When I was a teenager, we had very few acne treatment options. The most popular ingredient among them was the all-to-familiar Benzoyl Peroxide. They were strong as hell and, I’m sure, soaked in salicylic acid and denatured alcohol. They were better than nothing.
Or were they?
I'd be surprised to learn now if there was anything else in these old-school formulas — anything that actually soothed and rebalanced acne-prone skin. Not only did they dry out blemishes, they also stripped my skin of every trace of oil — drying and dehydrating the skin everywhere else on my face.
Of course, today, I know that what I was doing back then was causing my skin to overreact and produce more oil, which attracted more bacteria, dirt, and grime to my skin and clogged my pores. Instead of treating my skin and the underlying condition, I was only prolonging the acne cycle. In fact, a quick look at the ingredient list of the some of the current versions of drug store acne products and I see nothing much has changed. These couldn't possibly be more aggravating to skin than what I was using in the last century — but they could easily be just as irritating with a high level of denatured alcohol in addition to fragrance and even lavender oil!
While on the face of it you could be forgiven for thinking that acne treatments haven’t come very far, they actually have. While millions of people everywhere — from teenagers to acne-sufferers in their 40s — are still making the mistake of over-drying their skin with alcohol, more and more of us are discovering that there are far more effective options. Among the promising new acne treatment options are a number of skincare products and even entire brands with a whole new approach to acne: probiotics.
Over the last year, I’ve been on somewhat of a journey of discovery, seeking to harness the power of probiotics — central to my overall health — in my skin care. Each morning, I take a probiotic supplement from Nutrition Now called PB-8 that’s purported to contain 14 billion good bacteria in the form of lacto-bacillus and bifidodbacterium species. (Shouldn’t they call it PB-14 BILLION?!) For a solid understanding of the role probiotics are believed to play in skin health, as with all my research in regards to skin and skin care, I must turn to my muse, Paula Begoun, the founder of the groundbreaking skincare brand Paula’s Choice.
Says Paula, “Probiotics include various strains of uniquely helpful bacteria that occur naturally on skin and that can be applied via probiotic skincare products. Probiotics work with prebiotics, carbohydrates that serve as a food source so the probiotics can optimally do their job of protecting and nurturing your skin."
Paula always nails it.
Probiotics in skincare for the treatment of acne prone skin is an exciting trend that’s increasingly supported by science. It’s predicated on the premise that the root cause of acne is an imbalance in the skin’s microbiome — the ecosystem of microorganisms on our skin which protects us against germs, disease, infection and, yes, acne. The body’s microbiome is composed of complex communities of bacteria, viruses and fungi that includes 100 trillion microbes, most of which live in our gut. On the skin, any imbalance is manifested when harmful bacteria go unchecked and are allowed to spread, leading to the formation of acne blemishes.
According to Dr. Whitney Bowe, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, promising studies are establishing evidence that probiotics are a viable option for treating acne and rosacea. “Preliminary studies of topical probiotics for acne have shown they may help reduce the number of active skin lesions,” says Dr. Bowe. “Probiotics applied to the skin might help acne by forming a protective shield that prevents harmful pimple-causing bacteria from reaching the skin, aggravating the immune system and triggering inflammation.”
Brands like AMPERNA® are blazing the trail — moving the treatment of acne from the absurd alcohol attack method to a more holistic approach that uses probiotics to restore balance in skin’s microbiome.