversity would differ and so will the prescription. But what you can do to begin with is watch out the next time you slather that anti-bacterial face wash five times a day. You might be killing off your skin’s best friend stay tuned with health love and warmth. Enjoy the women that you are and pamper yourself with healthy habits.