Pre, pro, and postbiotics have become increasingly trendy, not just for gut health but also for the health of the skin. They are said to increase the skin microbiome, increase hydration, reduce redness, and even repair the skin. But do they really have a clinical impact? In this episode of the Rogue Pharmacist with Benjamin Knight Fuchs, we explore biotic skin care, what biotics are, and their potential.
Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP) presents The Rogue Pharmacist with Benjamin Knight Fuchs, R.Ph. This podcast takes an enlightening approach to supporting licensed estheticians in their pursuit to achieve results-driven skin care treatments for their clients. You can always count on us to share professional skin care education, innovative techniques, and the latest in skin science.
Benjamin Knight Fuchs is a registered pharmacist, nutritionist, and skin care chemist with 35 years of experience developing pharmacy-potent skin health products for estheticians, dermatologists, and plastic surgeons. Ben’s expert advice gives licensed estheticians the education and skin science to better support the skin care services performed in the treatment room while sharing insights to enhance clients’ at-home skin care routines.
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0:00:55.2 Maggie Staszcuk: Hello and welcome to ASCP and the Rogue Pharmacist with Benjamin Knight Fuchs. In each episode, we will explore how internal and external factors can impact the skin. I'm Maggie Staszcuk, ASCP's cosmetology education manager. And joining me is of course, Ben Fuchs. Hi Ben.
0:01:11.7 Benjamin Knight Fuchs: Hello, Maggie. Good to see you again.
0:01:13.6 MS: Good to see you. We've talked before about fermented ingredients and the benefit of probiotics but today we're really taking a deep dive and discussing pre, pro and postbiotics skincare. So generally speaking, what is "biotic skincare?"
0:01:30.0 BF: Yeah. And what is pre and post... Prebiotics, probiotic, postbiotics, all confusing, right?
0:01:34.8 MS: It is. Yeah.
0:01:35.4 BF: Even probiotics for the longest time, nobody knew what probiotics were until just maybe the last 10, 15 years. In fact, when I started, I heard about probiotics in pharmacy school and there was no information on probiotics. And when I went out and talked to people about probiotics, they had no idea what I was talking about. These days, you see commercials on TV and Jamie Lee Curtis and celebrities, and they're all talking about probiotics. They're everywhere, right? So now we have prebiotics and postbiotics, and so those are a little bit different and they're the latest thing. So to answer your question, what is biotic skincare? Biotic means life.
0:02:06.8 MS: Okay.
0:02:07.3 BF: Right?
0:02:07.6 MS: Yeah.
0:02:08.0 BF: Antibiotic against life.
0:02:09.8 MS: Okay. Yeah, makes sense.
0:02:11.0 BF: Okay. So probiotics pro-life, it turns out that our bodies are alive on two levels. They're alive because of us. Our cells are alive. And then there's a life form in our body that is more, in term from a cellular perspective, is 10 times more abundant than our own cells. So in a way, we're not even us, we're just carriers of this second life form, which of course is the microbes or the bacteria. Now I should say that biotics refer to bacteria, but there are other living creatures in the body that are not us. And those are viruses and funguses. So we have all the animal, all of the various forms of life on the planet exist in our bodies. And in fact, if you add them all up by the cell intracellularly, or not intracellular, but cellularly, there's more of them than there are of us.
0:03:03.0 BF: So in a way, we're like second class citizens in our own body. In a bizarre kind of way. As it turns out the bacteria in our body have an incredible role to play in how healthy we are. In fact, maybe the most important role to play in how healthy we are. And there's a lot of communication between our cells and bacterial cells. These bacterial cells are making vitamins for us. They're processing nutrients for us. They're digesting our food for us or communicating to our brain and telling us what to do. Do you know bacteria in our gut are telling our brain what foods to choose? So you'll actually go and pick certain foods because the bacteria are telling you to pick those certain foods.
0:03:41.4 MS: Interesting.
