Renowned esthetician Joanna Vargas Shares her secret probiotics
You’ve probably heard some of the buzz about the importance of gut health. But what actually qualifies as a “healthy gut,” and what does the state of your gut have to do with the state of your skin?
In a word, everything.
What is commonly referred to as the “gut” is really your gastrointestinal tract. Residing within your gut are approximately 400 strains of bacteria that perform a variety of functions, including supporting digestion, the absorption of vitamins and minerals, and your immune system. This community of bacteria is collectively known as your microbiome.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that occur naturally in foods like yogurt and kefir as well as other fermented products like sauerkraut, apple cider vinegar, pickles, kombucha, miso and kimchi. They also come in supplement form. Probiotics promote gut health because they help to keep a balance of good bacteria in the gut (preventing “bad” bacteria from crowding out the good kind), and those beneficial bacteria can then help your body absorb the nutrients it needs. A healthy population of good bacteria also helps the gut wall function properly, which can prevent leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune issues, all of which generate significant inflammation in the body.
I’ve seen great results when people add probiotics to their diet: acne can clear up in as little as two weeks, rosacea symptoms lessen, and skin tends to develop a generally rosier, more glowing appearance. A 2010 study in Nutrition looked at 56 people who suffered from acne and found that drinking a probiotic dairy drink every day for 12 weeks significantly cleared up their acne. And an Italian study concluded much the same: People who took a probiotic supplement in addition to their standard acne or rosacea treatment saw greater improvement than subjects who didn’t take the probiotic.
I have a celebrity client who, like many of my clients, gets photographed a lot. In the weeks leading up to the Met Gala, her skin broke out all around her mouth, especially right in the corners. I’m not a nutritionist, but I could tell she had candida, a fungal overgrowth caused by yeast in the gut. Because the gala was in two weeks, she didn’t have enough time to see a nutritionist and change her diet, so I recommended a good probiotic and lots of LED light therapy. Within the first week, the one-two punch of probiotics plus light completely cleared up her skin and brought her inner glow back. The probiotic helped her digestive system function better.
What kinds of probiotics should you take, and how much? I recommend Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains, specifically Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus plantarum, and Bifidobacterium longum. Doctors recommend taking different amounts of probiotics per day, though it’s generally assumed that between 300 million and 1 billion CFU (colony-forming units) is just fine. If you have a particular digestive issue like colitis or Crohn’s disease, talk to your doctor before choosing a probiotic.
Recently, topical probiotics have become incredibly popular and are used widely in products like masks, serums, creams, mists and more. This might sound crazy, but it makes sense: Like our gut, the skin has its own biome, which consists of healthy bacteria that protect our skin and allow it to do its job (i.e., retaining moisture, protecting us from environmental stress and shielding us from germs).
Overcleansing, exfoliating and the daily bombardment of toxins in our environment have stripped away some of this biome layer. Enter probiotic-infused products, which replenish this protective barrier with live microorganisms, prebiotics (these provide nourishment for existing skin bacteria) and postbiotics, the chemical by-products of good bacteria. I’m a big fan of these products. My clients have come away with less acne, diminished fine lines, less rosacea, improvements in eczema, and an overall healthy glow-from-within look. So, by all means, I recommend choosing products that contain prebiotics, probiotics or postbiotics.