Looking in the mirror wasn't always easy for 24-year-old acne patient Danielle Schwarz.
"At its worst, I didn't really want to leave the house," she said.
Schwarz faced the problem with the help of her dermatologist. The treatment plan: traditional acne therapy, plus a daily dose of probiotics.
"I would say now that I rarely have breakouts," Schwarz added.
It's a prescription for healthy skin that a growing number of dermatologists are recommending. Dr. Whitney Bowe, with the American Academy of Dermatology, says the group named probiotics one of this year's beauty breakthroughs.
"There's accumulating evidence now showing that oral and topical probiotics can actually significantly benefit chronic skin conditions, including things like eczema, acne, rosacea," Bowe said.
Oral probiotics may ease complexion imperfections by affecting what's known as the gut-brain-skin axis. The theory is that diet and stress can slow down digestion, creating an overgrowth of "unhealthy" bacteria in the gut.
"By introducing healthy bacteria into the gut, it can actually re-seal the gut lining and prevent system wide inflammation that's thought to lead to acne and rosacea flares," Bowe explained.
Early research shows some topical probiotics, now found in a slew of skincare products, can protect and soothe the skin. some even kill germs.
"They're like little missiles that can punch holes in the walls of harmful bacteria, viruses and fungi," added Bowe.
Anecdotally, some patients are even finding success with homemade yogurt and kefir masks.
"Whenever I have a flare up, I try to apply it and wear it as long as I can until my skin calms down," said rosacea patient Linda Sampson.
While the data on probiotics is promising, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Amy Derick says more research is needed before probiotics are considered "standard practice."
"I would like to see more research that are randomized and placebo controlled in both oral and topical probiotics. I'd also like to see research on which exact probiotics are helpful and in what frequency and in what application," said Derick.
While Bowe agrees, she has high hopes for the future of this friendly flora. Schwarz is already a believer and says the proof isn't just in her reflection.
"Emotionally, it's life changing. I feel much more confident," Schwarz said.
Bowe says that while some probiotic treatments have strong evidence behind them, many brands are still sorting out just how to create bacterial harmony, so as always, it's important to seek advice from your dermatologist.
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