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10 best microbiome skincare products: Prebiotic and probiotic packed formulas for a healthy visage

Bacteria gets a bad rep, but balancing the microorganisms on your face might be the answer to happier skin

Christopher Cunniff
Friday 28 February 2020 17:15
Prebiotics are the food that good bacteria grows and thrives on, whereas probiotics are the actual organisms themselves
Prebiotics are the food that good bacteria grows and thrives on, whereas probiotics are the actual organisms themselves

Marrying your gut health to your face hasn’t really been on anyone’s agenda when it comes to investing in skincare, but the microbiome movement is coming to get you in 2020. Essentially, your microbiome is the ecosystem of bacteria, fungi and viruses that live on the skin, and it controls a lot about it. From how well products are absorbed, to general health and appearance to protecting the skin and its barrier.

There's a new wave of products centered around how we can manage the balance of those organisms through innovative skincare. For instance, sebum is antimicrobial, so if you suffer from excess sebum, you will have a lack of positive microbes living on the skin, which is where these products might come in handy. To put this all into perspective, human skin has 1m microbes (bacteria) per square centimetre. It’s a community of billions of organisms on your visage and having them live in harmony is what we should all strive for.

The days of celebrities endorsing yoghurts that claim to offer a miracle cure have thankfully been debunked. They have been replaced by science led, prebiotic and probiotic formulas that will make your skin flora sing. So what's the difference? Prebiotics are the food that good bacteria grows and thrives on, whereas probiotics are the actual organisms themselves, which when ingested or applied topically to the skin, can help boost waning microbiome health by surging it with extra bacteria.

The nonchalants of modern day life including hot showers, dodgy diet, environmental stressors and excess UV/UVB radiation have disrupted the natural order of things and as a result, your skin takes the hit. Eczema, psoriasis and dandruff are just a few consequences of an unhealthy microbiome. These conditions can also make the skin weaker and when we try to counteract them with our power packed acids and magical creams, we end up depleting skin of its natural oils, which can lead to sensitivity and dryness.

Maintaining healthy amounts of good skin bacteria while keeping natural operations like sebum secretion at the right level is key to a happy microbiome. While it all seems quite complex at first glance, it’s plainly about nurturing the good little mites, not eliminating them altogether.

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Votary super seed serum, 50ml

Natural plant oils are perfect for the microbiome as the good bacteria feeds on the lipids of your skin. Your lipids are skin’s natural fats and younger skin is abundant in them. As we age, natural lipid levels decrease and can have an effect on how skin appears and behaves. Broccoli seed oil, which is a huge component of this formula, increases those lipid levels so we’re in good stead.

Votary’s serum is cool and refreshing upon application, which is particularly nice for those who might be suffering from any irritation. It’s a comforting veil on the skin. Added peptides also boost the skin’s natural defence system so it's a lush concoction for those in need of some calm. Added hyaluronic acid also increases moisture levels.

There’s nothing questionable whatsoever in here; no alcohol, fragrance or silicones. Formulated by passionate founder Arabella Preston, it was clear during our test that this has been made with love. You can feel the product nourishing the skin from the outset and it gets our seal of approval thanks to the careful formulation which can help anyone, whatever your concern or skin type.

Murad prebiotic 4-in-1 multicleanser, 150ml

One of the latest launches Dr. Murad is this gentle but highly effective cleanser. It’s a gel to oil affair, which feels beautifully luxe on the skin. A fantastically gentle texture, this is infused with prebiotics, which are essentially the grub for your good bacteria to feast on.

As we have become accustomed to cleansing more harshly to (quite rightly0 kill bad bacteria on the skin, we can often cause the good bacteria to go off-kilter in the process. This cleanser gives you a more harmonious base for the rest of your regime, as you’re taking the day off without upsetting the balance.

We found it works best when applied with a few drops of water, in your hands first, then applied to the skin as opposed to trying to lather entirely. You’ll get a decent emulsion going but won’t waste product by making it too watery. After rinsing, you’re left with hydrated, bouncy skin. Ideally you’d double cleanse with this one if you’re a make-up wearer.

