Probiotic skincare is all the rage. For years, we’ve known the benefits of ingesting probiotics (hello, healthy gut!), and now, we’re seeing the benefits of applying probiotics to the skin.
If you’ve come across probiotic skincare, chances are you’ve seen the term “microbiome.” The skin is the body’s largest organ, and it’s covered in trillions of microorganisms like bacteria and fungi. These invisible life-forms are known as the skin microbiome, and they play an important part in our overall health.
Think of the microbiome as a “layer” that protects the body by helping fight infection (some microbes can be likened to a natural antibiotic), healing wounds and inflammation and assisting the immune system to function optimally.
When the skin’s microbiome is compromised, it can result in skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, acne, rosacea and even accelerated skin ageing. But how does the microbiome become compromised or damaged? Think about how the use of antibiotics compromises the healthy bacteria in the gut – the same thing can happen to the healthy bacteria on the skin. Triggers include using the wrong skincare products (alkaline soaps and sulphates may be to blame, as they may change the skin’s pH levels), environmental aggressors like smoke and pollution, high stress levels and even certain medications.
And while healthy lifestyle choices go a long way in protecting and preserving the skin’s microbiome, certain triggers are beyond our control. The quality of our drinking water, our proximity to urban pollution or the way in which we were born (natural versus caesarean), for example, all affect our microbiome, but we have no control over these factors.
So what can we control, and how do we restore and preserve the skin’s microbiome? Eating fresh and health foods, drinking plenty of water, regular exercise and exposure to nature, taking a good quality probiotic orally and keeping stress levels in check all play their part. But a crucial step we sometimes overlook is our skincare regime.
Skincare has the ability to make or break the skin’s microbiome, so it is critical to use products that nurture and nourish the microbiome, to ensure overall healthier skin.
South African bio-clinical skincare brand Esse has always been at the forefront of probiotic skincare. It was founded and developed by organic chemist Trevor Steyn, whose research began with African plants and their use in cosmetics. Trevor saw that over the last 100 years, the use of harsh industrial beauty products had disrupted the skin’s ecosystem, resulting in increased cases of acne and sensitive skin all around the world.
As such, Esse researches and promotes ‘rewilding’ techniques, to embrace the billions of microbes living on our skin, to strengthen the skin’s barrier and natural defences and to restore the skin’s microbiome with probiotics and green chemistry.
Using prebiotics to feed good microbes, including live probiotic microbes in two serums to make functional changes to the microbiome, Esse offers an impressive range of certified organic, vegan and cruelty-free skincare products that are as good for your skin as they are kind to the environment. Plus, they also have a number of different professional treatments available.
The first of its kind, the Esse Live Probiotic Facial is a world-class treatment unique to the brand. It includes the application of five billion colony-forming units per ml of live lactobacillus probiotics to the skin, followed by the Esse Exclusion Mask. This provides the perfect anaerobic environment for the bacteria to start to colonise.
The treatment is designed to reduce inflammation, enhance the skin’s barrier function and address the signs of ageing by restoring microbial balance. The treatment also includes the Esse Anti-Inflammatory or Esse Lifting Massage, which further enhances the treatment outcomes and promotes complete relaxation.
Our editor was lucky enough to experience this unique facial at the Amani Spa at the V & A Waterfront Radisson Blu Hotel.
“This was my first time experiencing a live probiotic facial treatment, and I can say with certainty that it wasn’t my last. I went in without any specific expectations, and I left with smooth, plump, glowing skin. But before I get into the actual treatment, here’s a little skin recap: Due to stress, the season change and a lapse in my regular healthy diet, my skin had taken a major beating.
For the past few weeks I struggled with breakouts, congestion and an overall dull, lacklustre complexion. I knew that my skin’s microbiome wasn’t in top shape, so after my treatment, I switched over to an Esse skincare regime (using their Sensitive Cleanser and Toner, Resurrect Serum and Nourishing Moisturiser). It’s now been a week, and I can already see an improvement in my skin.
Most of my breakouts have healed and my complexion is very nearly clear, my skin’s texture looks more refined and it feels a lot softer and more moisturised.
But back to the treatment – firstly, it was extremely relaxing. My therapist used massage techniques that almost had me drifting off, and I found the general experience calming and sensorially pleasing. While the whole process, from the cleansing and exfoliating to the mask and scalp massage was very enjoyable, I actually loved the Exclusion Mask the most. It gets applied to the skin as soon as the live probiotics are applied, in order to give them the perfect environment to colonise.
The mask is has a thick goo-ey texture. It is applied over the whole face, leaving only the nostrils exposed (but if you’re claustrophobic – they’ll avoid covering your eyes or mouth). It’s difficult to describe, but it feels cool and even a little heavy on the skin, which I absolutely loved – I found it incredibly relaxing. After about 15 minutes it gets peeled off and one or two final products are applied.
Immediately afterwards my skin felt and looked plump, hydrated and was glowing. And these effects lasted into the next day – I woke up looking like I had a facial the previous day.
Overall, I’m looking forward to healthier, stronger and more resilient skin thanks to Esse, and am looking forward to my next live probiotic facial.”
Keen to book this treatment for yourself? Find your nearest participating spa or salon, over here.