0:03:42.1 BF: In their interest, not in yours. And so a lot of food cravings come from different, from bacterial signals that are coming out from the colon. I should tell you, there's different places in the body where these bacterial are concentrated. They're found everywhere in the body, but they're concentrated largely in the gut and then on the skin and then in the lungs. But they're pretty much found ubiquitously throughout the body to a certain extent, but mostly in the digestive system, the intestines specifically, and then the lungs, and then in the skin. So these bacteria perform all kinds of duties for us. Lately in the last maybe five or 10 years, it's become popular to put those bacteria on the surface of the skin. And there's some logic to it in the sense that these bacteria live in the skin. Healthy skin has a certain bacterial population and a certain a certain types... Certain types of bacteria that are conducive to health. And unhealthy skin has certain types of bacteria that are not conducive to health.
0:04:34.1 BF: Bacteria that can be associated with inflammation, bacteria that can be associated with pimples or with rashes of dermatitises, etcetera. So keeping the bacterial population healthy has become a thing. And skincare companies are always looking for the latest and greatest ingredient. And they're coming up with these skincare products now that have bacteria in them that purport to repopulate or modify the specific population, specific species of bacteria that are on the skin for skin health. There's some problems associated with it. 'Cause while it makes sense, logically, the bacteria in the skin are constantly changing. They're constantly evolving, they're constantly dying. They're constantly being born. They're always in flux. So to try to put a topical product on the skin to try to change the bacterial population or to change the species or to adjust the species or modify the species somehow is kind of like spinning into the wind. It's basically a futile exercise. You can't really do it effectively.
0:05:25.5 BF: So it's not really, there's much more effective skincare products. It's not, it's kind of more marketing and buzz and playing off on people's feelings and ideas more than it is scientifically valid. That being said, you can adjust the skin's environment so that it's more conducive to the appropriate bacteria. And the best way to do that is to make sure you're eating correctly and you're supplementing with probiotics, supplementing with bacteria that can support bacterial health in the intestine. And that will ultimately show up on the skin. And we know that supplementing with probiotics can be a wonderful way to address all those skin issues that I just mentioned. Acne, eczema, psoriasis, dry skin, stratum corneum inflammation, all of the... Pretty much all skin conditions have somehow have some kind of connection to the bacteria that are in our colon.
0:06:17.8 BF: So that's really the best way to take care of skin bacteria, not topical application of skin bacteria. And by the way, one of the reasons why the bacteria in the skin change is because of skincare products themselves. Skincare products contain for example, preservatives. Preservatives kill bacteria. So if you put a lotion that has preservatives on your skin, it's gonna kill a bacteria in the product. That's great, but it's also gonna kill the bacteria in your skin.
0:06:44.2 MS: That's interesting.
0:06:45.0 BF: Right?
0:06:45.3 S1: You don't think about that.
0:06:46.3 BF: Of course, you don't think about it, soap is the same thing. You use soap to clean bacteria, but how do you clean just bad bacteria and not the good bacteria? Benzoyl peroxide, alcohol, toners, a lot of these skincare products we use are almost by design intended to kill bacteria. And even though they're not intended to kill the good bacteria, there's no way to separate out the good bacteria from the bad bacteria. So taking probiotics internally is really the best way to keep the bacterial population and the types of bacteria, the species of the bacteria in a healthy fashion on the skin. So taking oral bacteria and then eating fermented foods too. Then you come to prebiotics and postbiotics. So probiotics are the bacteria themselves. Prebiotics are ingredients that feed and support the bacteria. So bacteria have to eat things, they have to survive. They love sugars, especially long chain sugars. They love short chain sugars too. But short chain sugars are very, are not short chain, but simple sugars like glucose are very explosive. They rev up bacteria.
0:07:52.6 S1: In fact, if you eat a lot of sugars, you can rev up bacterial growth so much that you can suffer from a condition called SIBO or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. And that's... That can be, that's marked by gas, bloating and general discomfort, diarrhea, loose stools. Just real uncomfortable condition that people who have SIBO will suffer from if they, or the symptoms they'll get if they eat dried fruits, fresh fruits, even vegetables which contain a group of sugars called FODMAPs. Have you heard of this?
0:08:27.9 MS: I have, yeah.
