Pre, Pro and Postbiotics

Skin microflora or Skin microbiota is an invisible shield that protects our Skin against external aggressions. It consists of a delicate balance of microorganisms living on the Skin. When the Skin microflora is thrown off balance, for example by over cleansing, a whole range of Skin conditions can occur such as eczema, rosacea, acne, allergies or even the Skin’s ageing process. On the flip side, keeping Skin microflora well balanced means a healthier complexion that’s more resilient to aggressors.

Rebalancing the Skin microflora can help to:

  • Enhance the Skin’s natural defence systems.
  • Alleviate dehydration and dryness which cause tight uncomfortable Skin feel.
  • Reduce triggers of Skin sensitisation.
  • Restore a healthy pH balance to the Skin surface.

The Skin microbiome is constantly changing depending on location, environment, age, gender, and cosmetics used. In fact, an individual’s Skin microflora composition may be as unique as their DNA.

There are 3 categories of supplements that help maintain a healthy balanced microflora throughout our body: Prebiotics, Probiotics and Postbiotics.

What are prebiotics?
Prebiotics are supplements or foods that contain a nondigestible ingredient that selectively stimulates the growth and activity of indigenous good microorganisms.

They can be applied topically on the Skin to support the balance of a healthy Skin microflora or taken orally to promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the intestine. Topical examples include Inulin and Oligosaccharides and oral examples include whole grains, banana, greens, onions, garlic, soybean and artichoke.

By encouraging growth and activity of beneficial microorganisms, prebiotics protect and nurture our Skin. [1]

What are probiotics?
Probiotics are microorganisms introduced into the body for their beneficial qualities. They are live microorganisms which can be added to our own healthy microbes in order to support our immune systems and eliminate pathogens.

Research has identified the importance of our gut microflora and has led to a vast increase in development of probiotic supplements, foods, and drinks for example Kombucha tea, kimchi, miso, and Kefir.

However, topical use of live microorganisms raises many questions around safety and stability. They must not hurt us and must survive long enough to sit on the shelves and in our cupboards before they get used. Safety regulations require cosmetics to pass the micro hostile challenge test. Once passed, the live microbes need to survive in the product for long periods, as they can have shelf lives of 30 months.

Although the use of probiotics is a familiar concept in foods, inclusion of probiotics is particularly challenging in skincare products. On one hand skincare products need preservatives to ensure product safety and stability, on the other hand, inclusion of the preservative will kill live probiotics present in the product making them ineffective. [2]

Close inspection of ingredient lists generally shows that many of probiotic cosmetics are in fact based on postbiotics.

What are postbiotics?
Postbiotics are nonviable microbial byproducts, for example fragments of dead microbial cells, or compounds released by beneficial microbes, such as vitamins, lysates and lactic acid. In other words, they come from the fermentation or breakdown of microbes. [3]

They are created from cultures of probiotics that selectively influence the microflora for healthier outcomes. Therefore, many microbial ferment lysates and extracts present in probiotic cosmetics are in reality postbiotics. They are used more commonly in skincare as they do not expire as quickly as live probiotics,

It is thought that the reported health benefits of fermented milk products, such as live yogurts, are more due to the products of fermentation than live microbes surviving digestion and exerting beneficial effects. [4]

Skin is not the only organ that has a microbial ecosystem, the human body is home to trillions of microbes. Saliva, stomach and cologne are a few examples of other organs with microbial population. While both the oral and gut microflora have benefited from intense research over the last decade, research on the Skin microflora only started in the past a few years.Read more about Skin microflora here.

Chicory prebiotics present in Skin Federation intimate care range have undergone the following clinical studies to ensure their effectiveness to support a healthy genital microflora;

  • Study of consumption; results show that friendly microorganisms had medium to high chicory prebiotics consumption as a food source versus harmful microorganisms did not consume the Prebiotic at all.
  • Study of competitive growth; results show that the population of the friendly microorganisms were increased by 9900% in presence of chicory prebiotics while the population of harmful microorganisms were reduced by 90%.
  • Study of yeast growth inhibition; results show that in the presence of chicory prebiotics harmful yeast populations were reduced by 90%.
  • Study of benefit of chicory prebiotics on Feminine care; results show that during the use of a feminine wash containing chicory prebiotics by atopic patients, who normally would experience serious itching, stinging or Candida albicans infection, none of the volunteers experienced any discomfort nor infection. [5]

Read more about chicory prebiotics and clinical studies performed to test their performance here

[1] Dermatology Times – Torjesen, 2020
[2] Frontiers in Microbiology – Martin and Langella, 2019
[3] Therapeutic Use of Prebiotics, Probiotics, and Postbiotics to Prevent NecrotizingEnterocolitis: What is the Current Evidence?
[4] Beneficial Microbes – Collado et al, 2019
[5] Hospital Bonheiden, Belgium; Dr Stefan Kerre (1-08671-66-550) University of Leuven, Belgium