Many of us know the benefits of gut health and how it plays a role in everything from weight to sleep and even serious disease. But what about gut health’s impact on your skin?
The dialogue between your gut and the microbiome on your face is known in the scientific world as the ‘gut-skin axis’.
It’s a growing and exciting area of research which we are only starting to understand. The hope is that as we learn more, we’ll be able to engineer our gut health for great looking skin but also to prevent and treat extreme skin diseases like cancer.
The Gut Skin Axis
The main hypothesis here is that dietary factors, mediated through the intestinal microbiome lead to changes in your skin’s health. Your skin is home to millions of bacterial strains along with an array of fungi, viruses and even mites. These compounds are collectively known as your skin’s microbiota and they form your skin’s ‘barrier’. The theory is that the more diverse your gut health is, the stronger your skin barrier will become.
The goal is skin ‘homeostasis’. A state where keep your skin is clear and disease-free, what in the skincare biz we like to call ‘glowing skin’.
So, what can we do to cultivate glowing skin knowing what we do about the gut skin axis?
What about probiotic skincare?
There are many products that purportedly include probiotics. The concept is we can ‘colonise’ our skin by introducing ‘good bacteria’ which will balance and strengthen our skin’s barrier. Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. By definition a probiotic is something that is live, and it would need to stay alive when it’s applied to your skin. Although many skincare brands conduct their own studies to support this concept, there’s very little peer-reviewed, independent scientific evidence to support the concept that commercially available products are effective or indeed true ‘probiotics’.
Rather than a live probiotic there is emerging and interesting research around postbiotics which are not live but are have a bacterial or fungal origin (examples are lactococcus ferment lysate and hyaluronic acid). The idea here is that postbiotics can strengthen the skin’s microbiota by supporting the existing ecology of the skin. Like probiotics, this area needs more research but it’s more practical for application in skincare products.
Here are some things where there is science to support the gut skin axis:
Get out in nature.
The hygiene hypothesis theory is that we have over- sanitised everything in our lives and it’s wreaking havoc on our skin by making our skin inhospitable to skin’s microbiota. Choosing a cleanser that’s got a pH level the same as your skin (around 4.7) means you’re not ‘wiping out’ all that good bacteria.