Topical probiotics are to your skin as oral probiotics are to your gut. To more thoroughly parse this SAT-inspired analogy, your skin has a microbiome — a diverse network of healthy bacteria — just like your gut has a microbiome of its own. And a balanced skin microbiome keeps your skin in good working order, just like a balanced gut microbiome keeps things moving in your digestive system, to be genteel about it.
The best topical probiotics, or skin care products infused with good bacteria, are designed to maintain order to the former.
“[Topical] probiotics supply the skin with cohorts of friendly bacteria, or promote their growth by supplying the nutrients those bacteria need to grow and thrive,” NYC-based dermatologist
Dr. Kenneth Howe tells Bustle. To clarify, the former are called probiotics, which mimic the function of healthy bacteria already present in your skin microbiome; and the latter are called prebiotics. You’ll see either term on product labels, but both fall under the “topical probiotic” umbrella, and both help balance your microbiome.
One way topical probiotics contribute to overall skin health is
by strengthening your skin's natural protective barrier. When intact, your skin barrier keeps the good stuff in — namely, moisture — and the bad stuff out, like aggressors that can cause rosacea, acne, and other forms of inflammation. And beyond not being red, inflamed, and dehydrated, that stronger skin will look firmer and more radiant, too.
That’s in addition to all the other
benefits you’ll get from your topical probiotics, whether they’re cleansing your face, brightening your under eyes, or purging your pimples. Find all that and more in this roundup of the 10 best topical probiotics, ahead.
(Interested in more topical probiotics? Then check out these other great
skin care products with probiotics, here.) We only recommend products we love and that we think you will, too. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was written by our Commerce team.
The Best Probiotic Cleanser For All Skin Types
TULA Purifying Face Cleanser is a pretty foolproof way to test out topical probiotics. It’s safe for all skin types, including those that are sensitive and acneic, and it’ll leave your skin feeling softer and looking brighter. I also like that it works up to a fine lather (without the addition of irritating sulfates), which always makes me feel like I’m giving my face a nice, thorough clean.
The Best Probiotic Cleanser For Acne-Prone Skin
Topical probiotics can help prevent future breakouts — but if you're looking for a more intensive solution to treat breakouts right now, try this
probiotic cleanser from First Aid Beauty. In this formula, charcoal, kaolin clay, and bentonite clay work to absorb any acne-causing impurities lingering in your pores, and 2% salicylic acid provides even more pore-clogging benefits. Glycerin and honey soothe irritation and impart moisture, while probiotics protect your skin from experiencing breakouts in the long haul.
The Best Probiotic Cleanser For Dry, Sensitive Skin
La Roche-Posay Toleriane cleanser contains prebiotics, which act as fertilizer for the healthy bacteria already present in your microbiome to supercharge their growth. In turn, those bacteria will strengthen your skin barrier to lock in moisture and reduce irritation. That’s a really good thing for dry, sensitive skin, but this milky cleanser is formulated with other soothing and moisturizing ingredients too, like glycerin, ceramides, and the line’s signature, healing thermal water. FYI, La Roche Posay’s entire Toleriane line is a go-to for me — everything I’ve tried from the collection (which is lots!) has felt super comfortable and calming on my easily irritated skin.
The Best Daily Moisturizer With Probiotics
TULA 24-7 Moisture Hydrating Day & Night Cream whenever you want, so says the name. But I’m partial to applying this in the morning, either to prep my skin for smoother makeup application or to make my bare skin look a little more alive. Along with probiotics, botanically derived ingredients like turmeric, rice peptides, and blueberry extract help visibly brighten skin, make it feel more elastic to the touch, and provide adequate hydration without a trace of grease. It has a bit of a cooling effect too, so I like to reapply it as a late-afternoon pick-me-up on no-makeup days.