Algenist alive prebiotic balancing moisturiser SPF 15, 50ml

Algenist uses algea as a signature ingredient throughout its whole skincare line, but it has been harnessed in a different way in its "alive range". This moisturiser, for instance, has prebiotics at the front and centre of its formula. It’s lightweight and easily absorbed, working to target surface skin concerns. It’s a pretty well rounded offering, with fatty alcohols – no drying ones here thank you – and jojoba seed oil as the main moisture source. A welcome accompaniment is the mineral sunscreen to give you some extra protection, (we of course would advise you to keep your favourite SPF handy too). If you have sensitised skin and need a moisture surge, but don’t want to overwhelm or overdo it, this is a particularly good option.

The Inkey List multi-biotic moisturiser, 30ml

The Inkey List continues to impress us with its fantastic range of no frills, transparent products. In particular, this moisturiser has an awful lot going for it. The prebiotic part of the formula is inulin which fuels the probiotics on your skin to work their best, as it’s in high concentration here. Which brings us nicely onto the probiotic which in this case is yoghurt powder. Probiotics are the living part of the microbiome so we have a blast of extra nourishment in that capacity here too. It’s more of a lotion – super lightweight with no greasy or heavy feeling. We'd say this is pretty workable for anyone but would be especially beneficial to those with oilier skin. It’s also only £12.99 and is packaged well to keep ingredients away from light and air, helping to keep them stable.

REN Clean Skincare perfect canvas clean primer, 30ml

Primers can be a minefield. With so many to choose from, it's difficult to figure out what they actually do, especially if you want them to be more than a basic make-up base. REN’s updated formula is a terrific skincare hybrid, and an absolute must have if you love a matte finish. A probiotic called lactococcus ferment lysate is in high concentration here, offering a probiotic boost which aids the function of your skin's barrier.

It has no silicones so doesn’t rely on stuffing your pores to dupe you into being camera ready. Instead we’ve got agave extract and xanthan gum to create a smooth finish. A little goes a long way as a couple of drops is all you need for your entire face. Don’t be deceived by the initial dewy finish as the dry down leaves you airbrushed and smooth with no trace of product. It’s great to wear even without make-up as an extra skincare boost.

Aurelia the probiotic concentrate, 10ml

It would be absolutely criminal to not mention Aurelia in this roundup as it has been pioneering the probiotic skincare game since 2013. This concentrate is chock full of different probiotic cultures to promote healthy and happy skin. It’s a tiny 10ml and we found it best adding to a good hyaluronic acid to get the best out of it. Think of it as a supercharged supplement for your favourite serum. It’s a clever cocktail of proteins that feeds the skin in different ways.

Aurelia uses non-live strains of bacteria fused with peptides from milk; boosting the skin’s immune responses. If you find that you’re prone to sensitivity, especially from environmental aggressors and humidity, add this to your arsenal. We found with prolonged use, redness and dryness in particular were lessened and the overall appearance of our skin was on a more even keel. Small but definitely mighty.

Mother Dirt AO+ mist, 100ml

Mother Dirt prides itself on being a biome friendly brand, as all of its products are infused with form of probiotic. The AO+ mist is its hero product and is quite literally alive.

The brand’s founder and chemist David Whitlock hasn’t showered in over 13 years and instead uses this spray to break down ammonia, which is what makes you pong in the first place. Reason being is that our skin hasn’t exactly caught up with the intensity of modern day living. He believes that this is one solution to going back to a simpler time before we damaged our skin with hot, drying showers and such.

If you don’t want to give up your shower or bath quite yet, this should be used as your very last step to surge skin with live, good bacteria. We used this over a few weeks and definitely felt like our skin was more comfortable on the whole and less prone to irritation.

Too Faced hangover good in bed ultra-hydrating replenishing serum, 29ml

Adored across the globe, Too Faced is renowned for its cheeky take on make-up, but there are some unsung heroes sitting in its skincare line. This serum is pegged as a hyaluronic, coconut-based offering but lactobacillus ferment and yoghurt powder are in higher concentrations, offering some probiotic help while working in tandem with the hydrating hero ingredients.

It’s a unique formulation which works as it should pre make-up application, giving a perfectly dewy finish. The two weights of hyaluronic acid help balance moisture levels while dragon fruit is high in antioxidants, giving you some free radical defence.

The verdict: Microbiome skincare products

Votary is a multitasking, microbiome’s dream while The Inkey List baffles us with amazing price points for its proven formulations.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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