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Yogurt for Skin Health: Topical Benefits + Boosting Friendly Microbes

 

In our quest for radiant, healthy skin, we often overlook the simplest, most natural solutions. Whether you struggle with rosacea, acne, or simply want to optimize skin health, incorporating yogurt into your skincare regimen can yield remarkable results. In this blog, Marie shares her experience with using this beloved ferment topically, the science behind yogurt’s benefits for your skin, and specific friendly bacteria that make it effective.

 

Why Cleanse or Mask with Yogurt?

I first started thinking about yogurt as a calmative agent when I was struggling with rosacea, evidenced by inflammatory flare-ups predominantly in the cheek area, in my early forties. I wondered if yogurt might help soothe my inflamed skin since it contains many beneficial live bacteria. In my business, I am always looking for solutions for problematic skin, and I am drawn to the hypothesis that the rise in numbers of people suffering from common skin ailments, such as acne and rosacea, may be attributed to microbial imbalances. It is well-known, at least nowadays, that a disruption in the balance of the skin’s microbiome can result in skin disorders and infections.

Many factors affect skin colonization by microbiota: age, gender, weather, antibiotic usage, and most pertinent to the yogurt-as-cleanser idea, the excessive use of hygiene products such as antimicrobial soaps and cleansers. An intricate and delicate balance exists between the skin (the host) and its microorganisms.

Following the microbial dysbiosis equals skin disorders line of reasoning, it follows that owners of troubled skin would want an alternative to cleansing agents that disrupt the skin’s microbial balance. Such an alternative can be found in yogurt, which, contrary to stripping the skin’s microbiome, will resupply it with live, commensal bacteria. It also contains the prized component of lactic acid. Lactic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that offers all the exfoliation you need. In yogurt it's in the right amounts so you get mild exfoliation with no irritation--it's never going to be too strong when applied this way. It proved to be very beneficial in my case, and as a bonus, yogurt has the right creamy texture—just what you want in a cleanser.

What Bacteria Are Friendly for Skin and What Is the pH of Yogurt?

The pH of yogurt is between 4.4 and 4.8. This is similar to the pH range of the skin’s acid mantle of 4.5 to 6.0. Women tend to have a lower pH acid mantle than men, 4.5 to 5.5 respectively.

Here is a list of commensal (friendly) bacteria. I added the unfriendly ones because I find them fascinating.

Staphylococcus:

  • Friendly: Staphylococcus epidermidis, Staphylococcus hominis (1)
  • Unfriendly: Staphylococcus aureus, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus

Bifidobacterium:

  • Bifidobacterium animalis—antioxidant activity (2)
  • Bifidobacterium longum—inhibition of lipid peroxidation (3)

Lactobacilli:

  • Lactobacillus acidophilus—inhibition of lipid peroxidation (4)
  • Lactobacillus johnsonii—reduces S. aureus colonization in atopic dermatitis patients (5)
  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus—improves adult acne (6)
Streptococci:
  • Streptococcus thermophilus—increases skin ceramide levels (7)
Very Unfriendly:
  • Streptococcus pyogenes—the flesh-eating bacteria

About Streptococcus thermophilus

“The presence of high levels of neutral sphingomyelinase activity in this organism was responsible for the observed increase of stratum corneum ceramide levels, thus leading to an improvement in barrier function and maintenance of stratum corneum flexibility. A two-week topical application of a sonicated Streptococcus thermophilus preparation led to significant and relevant increases in stratum corneum ceramide levels. Moreover, the hydration values of the treated forearm of each subject were significantly higher than control sites. These results suggest that the experimental cream was able to improve the lipid barrier and to increase resistance against aging-associated xerosis.” (7)

As the study above attests, Streptococcus thermophilus is an excellent ally in the age-delay battle. It is a commensal resident of the skin microbiome, and there is no risk of it overcolonizing. In big-picture terms, your body is made up of about ten trillion cells, yet you harbor a hundred trillion bacteria. For every gene in your genome, there are 100 bacterial ones. Microbes have an enormous impact on your health—in fact, you couldn’t live without those little critters who have taken up residence inside and outside your body. Microorganisms reside in the hair follicles and even on the surface of your skin, and their presence is crucial to maintaining skin health.

