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What Do Probiotics Have to Do with Your Skin?

August 30, 2021

What Do Probiotics Have to Do with Your Skin?

From yogurt and tempeh to kombucha and kimchi, probiotic rich foods are well known for their gut health superpowers. But it turns out probiotics are just as good for your skin.

Like your gut, your skin has an ecosystem consisting of trillions of microscopic organisms. This microbiome consists mainly of bacteria living throughout the layers of your skin. The more strains that coexist in your skin’s microbiome, the healthier it will be. But an imbalance of bacteria in the microbiome can also lead to skin concerns like dry skin, wrinkles, breakouts and eczema.

Here’s the bad news- LOTS of things can throw your skin’s microbiome out of whack. Ready for the good news? Probiotics can help. This is your guide to probiotics in skincare- including everything you need to know about using probiotics for better skin!

The relationship between your gut and your skin

You have trillions of bacteria in your gut and they control the condition of your skin. This correlation is known as the gut-skin axis. It’s a widely researched relationship between gut health and skin health.

When digestive balance is off, the gut becomes overrun with bad bacteria. This leads to inflammation in the gut. Inflammation in the gut releases pro-inflammatory cytokines throughout the body. The skin reacts to these cytokines in the form of acne, eczema, rosacea, or dry, sensitive skin. It can even trigger the breakdown of collagen, leading to premature aging. 

What is the skin microbiome? 

The skin microbiome is the ecosystem of billions of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that comprise the skin microbiota. Which is a fancier way of saying collection of microorganisms.

The human skin has 1 billion microbes (bacteria) per square centimeter. This natural bacteria maintains the skin’s immunity and prevents things like eczema and psoriasis. When this balance of bacteria is disturbed, the skin becomes vulnerable to an overgrowth of bad bacteria, increased inflammation, and an altered pH.

Essentially, the more strains of bacteria that coexist in the microbiome, the healthier your skin is. Your skin's microbiome is as unique as your fingerprint. It’s in constant communication with its environment and your skin. It’s responsible for protecting your skin from pathogens and controlling skin immunity. It’s also responsible for nutrient absorption and supporting your skin barrier. The skin microbiome is essentially the control center of the skin.

What can compromise your skin’s microbiome?

Whether it’s environmental factors like pollution, sun exposure or stress; or natural factors like hormones and aging, the balance of your skin’s microbiome can easily be thrown out of whack. These are the most common culprits:

  • Your gut microbiome being out of balance
  • Using the wrong skincare products
  • Not staying hydrated internally and externally
  • Exposure to pollution 
  • Exposure to UV rays
  • Stress
  • Aging
  • Eating skin-triggering foods like gluten and dairy 
  • Extreme temperatures and weather changes
  • Any irritant your skin comes into contact with 

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live bacteria naturally found in the body. Probiotics are good bacteria. Good bacteria helps eliminate extra bad bacteria. So probiotics are a way to add good bacteria to your body. Probiotics can help eliminate toxins and reduce inflammation. This makes them powerhouse ingredients for treating things like acne, eczema and rosacea. 

What are prebiotics? 

Along with probiotics, prebiotics and postbiotics can help improve your skin’s microbiome. Prebiotics are nondigestible compounds that feed and support good bacteria and keep bad bacteria in check. Prebiotics are typically known as complex carbohydrates in foods. Prebiotics help balance skin pH or support the skin’s barrier function. 

What are postbiotics?

Postbiotics are fermentation byproducts produced by good bacteria. One example is peptides. These short-chain amino acids occur naturally in the skin, boosting its immunity response.

Another example is short-chain fatty acids. These are especially important for the skin, because the body can’t make them. If the bacteria on your skin aren’t making enough fatty acids or peptides, a topical product with fatty acids can give it a boost.

Probiotic, prebiotic and postbiotic cheatsheet


Supplements or foods that contain viable microorganisms that alter the microflora of the host.


Supplements or foods that contain a non-digestible ingredient that selectively stimulates the growth and/or activity of indigenous bacteria.


Non-viable bacterial products or byproducts from probiotic microorganisms that have biologic activity in the host.

Skin benefits of probiotics

  • Probiotics reduce skin sensitivity and boost ceramides.
  • Probiotics improve the skin’s barrier function to reduce acne and redness.
  • Probiotics reduce water loss and improve eczema.
  • Probiotics increase free radical scavengers to fight skin aging.
  • Probiotics suppress the growth of a type of bacterium that can drive symptoms of eczema and dry skin.
  • Probiotics increase the production of ceramides in people with eczema or dry and sensitive skin.

