The Best Probiotic Moisturizers, According To A Dermatologist

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Whether you think the concept is cool or gross, bacteria in skin care products are so beneficial for your skin, for the same reason that the bacteria in fermented foods (like kombucha and kimchi) are beneficial for your gut. In both scenarios, probiotics swoop in to balance, diversify, and propagate the good bacteria already present in your body while warding off the bad. Not for nothing, applying topical probiotics can make your skin look glowier, bouncier, clearer, and — in the case of the best probiotic moisturizers in particular — feel deeply hydrated.

For a better understanding of probiotics’ healing benefits, I spoke to Whitney Bowe, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin: The Surprising Science of Looking and Feeling Radiant from the Inside Out. “We now know that our skin is covered with more than a trillion microscopic organisms,” says Dr. Bowe. “When the balance of these microbes is off, something called ‘dysbiosis,’ we are prone to a number of inflammatory skin conditions including acne, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis. Not only is maintaining the delicate balance of these microbes critical to keeping inflammation in check, it also plays a key role in keeping skin healthy [and] hydrated.”

Put simply, probiotics in skin care are microorganisms that mimic the functions of naturally occurring good bacteria already in your skin microbiome, thereby restoring that “delicate balance” Dr. Bowe talks about.

When looking for a probiotic moisturizer in particular, Dr. Bowe recommends not only seeking soothing and hydrating ingredients — like glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and squalane — but avoiding ingredients that “are potentially harming your microbiome, and undoing all the good that these ingredients might be doing for your skin health.” For most people, that means steering clear of harsh surfactants like SLS (sodium laureth sulfate), drying alcohols, and topical antibacterials like triclosan, all of which can throw your microbiome out of whack.

The six best probiotic moisturizers here suit a range of skin types — including acne-prone skin and sensitive skin, both of which can especially benefit from probiotics' balancing effects — but they’ll all give your skin the boost of hydration and bacteria it needs.


Expert’s Pick: The Overall Best Probiotic Moisturizer

Dr. Bowe specifically recommends moisturizers with prebiotics, which she describes as “the fuel and nourishment for our healthy microbiome. You can think of them as fertilizer to keep your naturally occuring good bacteria healthy and thriving.” La Roche Posay’s Toleriane line, infused with prebiotic spring water, is an excellent resource for prebiotic skin care, and one Dr. Bowe herself uses “all the time.” This Double Repair Face Moisturizer is particularly well-loved on Amazon (and beyond). In addition to prebiotics, this lightweight, oil-free moisturizer contains a blend of ceramides, glycerin, and niacinamide to fortify the delicate skin barrier and keep it hydrated for a full 48 hours. Niacinamide has so many additional skin benefits, too, like brightening, firming, and minimizing the appearance of pores. And like all of the French brand’s products, the formula is free of common irritants, like fragrance and parabens, and is safe for the most sensitive skin types.

Rave review: “Best face care product I have ever used! [...] This lotion exceeds all my wants in every way. It is lightweight, non greasy, absorbs very quickly, and lasts all day. [...] My skin has improved so dramatically in the last few weeks of using this that I am tempted to believe it's a bit magical. My pores have visibly shrunk around my nose and cheeks [...] My skin color has dramatically evened out and improved with much less redness. And, most importantly, I always feel hydrated now and don't have any dry skin on my face.”


Editor’s Pick: A Splurge-Worthy Probiotic Moisturizer That Works For Most Skin Types

This TULA Skincare 24-7 Moisture Hydrating Day & Night Cream is a great choice if you’re looking for an all-purpose probiotic moisturizer for day and night use, regardless of your skin type. Let’s start with its dreamy texture: It’s rich and creamy, but not overly dense — think more low-fat yogurt, less Greek yogurt — and there’s a hint of refreshing wetness to it. It sinks in quickly, dries to a velvety-soft finish, and manages to balance all aspects of my combination skin (hydrates the dry, lightly mattifies the oily), and keeps my sensitive skin feeling comfortable. Plus, it makes my skin immediately firmer and more elastic to the touch, so it works perfectly for pre-makeup prep. At $45 for a 1.7-ounce pot, this moisturizer is definitely a splurge. But a little goes a long way: I’ve been using this almost every morning for the past two weeks, and I’m still working through the product stuck to the top of the lid.

Rave review: “If I could have rated it higher than 5 stars, I would have. It is a thick luxurious cream that glides on your face like silk and is quickly absorbed. It didn't leave my face feeling greasy or tacky, just soft, hydrated & moisturized. Today is a non-makeup day for me & I am just going to enjoy the way my face feels after using this awesome cream.”