Formulations Inspired by Yogurt 

The products in our barrier defense line (such as Barrier Restore Serum) are inspired in part by the role played by Streptococcus thermophilus in promoting ceramide production via sphingomyelinase activity. We use postbiotics rather than live bacteria, but the principle is the same—it starts with the microbe, Streptococcus thermophilus, improving barrier function by increasing natural ceramide production.

In addition to using postbiotics in many of our products, all of our products are self-preserved with a green preservative system based on an antimicrobial peptide originally derived from the lactic acid bacteria, Leuconostoc kimchii. Like most LABs (lactic acid bacteria), Leuconostoc kimchii is capable of restricting the growth of other microorganisms by acidifying its environment. In addition to acidifying its environment, many LABs produce a novel antimicrobial peptide (AMP), which increases its preservative capabilities. Green preservatives are microstatic rather than microcidal, which is a big plus when your goal is maintaining microbiome balance.

All of MARIE VERONIQUE’S products are mindful of protecting the skin’s microbiome, an essential component of skin health — since you cannot have a healthy microbiome without healthy barrier function. View our collection of microbiome-supportive topicals which highlights our top picks here.

When Purchasing Yogurt Look For: 

Streptococcus thermophilus, Bifidobacterium, and Lactobacilli. All of the genera of the species Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium found in yogurt will be skin-friendly. Make sure it says "contains live cultures" or words to that effect somewhere on the label. We like Nancy’s Probiotic Yogurt. Nancy’s is an independent, family-owned business that was the first company in the US to add live probiotics to yogurt back in 1970.

Learn more about how to incorporate yogurt into your skincare regimen in our article, The Best Cleanser for Skin Health Isn't Sold by Any Skincare Company, Including Ours. 

 

 

References 

  1.  Teruaki Nakatsuji et al., Antimicrobials from human skin commensal bacteria protect against Staphylococcus aureus and are deficient in atopic dermatitis.Sci. Transl. Med. 9, eaah4680(2017).DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aah4680
  2. Shen, Q., Shang, N. & Li, P. In Vitro and In Vivo Antioxidant Activity of Bifidobacterium animalis 01 Isolated from Centenarians. Curr Microbiol 62, 1097–1103 (2011).
  3. Inhibition of Lipid Peroxidation by Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium longum. Meei-Yn Lin and Chyuan-Liang Yen
    Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 1999 47 (9), 3661-3664
    DOI: 10.1021/jf981235l
  4. Inhibition of Lipid Peroxidation by Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium longum. Meei-Yn Lin and Chyuan-Liang Yen
    Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 1999 47 (9), 3661-3664
    DOI: 10.1021/jf981235l
  5. Blanchet-Réthoré S, Bourdès V, Mercenier A, Haddar CH, Verhoeven PO, Andres P. Effect of a lotion containing the heat-treated probiotic strain Lactobacillus johnsonii NCC 533 on Staphylococcus aureus colonization in atopic dermatitis. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017 Jul 3;10:249-257. doi: 10.2147/CCID.S135529. PMID: 28721083; PMCID: PMC5501445.
  6. G. Fabbrocini,  M. Bertona,  Ó. Picazo,  H. Pareja-Galeano,  G. Monfrecola,  E. Emanuele. Supplementation with Lactobacillus rhamnosus SP1 normalises skin expression of genes implicated in insulin signalling and improves adult acne. Beneficial Microbes: 7 (5)- Pages: 625 -  630. https://doi.org/10.3920/BM2016.0089
  7. Dimarzio L, Cinque B, Cupelli F, De Simone C, Cifone MG, Giuliani M. Increase of Skin-Ceramide Levels in Aged Subjects following a Short-Term Topical Application of Bacterial Sphingomyelinase from Streptococcus Thermophilus. International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology. 2008;21(1):137-143. doi:10.1177/039463200802100115