What Is Cultured Skincare? The Benefits & How It Works


We’re all about eating cultured foods, but is the next big thing cultured skincare? We’ve been seeing it captivating the holistic beauty movement across the world, so we asked our resident skincare expert and community manager Nadine Brown to weigh in.

What is cultured skincare - or microbiome skincare, as it’s sometimes known?

Microbiome skincare is very new and loads of research is happening around it that is showing really promising results especially in inflammatory conditions like eczema. Like the gut, the skin has its own unique ecosystem consisting of millions of bacteria, fungi, and viruses which make up the skin microbiota.

Essentially it is skincare that supports the skin’s microbiome with either as, probiotics - living strains of bacteria that add to the population of good bacteria on the skin surface, prebiotics - that are specialized ingredients that act as food for the good bacteria, or postbiotics - the fermentation byproducts produced by bacteria that are good for your skin.

How does it differ from ‘regular’ skincare?

We have long known about the health benefits of maintaining balance in the gut microbiome but when it comes to skincare, bacteria have generally been perceived as something we need to remove. This narrative is beginning to change today, the skin microbiome is increasingly thought to be the key to enhancing skin appearance – addressing the causes of skin conditions rather than just the symptoms.

Standard skincare products would be focused on antibacterials to fight bacteria, preservatives to make the products last and kill bacteria, plus excessive exfoliation and chemical exfoliation that will disrupt the skin’s delicate ecosystem that exists on and within the top layers of skin cells. Cultured skincare is all about supporting and repairing the skin’s microbiome.

How does cultured skincare work?

Cultured skincare works by providing the skin microbiome with prebiotics, which is food for micro-organisms, with skincare ingredients that are essential to its balance. Then postbiotics - postbiotics are fermentation byproducts produced by bacteria that are good for you. Essentially, if the bacteria on your skin aren’t making enough fatty acids or peptides, a topical product with fatty acids can give it a boost.

And now, with the latest research, products are also coming to the market with probiotics formulations (live bacteria) that support the healthy bacteria on your skin.

Growing evidence suggests that using probiotics topically may even help prevent and treat skin conditions including eczema, acne, dry skin, and UV skin damage. Certain probiotics have been shown to boost the skin’s production of ceramides or lipids that trap moisture in the skin and keep acne-causing bacteria levels in check (people with eczema have lower levels of ceramides).

What are the benefits of cultured skincare?

Your skin microbiome communicates with your immune system, and because the skin microbiome plays such an important role in regulating your immune responses, any irregularities in skin microbiota could wreak havoc on your health. We once thought that our microbiome only existed on the surface of the skin and we now know that's not true. Microbes have been found all the way to the subcutaneous fat layers of the skin.

A healthy skin microbiome also protects against infection aids in wound healing, minimizes oxidative damage, and keeps the skin plump and moist. 

How does this have the potential to impact and disrupt the beauty industry?

The science in our microbiome is very new but is set to revolutionize the beauty industry with its ability to heal and correct inflammatory skin conditions, however, it will be sometime before we have this as a common practice due to the treatments and products that are offered in the industry going against the very thing that our microbiome and skin barrier are designed to do. 

What kind of ingredients should you look for when choosing cultured skincare?

These are just some ingredients found in skincare products to support the skin’s microbiome:

  • Probiotic: Lactococcus ferment lysate (most common), Lactobacillus, Bifida ferment lysate, Lactic acid bacteria derived from yogurt, Prebiotic oat extract, soil-derived Nitrosomonas eutropha, live kefir probiotics, Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus plantaru, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus acidophilus and Streptococcus thermophilus ferment
  • Prebiotics: Inulin (a type of fiber), Prebiotic thermal spring water, xylitol, and plant sugars, such as fructooligosaccharides, galacto-oligosaccharides, Alpha-Glucan Oligosaccharide, and fructooligosaccharides.
  • Postbiotics:  peptides and fatty acids (glycerides, sterols, and phospholipids).

Are there any brands you would recommend?

Everyone’s skin will always have different needs, but a few products that are great to try as a starting point are Biophile’s Bio Barrier Nourishing Oil, Marie Veronique’s Pre + Probiotic Daily Mist, or Eminence Organics’ Clear Skin Probiotic Moisturiser, which has been specially formulated for acne-prone skin.

Cultured skincare may seem like an overwhelming addition to a beauty routine to begin with, but as health-conscious people, this emerging field is possibly one of the most beneficial to us. We can’t wait to see what it grows into.

What current skincare trends are you obsessed with?