More benefits of probiotics

  • Probiotics can help prevent digestive problems, such as constipation, diarrhea, colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Probiotics produce immunity-boosting chemicals and kill off invading pathogens.
  • Probiotics protect against stomach ulcers, food poisoning, lactose intolerance, yeast overgrowth, yeast infections, harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Where can you find probiotics?

You can take a probiotic supplement, or you can eat foods naturally rich in probiotics. Eating probiotic rich foods has been shown to decrease inflammation, benefitting the skin. Before adding a supplement, try adding one of the following foods to your diet.

  • Yogurt: Yogurt is one of the best sources of probiotics. It is made from milk that has been fermented by friendly bacteria, mainly lactic acid bacteria.
  • Kefir: Kefir is a fermented probiotic milk drink. It is made by adding kefir grains to cow’s or goat’s milk.
  • Sauerkraut: Sauerkraut is finely shredded cabbage that has been fermented by lactic acid bacteria.
  • Tempeh: Tempeh is a fermented soybean product. It forms a firm patty whose flavor is described as nutty or earthy.
  • Kimchi: Kimchi is a fermented, spicy dish. Cabbage is usually the main ingredient, but it can also be made from other vegetables.
  • Miso: Miso is a Japanese seasoning traditionally made by fermenting soybeans with salt and a type of fungus called koji. 
  • Kombucha: Kombucha is a fermented black or green tea drink. This popular tea is fermented by a friendly colony of bacteria and yeast.
  • Pickles: Pickles are cucumbers that have been pickled in a solution of salt and water. They are left to ferment for some time, using their own naturally present lactic acid bacteria. 
  • Buttermilk: There are two main types of buttermilk: traditional and cultured. Traditional buttermilk is the leftover liquid from making butter. This version contains probiotics
  • Natto: Natto is another fermented soybean product, like tempeh and miso.
  • Some cheeses: Although most types of cheese are fermented, they don’t all contain probiotics. But the good bacteria does survive the aging process in some cheeses- like gouda, mozzarella, cheddar and cottage cheese. Check the label for live cultures to be sure.

Other ways to support your skin’s microbiome 

  • In addition to adding probiotics to your diet and a topical probiotic treatment to your skincare routine, these tips will help to balance the bacteria in your skin.
  • Use a gentle cleansing foam when you wash your face. Using a cleanser that’s too harsh can cause an imbalance of bacteria in the microbiome.
  • Use acne treatments for spot treating only. Overdoing it with ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide can disrupt your skin’s microbiome.
  • Drink between 9 and 13 eight ounce cups of watera day and use a serum with hyaluronic acid to keep your skin barrier hydrated.
  • Try to limit your wardrobe to natural materials. Synthetic fibers can irritate the skin barrier. This changes your skin’s ratio of good to bad bacteria.
  • Eat a diet high in fiber. The way the body digests dietary fiber lowers the pH of the colon, limiting the growth of harmful bacteria. Some high-fiber foods include-
    • legumes
    • whole grains
    • avocados
    • mangos
    • raspberries
    • pears
    • bananas
    • broccoli
    • artichokes
    • almonds
    • peanuts
  • Living a healthy lifestyle. In addition to a well-balanced diet, a regular fitness routine and good sleep schedule will help keep your skin microbiome operating optimally. 
  • Pay attention to your antibiotic intake. Antibiotics are designed to kill bad bacteria, and they can effectively treat certain bacterial infections. But they also damage the microbiome by wiping out a significant number of ‘good’ bacteria. After antibiotics, your body may need some help rebalancing its biome.

Your body is home to trillions of microorganisms. And a host of these diverse bacteria ecosystems reside on your skin. Research shows that the good bacteria in this ecosystem promotes skin health. They reinforce your skin barrier against bad bacteria, balance your skin's pH levels and even protect against skin cancer. But lots of things can strip your skin of this healthy, or good bacteria. This makes your skin stressed and dry, causing issues like breakouts, eczema, rosacea flares and psoriasis. Probiotics can help.

From keeping breakouts at bay to strengthening the skin’s barrier, probiotics help to prevent multiple skin issues. Probiotics discourage the growth of bad bacteria that causes redness, irritation and breakouts. They have an anti-inflammatory effect, soothing redness, skin irritation and conditions like acne, rosacea and psoriasis. Probiotics can help boost your skin’s microbiome for a healthier, glowing complexion and your healthiest skin yet!

Herbal Dynamics Beauty Skincare for Healthy Microbiome Support