The Best Night Cream With Probiotics
Enriched with brightening vitamin C, this
Andalou Naturals Probiotic + C Renewal Cream is an especially useful night cream if you’re hoping to fade hyperpigmentation or unwanted scarring. No one's stopping you from using this one during the day too, but allowing the product to work overnight lets the vitamin C do its job more effectively. Vegan probiotics contribute their own firming, moisturizing, luminosity-giving, redness-curbing benefits here. And a raft of botanicals and naturally derived ingredients — jojoba oil, shea butter, rosehip oil, squalane, and allantoin, to name a few — provide even more hydration and skin-soothing effects.
The Best Probiotic Face Oil
Glowbiotics Probiotic HydraGlow Cream Oil is one of the most unique topical probiotics I’ve come across. First off, it’s among the only probiotic face oils on the market (though this one is probably better categorized as a cream-oil hybrid) — a nice addition to a fully stocked skin care collection. The formula also contains light-reflecting minerals, so you can treat this as makeup just as much as skin care. Use it as an all-over primer, add a few drops to your foundation, or dab it on the high points of your face for a glow that one Amazon reviewer deemed “angelic.”
The Best Probiotic Eye Cream
Dr. Roshini Raj, a practicing gastroenterologist at NYU Langone and the founder of TULA Skin Care, recently told me that this TULA Glow & Get It Cooling & Brightening Eye Balm is one of her favorite products from her line. Naturally derived ingredients like caffeine, aloe, apple, and watermelon extracts “give you immediate cooling, hydration and glow so you look refreshed and energized,” Dr. Raj said. The stick packaging also makes it really easy to apply and then throw in your bag for fuss-free reapplications throughout the day.
The Best Probiotic Face Mask
Image Skincare I MASK Purifying Probiotic Mask is a more soothing clay mask than you’d typically find, but it’s no less effective at purifying your skin. In this formula, green clay and activated charcoal draw out bacteria from your pores and work to refine your skin’s texture, while calming willowherb and probiotics counterbalance their drying effects. Antioxidant-rich superfruit extracts help protect your skin from environmental aggressors so your skin stays clear and bright in the long run, too.
The Best Probiotic Body Wash
Topical probiotics are equally effective for balancing, protecting, and healing the skin on your body as they are the skin on your face. So using a probiotic body cleanser, like this
Aleavia Body Cleanse Enzymatic, is worth considering if you experience eczema, psoriasis, keratosis pilaris, body acne, or other similar skin conditions. This one contains live prebiotics extracted from sea kelp. And beyond that, the clean, all-natural ingredients list is so short that I’ll just tell you what it is right now: filtered water, coconut oil, aloe vera, sea salt, citric acid, and plant glycerin. That’s it! Unless you have a known allergy to one of these ingredients, there’s nothing in here that will further imbalance or irritate existing skin conditions. (Which also makes this a great choice if you have sensitive or allergy-prone skin in general.)
The Best Probiotic Face & Body Spray
Another unique topical probiotic for your consideration: This
Mother Dirt AO+ Mist. It’s an all-purpose, multifunctional, cleansing topical probiotic mist that you can use on your face and body, pretty much whenever and however you want. For instance: Use it as a facial toner, give your face and other sweat-prone parts a refreshing mist throughout the day, or use it to calm acne, rashes, KP, or run-of-the-mill dryness anywhere on your body. One reviewer even uses this in lieu of a shower when necessary (but please do not stop showering regularly). Experts: Dr. Kenneth Howe, board-certified dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology in New York City. Studies referenced: Ye-On Jung, Haengdueng Jeong, Yejin Cho, Eun-Ok Lee, Hye-Won Jang, Jinwook Kim, Kitaek Nam, and Kyung-Min Lim (2019, September.) Lysates Of a Probiotic, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus, Can Improve Skin Barrier Function in a Reconstructed Human Epidermis Model. Retrieved March 25, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6747158/ Kober, M.-M., & Bowe, W. P. (2015, June). The effect of probiotics on immune regulation, acne, and photoaging. Retrieved March 25, 2020, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352647515000155