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Love Your Gut - Part 2

Probiotics’ positive effects on digestion are well known, but did you know that they’re also your secret skincare weapon?  In the second part of our Love Your Gut mini-series, we focus on how these microscopic superheroes protect skin and why you should be recommending them to your clients.
Picture the scene. You’re giving your client a nice relaxing facial, and you casually mention that their skin is absolutely teeming with live bacteria. The chances are they’d be jolted out of their pleasant reverie and might have a choice word to say on the matter, but the invisible warriors happily residing on their face are vital in the fight against anti-ageing.

There are over 1000 different species of bacteria living on our skin, most of which are found in the epidermis and the upper sections of hair follicles. While not all of them are beneficial, many form a protective shield which help defend skin against external aggressors.

While the bacteria on our skin provides essential protection, it’s nothing compared to the wonders they work internally.  Research into this area is still in its infancy, scientists have already discovered incredible benefits for both skin and general wellbeing but the true extent of their powers may not be revealed for many years.  “What we do know is that beneficial microorganisms, known as  probiotics, exhibit powerful anti-ageing properties’, says Lorraine Perretta, International Business Development Manager for our Advanced Nutrition Programme supplement range.   “When we were creating our groundbreaking new Skin Youth Biome supplement, our research showed that the four strains we used in our unique formula increased hydration by 43%, reduced wrinkle depth by 26% and improved skin integrity by 25%*.  Probiotics have also been shown to decrease inflammation and protect against free radical damage. It’s really exciting because this is just the start, who knows what other amazing benefits scientific research will uncover over the coming years?”
Another discovery that scientists have made is that the brain and gut are in constant contact. The gut sends messages to your grey matter about various aspects of our skin and health via the vagus nerve that runs between them, almost like a telephone cord.  Helping to maintain normal gut flora by consuming probiotics through diet or supplementation helps keep the lines of communication open, enabling it to function at its optimal level and provide tangible skin benefits.  The exact biological mechanism behind the skin/gut/brain link is as yet unknown, but in its simplest terms a healthy gut will absorb vital nutrients more effectively, leading to a more youthful, radiant complexion.

Conversely, an imbalance of good bacteria can damage the lining of the intestine.  This can lead to a condition called ‘leaky gut’, in which harmful bacteria, toxins and microscopic food particles pass through the impaired lining and spend their time merrily floating around the bloodstream wreaking havoc.  Among other issues, they can trigger inflammation as the body fights back, which can lead to skin issues along with other health problems.  As part of a gut repair protocol, probiotics help to maintain the balance and protect the lining, keeping any potential escapees firmly where they belong and safeguarding skin health.

There is a growing body of research to suggest that probiotics can be beneficial for problem skin, so recommend them to clients with this concern.  Just as harsh or abrasive skincare products can cause breakouts by disrupting the natural bacterial balance of the skin,  flare ups can also occur when there’s an imbalance internally.
A study* involving 56 patients with acne showed that the consumption of a fermented dairy beverage containing strains of probiotic Lactobacilli bacteria over a twelve week period significantly reduced total lesion count, and also markedly reduced sebum production in acne sufferers. 

Another study of 13,000 adolescents found that those with acne were 37% more likely to experience regular bloating and other digestive issues, which corroborates the view that gut health and skin health are inextricably linked. It also gives credence to the belief that taking probiotics can help reduce flare ups.**
Friendly bacteria may have a beneficial effect on other inflammatory conditions such as eczema and rosacea. When placed in contact with skin cells, they calm the parts of the cells that have a tendency to react to bad bacteria that they see as a threat. These signals produced by the probiotics stop the skin cells from sending inflammatory “attack” messages to the immune system. The anti-inflammatory response is also helpful in reducing the negative impact of sun exposure, although topical protection should still be worn all year round.

It’s no wonder that gut health is one of the biggest topics in the nutrition world, and consumers are buying into the extraordinary benefits.  Innova Market Insights reports that there was a 25% growth in global food and beverage launches with digestive health-related claims between 2012 and 2016, with  a 34% rise in US launches featuring a probiotics claim.  As ongoing research reveals  the full extent of the powers of beneficial bacteria, demand for supplements  that support gut health looks set to increase further still.

While probiotics aren’t a panacea, their wide ranging benefits for skin mean that your clients should be incorporating them as part of a holistic skincare regime.  The exciting part is that the explosion of interest from the scientific community, and numerous ongoing research studies, means that this is just the beginning.
Sources : *  iiaa market survey 2019
** Acne Vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis – back to the future? Witney Bowe and Alan C Logan 2011
(Article - courtesy of iiaa uk ltd)

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