We have always known that microorganisms can be dangerous for the skin, and that they can cause a host of problems including acne. Getting rid of the microbes and dirt typically seemed to be the answer for all the skin problems… If you have dull skin or an oily “T-zone”, the best remedies, respectively, is to get your face clean using an antibacterial soap or an oil-reducing face wash… or so we were told. But if you have acne and follow along at http://www.moveonacne.com you know that there’s a lot of myths that really don’t do anything for acne at all.
Now, in the light of some recent studies, cosmetologists are exploring a new avenue for treating skin conditions including acne. Instead of killing all the bacteria, allowing the growth of “good” bacteria seems to be gaining popularity. There is a ton of research going on to learn more about harnessing the power of the good bacteria and letting THEM take care of the harmful bacteria.
Probiotics is not a brand spanking new concept, of course. The beneficial effects of live bacterial cultures have been known for quite some time. Most people today are aware that eating fermented food, such as yogurt and sauerkraut, can help the gut get a dose of healthy bacteria that are good for maintaining a healthy body. When you ingest food containing live bacterial strains, the bacteria skip the acidic content of your stomach and reach the gut. These bacteria then colonize in the intestines, and their presence can eliminate the disease, expelling “bad” bacteria from the system.
Taking a cue from beneficial gut probiotics, scientists are now trying to use probiotics on skin to treat many skin conditions including acne and eczema. There are some products already on the market that contain probiotic supplements to be applied topically on the skin. Although the million-dollar question is whether these treatments work.
There is some scientific evidence to back the claim of the benefits of probiotics in a topical treatment. A recent study in the Journal of Cosmetic Science found that the application of probiotic cultures reduced the incidence of acne by a whopping 57 percent.
Another aspect of treating skin conditions with probiotics comes from an unlikely source – your immune system. A study conducted at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, New York, found that probiotics can modulate the immune system to impart benefits in many skin conditions. Dr. Whitney Bowe, the principal investigator of the study, said that the probiotics can block the immune responses from skin cells against the acne-causing bacteria. The blockade of immune signals prevents the formation of acne (from inflammation) in response. This phenomenon is called bacterial interference and is thought to reduce breakouts significantly.
Are probiotics the answer we’ve been looking for?
Well, the skin naturally hosts billions of different bacteria. According to Julie Segre, a geneticist who is working toward decoding the genetics of these bacteria at the National Institute of Health, these bacteria are responsible for the way your skin looks, feels and even smells. An imbalance in these bacteria can stimulate the immune system and cause inflammatory responses which may lead to many skin conditions.
The acne causing bacteria P. acnes is coded to rough up the lining of the pores, making them stick to the walls leading to blockage and the formation of pimples. Similarly, Staphylococcus aureus seems to release a toxin that triggers the immune system to release granules, causing eczema. A recent study by Dr. Gabriel Nuñez, professor of pathology at the University of Michigan published in Nature confirmed these findings.
Similar to the gut, proliferation of friendly bacteria on the surface of the skin causes the elimination of harmful bacteria. Some of the beneficial strains include Lactobacillus and Bifidus can help in blocking the immune response against P. acnes, which leads to the formation of acne. This prevents the formation of an inflamed pimple. Apart from this, these bacteria can help the skin in many activities ranging from helping in the collagen synthesis to retaining moisture.