An exciting area of research is the development of topical probiotics, which can be applied directly to the skin.
Small studies from Italy, Russia and Korea have found that probiotics from food or supplements used in conjunction with standard acne treatments may increase the rate of acne clearance, and also helps patients better tolerate acne treatment with antibiotics, Bowe told Live Science. Some probiotic strains found to be effective in studies of acne include Lactobacillus, L. acidophilus, and B. bifudum.
Preliminary studies of topical probiotics for acne have shown they may help reduce the number of active skin lesions, Bowe said. Probiotics applied to the skin might help acne by forming a protective shield that prevents harmful pimple-causing bacteria from reaching the skin, aggravating the immune system and triggering inflammation, she said.
Finnish researchers looked at pregnant women who took probiotic supplements (containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG) for two to four weeks before giving birth, and also after delivery if they were breast-feeding, or added the bacteria to infant formula for at least six months. They found the probiotics reduced the odds of eczema in babies who had strong family histories of the itchy skin condition until at least age 2, and possibly longer.
Another recent study showed that infants who developed eczema before they turned 1 had a less diverse collection of gut bacteria when they were 7 days old than infants without eczema, suggesting a link between gut bacteria early in life and the development of the skin condition.
This inflammatory skin condition causes facial redness on the cheeks, nose, chin or forehead, as well as small red bumps or pimples. Probiotics may help control rosacea flare-ups and symptoms, studies suggest.
"Probiotic extracts in conjunction with medication can reduce the redness seen in rosacea, and also improve and strengthen the skin barrier to reduce its stinging, burning and dryness," Bowe said.
The use of probiotics to protect skin from the effects of aging is an exciting new area that shows early promise, but needs more research, Bowe said. She said there's some evidence that probiotics may help to build collagen, the main protein in skin that affects its texture and tone.