Taking a regular dose of prebiotics to improve the diversity of the gut microbiome and therefore digestive health has become relatively commonplace, but few people realize that the microbiome of the skin could benefit from similar attention.1 The skin microbiome contains ten times as many bacteria cells as human skins cells, and studies show that when there is less diversity of the skin microbiome, there is an increased risk of certain skin diseases.2
People are less aware of prebiotics — supplements or foods that contain a nondigestible ingredient that selectively stimulates the growth and/or activity of indigenous good bacteria. “When it comes to skincare, prebiotics might be more important,” says Heather Woolery-Lloyd, M.D., director of ethnic skincare in the department of dermatology and cutaneous surgery, Miller University of Miami School of Medicine.
Prebiotic agents that could help rebalance the skin microbiome include water, carbon source (sugars, e.g., mannose), nitrogen source (amino acids) and oligoelements (calcium, magnesium, manganese, sulfur, selenium, etc.), were discussed by Dr. Woolery-Lloyd during a broader presentation on cosmeceuticals at the Skin of Color Update in New York in September.
Thermal waters contain unique minerals based on where they originate. Some of the best evidence relates to the use of an emollient containing a particular proprietary thermal spring water from a specific town in France, which has high levels of a variety of minerals including calcium, magnesium and selenium.
“They’ve done over 12 studies looking at how products containing this thermal spring water containing these prebiotics and minerals that feed the good bacteria, and have proven that this thermal spring water helps to restore a healthy microbiome in the skin,” says Dr. Woolery-Lloyd. “Probably the best study to show compared it to a regular moisturizer available in Europe.”3
Sixty patients with moderate atopic dermatitis were treated with a topical steroid for the first 15 days and then randomized to an emollient-containing thermal spring water associated with mannose or another moisturizer widely used in Europe. After 28 days patients treated with the thermal spring water product had significantly increased levels of the good bacteria Xanthomonas in their skin microbiome and reduced levels of Staphylococcus compared with those treated with the regular moisturizer. Significantly fewer patients treated with the thermal water product experienced flareups and, when they did, they were less severe than in patients treated with regular moisturizer.
1. Naik S, Bouladoux N, Wilhelm C, et al. Science. 2012;337(6098):1115-9.
2. Kong HH, Oh J, Deming C, et al. Genome Res. 2012;22(5):850-9.
3. Seité S, Zelenkova H, Martin R. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017;10:25-33.
4. Vinson JA, Howard TB. J Nutr Biochem. 1996; 7(12):659-63.
5. Chaudhuri, Ratan. (2015). Hexylresorcinol: Providing Skin Benefits by Modulating Multiple Molecular Targets. In: Sivanani RK, Jagdeo J, Elsner P, Maibach HI, eds. Cosmeceuticals and Active Cosmetics. 3rd ed. Boca Raton, FL: Taylor & Francis Group; 2016.