0:08:28.6 BF: Yeah. The FODMAPs sugars fructose, F-O-D-M-A-P-S, fructooligosaccharides, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. And these are sugars that are found in vegetables and in fruits that bacteria absolutely love. And in certain people, these bacteria can overgrow causing this condition called SIBO. So prebiotics are very important, but you gotta be a little bit careful, especially if you're... Is taken orally, especially if you're dealing with any of these SIBO conditions or overgrowth of bacteria. The most important prebiotic is fiber. And that's one of the reasons why fiber is so important. And a fiber rich diet is so important because bacteria can thrive on fiber and eating enough fiber, as long as you don't have this, you're not prone to a SIBO can be a great way to support probiotics. One of the most important probiotics supporting prebiotic is inulin or any fiber can do it, but inulin is a very common one, and you'll actually see inulin in skincare products. And they don't say that although inulin is used in skincare products as a thickener, as an emulsifier. But over the course, maybe the last year or two years, inulin has become recognized as a topical prebiotic.
0:09:45.5 BF: So to topically feed bacteria. Another topical prebiotic that's getting a lot of press lately is hyaluronic acid, believe it or not as a topical prebiotic to support the probiotics on the skin. There was another one, glucans beta-glucan, you may have heard of that. That's another long chain sugar that can support probiotics or good bacteria taken orally it'll support bacteria in the intestine used topically and may be able to support good bacteria in the skin. But again the skin is on the outside of the body, so it's subject to all kinds of forces that tend to kill bacteria and working with the skin's microbiome is not really the most effective way to create a healthy microbiome on the skin. The best way is to make sure you have a healthy microbiome inside your body and then allow the body to create an environment on the skin that's conducive to healthy bacteria, healthy bacterial population and healthy species of bacteria.
0:10:44.5 BF: And then there's the third class. The prebiotics feed the bacteria. The probiotics are the bacteria. Then there's the postbiotics. And this is the most recent of the biotic skincare ingredients. And these are ingredients that are made by probiotics. And the most important of these ingredients are the fats, short chain fatty acids, they call them. And I forgot to mention that probiotics on the skin or in the gut are important for fat metabolism on the skin, actually fat metabolism all over the body. And probiotics taken orally can support healthy fats on the skin. Specifically in the stratum corneum. When fats become disturbed in the stratum corneum or the wrong kinds of fats are produced in the stratum corneum, the stratum corneum becomes weak. And numerous skin care problems are the result of a weakened stratum corneum. So using probiotics supplementally can help support a healthy stratum corneum via fat metabolism.
0:11:39.0 BF: Also, I should tell you that probiotics inside the... In the colon, they call them by, they call these things commensal bacteria, meaning food bacteria. These commensal bacteria or probiotics are also important for processing estrogen. And estrogen plays a very important role in skin health especially in anti-aging the skin and the skin pigmentation and also in the thickness of the skin. So probiotics can help support a healthy estrogen, a healthy estrogen balance inside the body. And then thirdly, probiotics can help support a healthy intestinal wall. When the intestinal wall breaks down, things leak into the bloodstream I.e Leaky gut syndrome. And almost all skin health challenges have, in fact, almost all health challenges in general have some degree of leaky gut syndrome associated with them. So probiotics in addition to helping you make vitamins and helping you process fats, helping you digest your food and helping you make food choices also play a very important role in estrogen metabolism, in fat metabolism for the skin specifically and in preventing leaky gut syndrome.
0:12:41.3 MS: Interesting. So you talked about sugars playing a role in being a prebiotic, feeding the probiotics.
0:12:51.1 BF: Yeah.
0:12:52.0 MS: Is there any correlation there when you have candida and yeast overgrowth?
0:12:58.3 BF: Yes. Absolutely. Candida loves sugar. So, under ordinary circumstances, bacteria, fight candida. When you are doing things that kill your natural bacteria, antibiotics taken orally, or taken antibiotics and water, and food or a classic case of killing off... Classic reason why bacteria are killed off in the gut, yeast can overgrow. If you're eating a lot of sugar, again, yeast can overgrow. So, taking care of Candida without taking care of the environment that had led to the problem of Candida, I.e. The killing off of the good bacteria, or the excess amount of sugar is really... It's not a very healthy strategy and candida and yeast in general, are covered with spore... Are covered with shells. They reproduce via spores and it's almost... The medicine that's required to kill yeast is super powerful and it's very difficult to kill yeast medically or fungus medically or pharmaceutically or even in an over-the-counter way, but you can support your good bacteria.
