Loaded with good bacteria, probiotic beauty and the rise of fermented skincare promise many skincare advantages.

Keen on kimchi, kombucha and kefir?

To consume, maybe yes, but using it topically on your face?

Approach with caution, or dive right in? Gut-health has been a much-discussed topic of late, and fermented, probiotic-rich foods have always been part of the cure-equation. High in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, these foods help to restore balance. 

Now, we might be applying fermented cabbage to our face. 

Well, not necessarily the cabbage per se, but fermented ingredients. Both Asian and Western markets are being flooded by products containing probiotic “good bacteria”; so, we set out to discover how it could potentially flawless-ify our skins.

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Are skincare products with probiotics worth the hype? 

In recent years, there have been an increasing number of skincare products entering the market touting probiotics. Local dermatologist, Dr. Nomphelo Gantsho did an investigation into the science supporting the use of topical probiotics in an effort to answer the question “are they worth the hype?” 

“Fermentation helps enhance the beneficial properties [of] natural extracts. It also causes the breakdown of larger organic plant structures and complex molecules into smaller — and potentially more bioactive — molecules. Translation: Because the molecules are smaller, they are more readily absorbed into your skin,” says Dr. Nomphelo.

Fermented products are acidic, they help to naturally exfoliate dead cells, allowing products to penetrate deeper. So, chuck the scrubs as fermented skincare contains a lactic acid exfoliator that helps improve skin texture and slough off dead skin cells to give a boost to your skin’s natural exfoliation process. (Lactic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid that encourages cell turnover and can help treat blemishes in addition to fine lines and wrinkles). 

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Another great benefit, she says, is that fermented ingredients are often loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients and can provide a calming and brightening effect to the skin. So, like a healthy gut, one that has been ‘treated’ daily with fermented foods like kimchi or kefir, skin can also find itself uninflamed and detoxed after being topically treated with fermented ingredients. 

“Fermented ingredients are known for promoting healthy bacteria growth on the skin, while simultaneously eliminating bad bacteria,” says Dr. Nomphelo. Glowsly agrees that probiotic and fermented ingredients help to keep the skin more hydrated and happy. 

These ingredients restore balance to the skin as they help to increase the quantity of good bacteria in the skin, which ultimately attracts more moisture. Glow girl mode initiated!

Dr. Nomphelo adds that topical probiotics have been valuable in treating acne and that they have also been evaluated for treating sensitive and dry skin.“At this time, it appears that more studies are warranted to determine if these products are really worth the hype,” says Nomphelo.

But overall, she affirms that probiotic skincare is beneficial for overall skin health and improvement of skin texture. 

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Look for these ingredients: 

Paula’s Choice says that the main ingredients to look for in products are: Lactobacillus, Bifidabacterium, Vitreoscilla, and various ferments and prebiotic sugars such as xylitol and fructooligosaccharides. 

But go for brands like ESSE, which has long established itself as a probiotic skincare brand. These products are hard to formulate, so do your homework on brands who are only suddenly jumping on this trend. 

TIP: Never buy probiotics in jars as light and air cause them to break down faster. 

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But are there risks? 

Dr. Nomphelo warns that there are some risks when using probiotic and fermented products. Fermented ingredients in skincare are acids, so your main concern should be the sun and sun sensitivity.

If you have mild to highly sensitive skin and are prone to breakouts when you come into contact with the sun – even just for short periods at a time – be sure to wear sunscreen and to wear other forms of sun protection, like a hat. 

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