When it comes to hip, new skin care, probiotics are probably the last thing you’d think to name. Unlike gold-infused products or bubbly face masks, probiotics aren't exactly fun and sexy. But it turns out that the buzzworthy ingredient found inside our favorite yogurts isn't just for a healthy gut.
Probiotics are said to address several pesky skin conditions when applied topically, which explains why we're starting to see them make their way into creams, cleansers, and other skin care products. Some supposed benefits include diminishing acne-causing bacteria and reducing facial inflammation, making them super popular with editors and beauty experts alike.
I was already pretty familiar with digestive probiotics, so I was more than eager to see just how beneficial using probiotics topically could actually be. Sure I’ve tried and tested some probiotic-infused moisturizers and serums, but I’ve always wondered if solely using probiotics actually makes a difference on the skin.
To put this theory to the test, I grabbed one of my favorite liquid probiotics, and opted to treat my complexion to the cocktail of live bacteria each night after cleansing. I documented all my progress and thoughts in between. Here’s what happens when you switch up your skin care regimen to including treating your face to probiotics for four weeks straight.
As a proud holistic goddess, I’m a firm believer in the healing powers of probiotics. I've found that ingesting them regularly helps strengthen my immune system and keeps me pretty regular. Now, I’ve probably tried more brands (pills, supplements) than I can count, but lately Bio-K liquid probiotics have been doing major things for me. It seems that the special soy formula doesn’t leave me bloated, or riddled with stomach pain.
I already ingest the mango liquidy goop daily, so I figured it wouldn’t be hard to include in my overall regimen. I applied a spoonful's worth of product onto my face every day, letting it sit on my skin for 10 to 15 minutes before rinsing off. For the first two days of the experiment though, I didn’t notice too many results or acne-shrinking benefits. The chilled probiotics felt much like a cooling, milky face mask — which, unfortunately, included a slight spoiled milk scent.
Come day three and four, and there were still no jaw-dropping results. However, I am definitely noticing that the regular application of my mango formula is making my usually dry and flaky complexion a lot smoother post-washing.
Once day five and six rolled around, my skin was starting to adjust to the probiotics a bit better. I also was getting used to the smell a lot more, plus, my creams and serums seem to absorb a little bit faster after applying a layer of probiotics onto my face. I won’t exactly say that the regular use of topical probiotics has revolutionized my face, but the feeling of smoother skin definitely had me excited for the coming weeks.
And on the final day, my skin seems to be neither better, nor worse. My skin is usually extremely sensitive, so I’m just happy that the probiotics didn’t trigger any additional breakouts or blemishes. So far, I’m was only using probiotics once a day before bedtime. For week two, I decided to increase my probiotic facial treatments to two times a day.
Ready to take the experiment to the next level, I upped my probiotic use to two times a day after cleansing. This freaked me out a little bit, since I usually only cleanse once a day before bed. But to make the most of the experiment, I knew I'd have to to suck it up and make it work. Beauty is part sacrifice, right?
But, despite my initial hesitations, using probiotics twice a day wasn’t too strenuous or difficult on my sensitive skin. Much like week one's regimen, I simply applied a thin layer onto my face, and left it on for 10 to 15 minutes. Doing this twice a day means you get more photos of my face!
On the first two days, I didn’t notice a huge difference. My face still feels nice and soft post washing, but my "probiotic facial" still wasn't performing miraculous wonders on my pimples and blackheads. My skin also started to itch a little after each treatment, but I still didn't feel like it was overly irritating or drying out my skin.
Days three and four proved to be a similar story. Still no irritation, but no groundbreaking benefits either. However, I do find myself smelling like mango yogurt more than before. And it’s not like the smell is unpleasant, but some have asked on occasion just exactly where that spoilt milk smell is coming from. Yikes.
Once day five and six came round, I managed to get my mango smell down, and was equally surprised to see that I still wasn’t breaking out from all my probiotic use. Of course that also comes with me taking pretty good care of my skin, but sometimes new products can send my complexion in a tizzy. I took this as a good sign for the days ahead.
And on the final day, I decided that I really like adding some probiotics in my routine so far. There's still no acne-shrinkage benefits, as you can see some hormonal breakouts forming near my lips. But it's been nice to kind of use something natural, instead of the ingredient-heavy masks and treatments I normally reach for. Fermented skincare is really big right now, so this was definitely a fun DIY approach for me. By the end of week two, I was really looking forward to upping the stakes for week three.
