Photo: Trunk Archive
Doctors, yogurt commercials, and even estheticians have long preached the benefits of adding probiotics to your diet, but did you know they can also be used topically? Gastroenterologist Dr. Roshini Rajapaksa, who’s created her own line of probiotic creams, discusses how they work, inside and out.
What are probiotics?
“Probiotics are beneficial bacteria or yeast—organisms that offer [multiple] benefits to the human body,” says Dr. Raj. She goes on to explain that a bacteria imbalance can result in disease or inflammation, and probiotics help maintain a balance. In forms like yogurt, Kefir, and supplements, probiotics can reduce gut inflammation, restore the lining of your intestine, and aid with autoimmune diseases and I.B.S. But some studies have noted that ingesting probiotics also reduced skin redness, irritation, and inflammation. Topical application is the new frontier. “The American Academy of Dermatology has called probiotics one of the new beauty breakthroughs as they’ve been shown to help with clearer skin, decreased skin sensitivity, redness, and inflammation,” Dr. Raj says. “You may also see a reduced appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and increased elasticity.”
So can I just put yogurt on my face?
Yep. Though applying probiotics to your face may seem like a new trend, it’s not. “In India for many years they’ve been doing ceremony day before the wedding where the bride and groom apply yogurt and turmeric to the skin to give a healthy glow,” says Dr. Raj. “Yogurt has naturally occurring probiotics, that’s why it’s beneficial when used as a topical mask.” To use yogurt yourself, look for products that contain live and active cultures. She recommends Activia and GoodBelly, a dairy-free option that comes in shots and quarts. You can find it at Whole Foods, Safeway, and natural food stores, and some varieties are gluten-free as well. Probiotics are also found in kimchi, sauerkraut, and miso—great for eating, but perhaps not as nice to apply to your skin.
What if I want a proper product in a jar that I can’t eat?
Dr. Raj is such a believer in probiotics for the skin that she created a line of products called Tula—the sanskrit word for balance. Available onQVC for $25-$75, the cleanser, serum, face and eye creams are specially formulated with beneficial probiotics and nutrients to nourish, brighten, and smooth the skin while reducing fine lines.
Can I do both?
With such a new innovation it’s too early to tell whether you’d see greater or faster beauty results by applying or ingesting probiotics, but Dr. Raj says a combination of both may be the most effective. In terms of dosage, the body is smart at keeping what it should. “If you’re taking 10 probiotics, many of them are not going to stick around for very long, so it’s probably a waste. But if you have a compromised immune system or are pregnant make sure you talk to doctor first.”
What kind of probiotics should I ingest for my skin?
Lactobasili and bifidobacterium are known to benefit skin health. Probiotics may not all be created equal, but prepare to see them popping up in the grocery store and the drugstore a lot more in the future.
Does it matter when I take them?
When ingesting probiotics, it doesn’t matter if you’ve eaten a lot or are on an empty stomach—they’ll have the same effect. And steer clear of taking antibiotic medications for too long, which will kill the bacteria in your body, including the good ones that you want and any probiotics you ingest. (Ask your doctor for one you could take in conjunction with your meds.) On the other hand, the addition of fiber in your diet will help the good bacteria.