probiotic microbiome skincare

What is Microbiome Skincare and Why Should You Care

First, it was important in the gut, now on the skin. Probiotics are everywhere, and there’s a lot of information out there about their benefits, the importance of the microbiome, and how to incorporate them into your routine the right way.

Well, there are three things we know for sure: microbiome skincare is going to be a big trend, it can be really effective, and there’s a lot of misinformation out there that you’ll have to sift through in order to make it work.

Here’s what you need to know.

Probiotics: The Basics

prebiotics probiotics postbiotics skincare

Probiotics, or good bacteria, are super important for overall health. The main idea here is simple: you need a balance of bacteria in your gut to keep your system healthy and keep any bad bacteria in check.

When it comes to the world of probiotics and the microbiome, there are a few big terms to keep in mind:

1. Prebiotics: These are supplements or foods that contain a non-digestible ingredient that selectively stimulates the growth and/or activity of indigenous bacteria. Think of it as the soil or the environment in which the good bacteria can thrive.

2. Probiotics: Probiotics are supplements or foods that contain viable microorganisms that alter the microflora of the host. This is the actual good bacteria, and it can originate from one of four places: human skin, the human gut, soil, or water.

3. Postbiotics: These are non-viable bacterial products or byproducts from probiotic microorganisms that have biologic activity in the host.

Now let’s discuss how all of this can be helpful for the skin’s microbiome.

Understanding the Skin and Its Microbiome

The Skin’s Microbiome

The skin’s microbiome is composed of millions of native bacteria, fungi, and viruses that exist on the surface of the skin. There are approximately 1 billion microbes per square centimeter on the skin.

Ultimately, this bacteria can help maintain the skin’s immunity and prevent the overgrowth of bad bacteria - or pathogens - like atomic dermatitis and psoriasis.

Just like with your gut, having a diverse balance is the key to a happy microbiome - and there are usually around 1000 distinct species of bacteria on the skin at once. That’s because your skin bacteria and skin immune system talk to each other, and they talk to the bacteria in your gut.

This ecosystem can ultimately play a big role in everything from how well products are absorbed to the overall health of our skin. Your skin’s microbiome can combat infections, fight environmental damage, boost immunity, regulate pH levels, and keep your skin plump and dewy.

What Happens When Your Microbiome Is Disturbed

disturbed microbiome irritated skin

When a healthy composition of microorganisms and bacteria on the skin is disturbed, the skin can become more vulnerable to an overgrowth of bad bacteria - along with increased inflammation, itching, and an altered skin pH.

Today, this kind of disturbance happens more often than anyone would like.

This, in part, has to do with modern lifestyles. Our lifestyle habits have changed a ton in the last few decades, and the microbiome is really taking a hit. Common perpetrators include things like:

  • Daily hot showers and baths
  • Chlorinated water
  • A sugar-heavy diet
  • Over-exfoliation and lathering soaps with antibiotics or surfactants
  • The use of topical antibiotics

Overall, all of this can strip the skin of its natural oils, which can cause transepidermal water loss along with redness, sensitivity, and dryness.

This can also contribute to major issues like bacterial and fungal skin rashes like eczema, psoriasis, perioral dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff), pityrosporum folliculitis (pesky bumps on the chest and forehead), tinea versicolor, and acne–to name a few.

And it makes sense. The relationship between the microbiome and these atopic conditions is an interesting one, and one that’s currently being researched by Professor Flohr and Dr. Gallo. Dr. Gallo said of his research, “We’ve discovered that some of the bacteria that live on the skin help prevent dermatitis and that people with eczema are missing these good bacteria.” This makes the skin more vulnerable to irritants, which further exacerbates existing conditions. It’s a terrible cycle that’s really hard to break once it gets going - and that’s where probiotic skincare comes into play.

The Benefits of Microbiome Skincare

The first thing to note is that there is a slight difference between probiotic and microbiome skincare.

Probiotic skincare, on one hand, actually uses real probiotic elements, meaning it hasprobiotics in the formula. Microbiome skincare, on the other hand, is simply microbiome-friendly. That means it can contain prebiotics, probiotics, or postbiotics (and a comprehensive microbiome routine will have all three).

The prebiotics willfeed your existing microbiome and allow your bacteria to thrive, the probioticswill strengthen your skin’s innate supply of bacteria, and the postbiotics will provide beneficial extracts that living bacteria give off when they're put through the fermentation process that revs up their metabolism.

Just as important as the type of biotic in the bottle - be it a living organism, broken-up bacteria, bug food, or some kind of by-product - is the specific strain of bacteria that it contains. Like with probiotics in the gut, each bacteria on the skin’s microbiome has a specific purpose, and there are lots to choose from.

Microbiome Ingredients to Look Out For


  • Thermal spring water:Thermal spring water, found in many cleansers and moisturizers, functions as a prebiotic. The water’s unique characteristics, including its pH and selenium content, have been shown in clinical studies to cultivate the growth of healthy strains of bacteria while keeping bad bugs, like staph (the culprit behind eczema and serious skin infections) at bay.
  • Oatsalso act as a powerful prebiotic, feeding the skin’s bacteria, and encouraging a robust microbiome
  • Natural sugars like beta-glucan can help keep probiotic organisms potent and functioning effectively.
  • Natural oils like squalane can serve as prebiotics, feeding the skin’s fat-loving bacteria, which rely on lipids to survive.


  • Vitreoscilla filiformisis a waterborne bacteria known for improving severely dry skin.
  • The Nitrosomonas eutropha strain found in Mother Dirt probiotic mists uses our own sweat - and the ammonia therein - as a prebiotic, converting it into molecules that have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties for fewer breakouts and less irritation.
  • Streptococcus thermophilushas been found to increase the skin’s own output of ceramides to counter moisture loss.
  • Lactobacillus plantarumproduces antibiotic-like molecules that can help with occasional breakouts.
  • Bifidobacteriumis shown to aid sensitive skin by increasing its resistance to physical and chemical aggressors.
  • Lactobacillus caseican do everything from dial down inflammation to fend off infections.
  • Tyndallized Lactobacillus acidophilus, when ingested, can prevent sun-induced wrinkles from forming by turning off the enzymes that chew up collagen.


  • Lysates function as postbiotics, though there are various different kinds that can serve slightly different functions (depending on how they’re prepared in the lab and what parts of the bacteria - like cell wall, cytoplasm, etc - they contain).