The Best Probiotic Moisturizer For Acne-Prone Skin

Lots of skin care products with probiotics can help prevent and clear breakouts — probiotics contribute to healthier-functioning skin generally, and just one function of a balanced skin barrier is staving off the bad bacteria that leads to acne and inflammation. That said, some probiotic skin care products might include those aggravating ingredients Dr. Bowe warns us about, like synthetic fragrances and alcohols, that could negate all the good things those probiotics are doing.

So your safest bet is to go for a probiotic moisturizer designed especially for treating congested skin, like this Glowbiotics MD Probiotic Clarifying Lotion. In addition to probiotics, the formula contains an impressive number of proprietary blends that target typical acne-prone skin concerns, like quelling bacteria, reducing redness and inflammation, and absorbing excess oil on the skin’s surface. To counteract the drying effects of these powerful clarifying ingredients, the formula also contains hyaluronic acid and glycerin (two of the best, non-oily moisturizing ingredients), so your skin will feel soft and hydrated.

Rave review: “I ran out of my Glowbiotics and my face broke out and now after using them again my skin is clear and soft again. [...] Also this goes on smooth under my makeup and I've noticed my skin looking more even. My face is very easily irritated and I've noticed since starting to use these my skin has been calm and less irritated. Highly recommend!”


The Best Brightening Probiotic Moisturizer

As you now know, probiotics do basically everything good for your skin. But in particular, this Andalou Naturals Probiotic + C Renewal Cream focuses on rejuvenating compromised skin cells, healing sun damage, evening out skin tone, and boosting your skin’s overall radiance. In here, bacillius coagulans, a powerful vegan probiotic, teams up with antioxidants, plant-based oils, and nourishing glycerin for brightening and hydration while actively bolstering your skin barrier. Reviewers confirm that this moisturizer works on all skin types, and its firming and brightening effects are instantly noticeable.

Rave review: “Wow, this moisturizer is wonderful. The orange scent is refreshing and light. I apply at night after hyaluronic acid and a topical medication. My rosacea acne decreased within the first week. My skin is smoother, with fewer flaky dry spots and breakouts. Plus I think the color correction is true. It's only been a couple weeks and I still have sunspots, but I think they're milder. Love love love this.”


The Best Probiotic Moisturizer For Face & Body

Between the pump-top packaging and generous, 10-ounce size, this NatureWell probiotic moisturizer is an excellent choice for slathering all over your body, face, and hands. It’s packed with nourishing ingredients, like coconut oil, glycerin, and avocado oil, while black tea ferment fulfills the probiotic quotient. Retinyl palmitate, retinol’s milder cousin, also works to retexturize and firm the skin. With over 7,500 five-star ratings and reviews, Amazon shoppers can’t get enough of this moisturizing workhorse. “My skin has never been this soft and luminous,” one reviewer reported after three weeks of use, while many others confirm that this simple yet effective formula works incredibly well for restoring their skin’s firmness and elasticity.

Rave review: “The lotion itself is very light and absorbs quickly not leaving you greasy and the results are quite amazing. I have been using every night and some mornings and I am actually seeing the tone/texture of my skin changing for the better! The skin tone on my arms and legs is definitely looking more even [...] it is also excellent on my hands AND face. I have already purchased 3 more tubs.”


A More Budget-Friendly Probiotic Moisturizer For Acne-Prone Skin

If you can’t swing the Glowbiotics moisturizer’s $60 price tag, but you’re still seeking a targeted formula for breakout-prone skin, this Hero Clarifying Prebiotic Moisturizer is a wonderful alternative. In here, willow bark extract, a natural BHA, penetrates deeply into your pores to clear away acne-causing impurities, while witch hazel and zinc PCA offer more clarifying benefits (and help reduce the appearance of enlarged pores, as a bonus). Plus, this contains Dr. Bowe’s recommended prebiotics that work to feed the good bacteria in your microbiome, thereby “protecting our skin’s natural skin barrier,” she says.

Rave review: “My skin had been stressed and dirty from working all day and I used this moisturizer before bed and the next day my skin was glowing! I consider my skin to be normal but I break out pretty easily with certain moisturizers but this one is perfect for my skin! It’s a very silky wet texture but it absorbs perfectly and leaves the skin feeling so moisturized.”


Dr. Whitney Bowe, MD, board-certified dermatologist, Medical Director of Integrative Dermatology, Aesthetics & Wellness at Advanced Dermatology, P.C.

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