Catch the beauty bug: Far from being harmful, bacteria can keep your skin looking youthful
We’ve been brought up to believe our faces should be squeaky clean, but research shows our obsession with anti-bacterial soaps could be damaging our health.
Studies suggest upping the ‘good’ bacteria in our skin is essential for our immune system and can also combat wrinkles, sagging and pigmentation. Just as good bacteria in your gut can calm your stomach, boosting levels of it on your skin can restore your complexion’s youthful plumpness and glow.
The beneficial bugs work on the surface to maintain moisture and radiance and fight the bad bacteria that cause redness, sensitivity, spots and other infections.
Clean of goodness? A woman looks perfectly clean but science suggests it could be damaging
The bacteria also penetrates the deeper levels to repair skin DNA and build wrinkle-preventing collagen. So it’s not surprising that skincare companies are getting on the bug bandwagon, with a host of ranges containing ingredients to increase ‘beauty bacteria’.
First off the blocks is Aromatherapy Associates, which has just launched a new line of soothing skincare that is rich in prebiotics, which encourage the growth of good bacteria.
Next week, skincare brand NUDE, whose fans include supermodel Helena Christensen, will relaunch its skincare with an anti-ageing ingredient called n-probiotic, a live micro-organism derived from yeast.
This smart bacteria stimulates the skin to produce its own anti-ageing collagen and hyaluronic acids. It is claimed that in lab tests this probiotic reduced cellular damage by up to 50 per cent, reduced irritation by up to 35 per cent and activated cellular renewal by up to 70 per cent.
Next month will also see the arrival of Idealia from French brand Vichy. Idealia serum and creams contain a probiotic derived from fermented tea. The company claims it can create ‘ideal skin’ by reducing dark spots and wrinkles, improving texture and boosting radiance.
These are big boasts, yet there is serious science to back up the buzz about bugs. The 2011 Nobel prize went to a team who showed how skin bacteria act as an important immune system for the body. Further studies have shown that probiotics can improve eczema and fight off acne-causing bacteria.
Professor Richard Tester, a research scientist at Glasgow Caledonian University, is conducting studies with the prebiotic GMH (glucomannan hydrolysate), which is derived from a type of yam. His soon-to-be published studies show GMH can promote skin healing and treat acne.
‘Because this prebiotic can penetrate the skin surface, it also helps regenerate skin from within, rebuilding collagen, reducing wrinkles and bringing back its natural glow,’ he says.
However, this is not an excuse to stop cleansing — if we did, we’d be left with several hundred types of ‘bad’ bacteria on our faces, living off our sweat, sebum and dead skin cells. When this happens, our skin becomes irritated so in response the body creates free radicals and a collagen-digesting enzyme. The result? Wrinkles and sagging.
Unlike traditional treatments for wrinkles and acne — such as retinols and benzoyl peroxide, which irritate the skin — bacteria beauty boosters are very gentle.
To test all these grand-sounding claims, I tried samples of Aromatherapy Associates Soothing Daily Repair Moisturiser (£49, aroma therapyassociates.com), NUDE’s Cellular Renewal Serum and Vichy Idealia serum and cream.
All of them felt amazing on my skin, are fantastically soothing and do seem to have made my complexion significantly more radiant and even-toned — as if I’d had a good night’s sleep even when I hadn’t. Seems like bacteria could be a girl’s best friend after all.