Natural Beauty: Are Probiotics The Secret to Great Skin?

July 25, 2016

Some good news since my last skin-related post in May: in the past roughly 10 weeks of consciously low-sugar, low-caffeine diet, I’ve bounced back from most of the issues that were plaguing me! Yes, I kept going after the self-imposed 3-day detox. I still eat fruit (watermelon saves my life in these days of the Heat Dome) and very occasionally (maybe 1-2 times a month) some dark chocolate. But just by cutting out Lara bars (mmm, Lara bars), granola with almond milk, and matcha green latte from my diet, my under-eye bags have all but completely disappeared as well as some of my crepe-y fine lines. I almost can’t believe it either. The overall “glow” factor is definitely up as well. Hooray!!

This has also turned me onto other strategies to help my skin through my diet. What more can I be eating or not eating to tackle my remaining skin issues, the primary one of which is breakouts?

The level of discomfort and severity of my breakouts has decreased over time, thankfully, since I’m 29 (give me a break!!). I’ve figured out that the following rules keep them in check:

1. Clean my face with a face wipe before and right after exercise. This one is huge since I workout every day. My favorite is Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil Face Wipe–I swear it you can *feel* it deep cleaning your skin!

2. Massage cleanser into my face for 30 seconds or longer, then rinse: I realized that my cleansing wasn’t long enough to really break down the grime and deep cleanse my pores. Now I use this half-minute massaging time to give myself a mini-“me time” in the shower. It feels like a mindfulness moment 🙂

3. Exfoliate often. I use Skin Renewal Facial Peel by Arianna. I know, I know–it’s ridiculously expensive. Actually, I’m not sure how much better this is than something cheaper–but so many products make me breakout, and this one doesn’t, and it *is* effective. Next, I would like to try Mad Hippie serums recommended by Crystal, who has amazing skin and says that those serums are great at exfoliating.

4. Use an everyday exfoliating serum. This is *in addition* to 2-3x weekly facial peel. I use Mychelle Brightening Apple Serum. When I ran out of my first bottle, I stopped using it for months, then noticed the return of uneven tone and more breakouts. So I got another one, and my skin was immediately happier. I will definitely getting the third bottle without a gap!

5. Get a monthly facial. I know, I know–this is an expensive habit. I used to raise my eyebrows at people who they say they *have* to get a facial regularly. In fact, until recently I’d just had one facial in my entire life, and it left my skin feeling oily rather than blissed out. But since discovering my favorite spa, Le York in SoHo thanks to my job, pulsd, I’ve been going there regularly. It really decongests my skin, and more than that, I feel increased circulation and youthfulness factor. So I consider this one of those things I just didn’t get when I was younger, but now absolutely swear by, like eye cream.

But is there anything I can do nutritionally speaking? And that’s where all the stories linking probiotics and skin came to my attention.

Mary has already tried–and loved–topical probiotics, aka “good bacteria” on your skin. It turns out, probiotics are good for you whether you put them directly on your skin or ingest them in food form. Topical and dietary probiotics work differently, however.

1. Your gut and your skin are actually closely tied together. Your skin, like your digestive system, is an organ where toxins are eliminated. When you’re eating a gut-friendly diet rich in fiber and veggies and low in sugar, dairy (not that vegans consume dairy), etc, your gut flora is balanced and healthy. Conversely, a diet that consists of animal products and a lot of sugar, will trigger inflammatory responses both internally and topically. Therefore, eating probiotics can reduce skin flare-ups like acne and rosacea, which are the body’s inflammatory responses.

2. According to fascinating finds led by dermatologists at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, topical probiotics reduce acne in multiple ways. 

They provide a physical barrier between your skin and bad bacteria / parasites, which prevents the body from having inflammatory responses to those pathogens.

They can release substances that can create holes in the bad bacteria and kill them. (Oh my!!)

They can also calm the parts of your skin cells that want to flare up at the bad bacteria. (Now I’m having images of good bacteria whispering to your skin cell, “just inhale….and exhale…”) 😀

Now here’s the kicker. Right before writing this piece, I remembered that there was a month-long period recently when I was eating coconut yogurt almost every day (basically, a massive sale at Whole Foods). And guess what, I do think my skin looked particularly clear and glowing during that time. Coincidence? Maybe–but it definitely makes me want to stock up on vegan yogurt!

If you want to add more probiotics in your life, try: miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, spirulina, kombucha, non-dairy yogurt (look for “live cultures” on the label). Another surprising source that I enjoy is Vega One, which has 1 billion CFU per serving! Mix that with some coconut yogurt, and you’re all set for vegan probiotics for the day.

Vegan Smoothie Recipes: Coconut Almond Green Smoothie

Food Probiotics to Try: This Coconut Almond Green Protein Smoothie with Vega was a massive hit at our Peaceful Dumpling event this spring.

10 Lucky Vegan Recipes for New Year's

Kimchi Avocado Stuffed Collard Rolls


Homemade Blueberry Vegan Yogurt

I Tried It: Topical Probiotics for Acne

Topical Probiotics to Try: Mother Dirt

Do you consume (topically or otherwise) probiotics for beautiful skin? What are your favorite sources of probiotics?

Related: I Tried It: Topical Probiotics for Acne

Bacteria–The Next Big Acne Treatment?

Our latest probiotic-rich recipe: 30-Minute Asian Fusion Probiotic Bowl

Get more like thisSubscribe to our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!


Photos: Peaceful Dumpling, Lauren Sacerdote, Jessica Riley-Norton, Mary Hood Luttrell

peaceful dumpling
Peaceful Dumpling is used for articles written by staff writers and freelance contributors who wish to remain unidentified.


always stay inspired!