To mix things up for the third stage of my experiment, I decided to make my very own probiotic facial cream. I was half expecting massive breakouts as payback for my experimentation, so I made sure to stock up on spot treatments too, just in case things got ugly.
To make my probiotic facial cream, I simply added a drop of my Bio-K probiotic formula inside my daily face cream, and applied liberally on my face both day and night. Not surprisingly, this seemed to have no effect on the first day, but thankfully no new blotches and pimples turned up either. I was pretty stoked about that.
Days two and three proved to be a similar story. My treatments and creams left my skin nice and smooth, but they aren't exactly getting rid of my current zits and blackheads. Not sure if much is going to miraculously change at this point, but I'm making sure I ingest my probiotics regularly as well. I spoke with board certified gastroenterologist and founder of TULA skin care, Dr. Roshini Raj, before starting this experiment, and she encouraged me to continue taking my probiotics orally as well.
"There is a well-known link between the health of your gut and the health of your skin," she tells me over email. Applying topically would only help boost the process.
By days five and six, I still wasn't seeing much of a different. Sometimes the probiotic facial cream made my skin a little itchy, but I am sure to only add in a small amount of Bio-K into my cream so it doesn't irritate the skin too much. I'm starting to suspect that this might be caused by the mango flavor, so in the future I'd like to test out some unflavored varieties. But overall, I really can't complain. I still don't have amazing progress, but there hasn't been any horrendous setbacks either.
And on the final day of week three, I decided to wear some makeup to see if my skin would look in good form after all my probiotics. Even with a little of DIY probiotic cream on my face, my foundations and concealers still went on smooth, without any hangups. As you can see, I still have acne forming in the chin area, but at least the breakout hasn't gotten worse since I started.
As I finally reached the last week of my experiment, I sought out to maintain my new found probiotic beauty regimen at all costs. This of course included strictly using my daily probiotic treatments and DIY probiotic facial cream. I'm still surprised that all my probiotic pampering hasn't remotely irritated my skin. Perhaps this is the result of using Bio K formula, which despite containing sugar, is really top quality stuff to begin with. Even though I can feel that my skin is a lot more smooth, no one has really commented on my skin looking any different since I started the probiotics regimen. I kept my fingers crossed for a miraculous transformation by the end of this week so slopping all this goop on my face doesn't turn out to be for nothing.
Similar to the previous weeks, days three and four still produced baby-soft skin without any blotchiness. Sometimes I still get an itchy sensation when doing my facial treatments, but still haven't noticed any clogged pores or nasty zits. Sadly, ingesting my probiotics regularly hasn't transformed my skin either. Next time I test drive a probiotic skin routine, I resolve to drink more water and eat better as well, since it's clear that just adding probiotics isn't going to suddenly change my skin.
Days five and six proved to be similar as well. I'm still applying my probiotic facial cream on my face, which leaves my face feeling hydrated at most. Sometimes the heavy product application can weigh down my skin, but no irritation leaves me confident that I can use it even when the experiment is completely over. Even with makeup on, I'm not breaking out horribly either. Maybe this stuff really does get rid of new acne-causing bacteria, but I can't be sure.
And on the last day of the experiment, I decided to wear makeup once again to see if it would disrupt my regimen in any way. Of course, nothing major happened, even when going extra hard on the blushes and highlighters. However, I will say that my makeup products went on a lot smoother, thanks to the smoother texture I've received after all my probiotic use.
Is An All-Probiotic Routine Worth The Effort?
As my experiment draws to a close, I really can't say that probiotics have transformed my skin in any miraculous way. Of course, I love any opportunity to try natural DIY treatments, but aside from silky smooth skin I get in return, I didn't notice any results I feel like screaming from the hilltops. I didn't break out any more than usual, so perhaps that's where the acne-warding benefits came into play, but I'll be sticking to my trusty spot treatments to get rid of acne in the future.
I'm not giving up my probiotics for good, however. They still help my belly feel happy, and I think Dr. Raj's note about how a healthy gut leads to healthier skin is legit. I'm just happy I can stop spreading the smelly goop all over my face.
Images: Courtney Leiva