We peel, pat, poke and paint our faces every day in search of the holy grail: glass skin. Skin that is so crystal clear, luminescent, youthful and downright juicy that we’re willing to try anything. Cosmetics companies know that too well. In 2019 alone, the beauty industry raked in a total of $532 billion.
Skincare products have gotten more innovative and nutrients that would have been unthinkable 10 years ago (snail mucin comes to mind) are now the norm. And no ingredients are more popular than probiotics and postbiotics. Luxury brand SK II has focused their entire product line on Pitera™, a byproduct of sake fermentation, which promises a youthful glow. The company claims to sell a bottle of their flagship “miracle water” essence (which runs for $100 for 2.5 ounces) every two minutes.
While it’s easy and hopeful to think that making a purchase can solve all of our epidermal woes, no amount of product can repair a microbiome that’s off-kilter.
The skin shares a complex connection to the colonies of microbes that live in your gut. The gut-skin axis is so interwoven that a healthy gut microbiome has become the newest beauty goal. For those in the know, it is the secret to luminous skin (and the sudden obsession with kombucha).
What it means when your gut leaks
But how exactly does something internal effect something on the external? Inside your intestines are 4000 square feet of surface area that tightly controls what nutrients get into your bloodstream. In an unhealthy gut, that control slips, providing a greater chance of increased intestinal permeability (also known as leaky gut) for cytokines and metabolites to enter other organ systems, causing a chain reaction of inflammation throughout the body.
And as the largest organ in the human body, skin problems are one of the most visible symptoms of microbiome imbalance. Scientists have found that common skin issues such as acne, eczema, and even the breakdown of collagen are linked to gut microbiome imbalances. Whereas a healthy gut can:
- Reduce redness and inflammation in the skin
- Protect the skin against pathogens and invaders
- Restore a healthy pH balance
- Improve and maintain the skin’s moisture barrier.
Keeping your belly happy
We’re accustomed to not thinking about our gut unless there’s something wrong—heartburn, gas, etc. In reality, poor diet, lack of sleep, and stress can all throw your gut off-balance without immediate or obvious symptoms.
There is no quick fix for a balanced lifestyle, but a diet that restricts if not eliminates inflammatory foods such as gluten, sugar, and alcohol can drastically improve skin condition within 4 weeks. Probiotics can also be beneficial, especially in the case where medication is ineffective.
According to the CDC, 30% of the antibiotics in the US are misprescribed. Antibiotics are designed to wipe out bad bacteria, but often harm or kill good bacteria as well. A probiotic can help restore what you’ve lost.
In sum, the path to glass skin is less about that silky face milk and more about the things that make your gut in working order: diet, sleep, relaxation, and exercise. But honestly, if achieving gut balance were that easy, everyone would have perfect skin. It takes commitment. So maybe combine that miracle probiotic cream on the outside while feeding your microbiome on the inside. Doubling down couldn’t hurt, you know, just in case you need to pull an all-nighter.