0:14:00.4 S1: By supporting your good bacteria, your good bacteria will naturally kill yeast. And that's really what you wanna do if you have a yeast infection or Candida, you wanna support your microbiome, and that's not just true about yeast infections on the skin. But also vaginal yeast infections, or yeast infections that occur in the mouth, like thrush. Any time you have an over-population of yeast, focus on the microbiome. That's your best strategy because the microbiome is designed to kill yeast.
0:14:24.6 MS: Interesting.
0:14:25.6 BF: That's one of the things it does. And let me just say this last thing we have time; is these postbiotics. The postbiotics are things that are secreted out of the cells and the most important substances that are secreted out of these bacterial cells, these post-biotics, are the short-chain fatty acids. Fatty acids come in different lengths. You got long-chain fatty acids, those are the ones that are found in most food's dietary fatty acids. Then you have medium-chain fatty acids, they're also called "medium-chain triglycerides" and those play an important role in energizing the body. Then you have the short-chain fatty acids. The most important of the short-chain fatty acids is this amazing substance called butyrate. I'm not sure if we talked about butyrate before.
0:15:09.3 S1: I don't think so.
0:15:10.1 BF: Yeah. Butyrate or butyric acid has got some tremendous salubrious heath-inducing benefits for the whole body. Butyrates calm you down. Butyrates are an important part of the ketogenic diet by the way. So, butyrates help you produce ketones, and butyrates have an energizing effect. They also have a satiety inducing-effect and butyrates will create appetite suppression. So, butyrates have an appetite suppressant effect. So, for folks who are trying to lose weight, butyrates-inducing... Taking butyrates orally, or using strategies to build butyrates by supporting a healthy microbiome has wonderful appetite-suppressant effects. In fact, there's a butyrate that's used in the brain called GABA, you may heard of that, which is a derivative of butyrate called Gamma Amino Butyric Acid. It is a type of butyrate, and that has such a wonderful calming effect, people use it for sleep, or for pain relief. In fact, there's a drug called Lyrica or Gabapentin, you may have heard of.
0:16:05.9 MS: Yes.
0:16:06.3 BF: Gabapentin is a drug version of butyrate. It's a drug version of GABA, and it's used to treat migraine headaches, and joint pain, and back pain, and it has an anti-depressant quality. All taking advantage of the health-inducing effect of butyrate. But you can build your own butyrate by making sure you have a healthy microbiome. Now, postbiotics, again, are sometimes used in skin care. You're not gonna really get great skin benefits from postbiotics, but as far as ingredients go, they're... I don't wanna say they're beneficial necessarily, but they're not non-beneficial. You're not gonna get dramatic skin changes by using butyrates or postbiotics on top of the skin but there's worse ingredients that you can put on your skin. That's one other thing I was gonna say about butyrates, the best dietary source of butyrate is butter.
0:16:54.8 MS: Interesting.
0:16:55.6 BF: And butter, the word butter gets its name from butyrate. That's why we call it butter because it's very rich in butyric acid or butyrates. And one of the most important benefits of the butyrates is the butyrates are fueled specifically for the cells of the colon, the colonocytes or the enterocytes are specifically designed to run on butyric acid and butyrates. And folks who have intestinal cancers, or intestinal diseases tend to have low levels of butyrate. So, using butyrate supplementally, or using butyrate in butter, and in foods, or supporting the microbiome, a healthy microbiome, can help you make butyrate if you're dealing with any intestinal problem; Crohn's disease, Celiac disease, or Leaky Gut Syndrome, any health... Or God forbid, intestinal cancer, or Colon cancer. And then by virtue of the butyrates ability to support intestinal health, you'll also get skin health benefits.
0:17:49.9 MS: That wraps up our show for today. And we thank you for listening. But if you just can't get enough of Ben Fuchs, the rogue pharmacist, you can listen to his syndicated radio program at brightsideben.com. For more information on this episode or for ways to connect with Ben Fuchs, or to learn more about ASCP, check out the show notes.