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The Particulars of Probiotics

By: Rebecca James Gadberry
Posted: June 13, 2008, from the September 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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1 JM Hamilton-Miller, The role of probiotics in the treatment and prevention of Heliobacter pylori infection, Int J Antimicrob Agents (22) 360-366 (2003)

2 M Kalliomäki, S Rautava et al, Probiotics during pregnancy and breast-feeding might confer immunomodulatory protection against atopic disease in the infant, J Allergy Clin Immunol109(1) 119-21(2002)

Q. Do you know whether any studies exist that support the use of probiotics on the skin?

A. Throughout the past several years, researchers in Europe and Asia—where probiotics are more accepted by medical practitioners and consumers—have been exploring the use of probiotics to control acne, signs of aging, immune functions and other aspects of skin care. The results of their studies are slowly making their way to U.S. audiences.

One of the first to be introduced was Bioecolia (alpha glucan oligosaccharide), a prebiotic oligosaccharide obtained from natural sucrose and maltose sugars. According to Solabia, the French developers of the ingredient, the oligosaccharide is an easily digested food source for skin’s beneficial microflora, but is not a good food source for hostile bacteria. In the presence of both friendly and hostile microbes, the good are fed and thrive while the hostile starve. Staphylococcus aureus and Propionbacterium acnes—problematic bacteria associated with rosacea and acne—are especially susceptible.

Originally designed as a natural cosmetic preservative, Bioecolia has gained greater popularity for its effects in balancing the ecosystems of the skin and scalp during times of stress, exposure to airborne pollutants or imbalances that are thought to occur through the aggressive use of hand sanitizers or highly alkaline, acidic or antimicrobial soaps on the face, hands and scalp. Regardless of whether or not these events lead to a decrease of friendly flora is still under debate, but several companies in Europe have had great success with acne, dandruff and baby products containing Bioecolia. Several U.S. brands also feature the ingredient.