Written by Grove Collaborative

What do prebiotics and probiotics do for your skin & body?

Last Updated: July 1, 2021

Learn how to nourish the body’s natural microorganisms with prebiotic and probiotic skincare vs. supplements.

Feeling healthy, both inside and out, is a goal for almost everyone. Eating well, exercising often, getting outside (with proper sunscreen) — everything we do contributes to how we look and feel.


When it comes to skincare, behind the plethora of products and ads, there are some new truths and techniques to clearer skin. Without sounding like a medical textbook, we’re here to teach you about your body’s natural pre- and probiotics, and how they can help you have (and keep) healthy skin!

Good bacteria vs. bad bacteria

Before we dive into the differences between probiotics and prebiotics, we should look at the differences between good bacteria and bad bacteria when it comes to your body.


Everybody has bacteria in their bodies and this is how we build up our immunities to illnesses, viruses, and germs we encounter every day. The collection of bacteria in your body is also called your “microbiome.” Your microbiome is made up of mostly good and some bad bacteria.


What are the bad bacteria?

Bad bacteria aren’t always that bad. If we have enough balance in our digestive and immune systems, bad bacteria really don’t do much to our bodies. In fact, they sometimes work with the good bacteria to help us build immunity to other germs and illnesses.


But if there is not enough good bacteria and too much bad bacteria, then some more serious illnesses can occur like auto-immune diseases or cancer. This is the reason why we still try to avoid the bad germs and bacteria by wiping down surfaces and washing our hands.


What are the good bacteria?

The good bacteria live in our respiratory systems and in our digestive systems. According to the National Center for Health Research, they help digest our foods (carbs and sugars mainly), absorb toxins, monitor white blood cells, repair tissue, and protect cells from pathogens.


Their most important function, though, is to take up enough space so that bad bacteria can’t take over in our internal systems. If the good bacteria in our body gets depleted (from antibiotics, an illness, or a bad diet or health), then bad bacteria have more chances to take over and make us sick, especially causing digestive issues. That’s why it’s important to supplement after an antibiotic with a probiotic, which adds good bacteria back to your body.

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What’s the difference between probiotics and prebiotics?

You’ve probably seen the term “probiotic” on tons of health products, from kombucha to beer to supplements. Essentially, they are tiny microorganisms that live on the outside and inside of our bodies, and when consumed help us keep or build up our good bacteria in our digestive systems.


Before you begin scratching violently, know that probiotics are crucial to our bodily health, providing myriad health benefits that scientists are still exploring today. Healthy probiotics, like ones found in the gut, in the intestine, or on the skin, help to boost our immune system and protect us from other nasty microbes.


Examples of probiotics are lactobacillus bacteria, which are those found in yogurts, bifidobacteria which occupy space in our gut microbiome and can be found there soon after we are born, streptococcus thermophilus which helps us digest dairy and the sugars in it, and saccharomyces boulardii which is a type of yeast that acts like a probiotic.

According to Healthline, probiotics can also treat a variety of health conditions, such as:


  • diarrhea (including diarrhea caused by antibiotics)
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
  • tooth decay, gingivitis, and periodontitis
  • eczema

The secret to keeping the body’s natural probiotics healthy is, among other things, ample prebiotics. Prebiotics are basically probiotic food: specific organic compounds, like carbs or insulin, that sustain your body’s probiotics and help them proliferate.


This is why you’ll often hear about foods, drinks, or supplements that boost your probiotic health by providing extra prebiotics, probiotics, or both.

What do prebiotics and probiotics do for your skin?

While there are tons of probiotics in your gut, there’s also a community of them living on your skin too. There they carry out beneficial tasks like fighting off infections, maintaining a good pH balance, and keeping the skin protected and healthy.


While scientific research is still ongoing, the general consensus so far is that probiotics living on our skin are very beneficial to our skin’s health. That’s why, alongside the usual products containing cleansers or vitamins, you’ll find skincare products with prebiotics (remember they are the probiotics’ food).

Supplements vs. skincare

Prebiotic supplements

Nurturing the probiotics inside our body provides health benefits that spread outward throughout the rest of our body. We’ll call this the inside-out approach. These “gut” prebiotics are primarily found in supplements and certain foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, onions, garlic, asparagus, and the aforementioned kombucha.


You can find probiotics in supplement form to add some good bacteria back to your body if it’s been depleted.

Prebiotic skincare

Skin prebiotic supplements take the form of skincare products: lotions, washes, creams, and serums applied to the skin. These take the outside-in approach, applying prebiotics directly to the skin to nurture those probiotics found in our skin’s microbiome.


For instance, this SmartyPits Prebiotic Deodorant uses prebiotics to fight off odor (caused by unhealthy bacteria) by feeding the good bacteria in your armpits. This replaces the need for aluminum, which common deodorants use to fight off odor unnaturally.


Prebiotic supplements have been on the market a lot longer than prebiotic skincare products, but both feed probiotics on and inside our bodies. It’s uncertain which works better; it all depends on your body and how you feel after using the products. So give a lotion and try and see if you notice any improvements in skin cracking or dryness. And if your gut microbiome feels out of whack, try a supplement that’ll improve your gut health by restoring your probiotic health with yummy prebiotics.

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Can prebiotics help acne?

Prebiotics can indeed help the probiotics in your body treat acne. Probiotics in your skin can reduce inflammation, fight off infection, and strengthen your skin’s natural barrier. They can help restore moisture to your skin too.


Skincare serums with prebiotics can nurture the probiotics already living on your skin and keep them healthy.

Are prebiotics for me?

As with all supplements, consider consulting your doctor before taking any, but if you’re having some digestive issues or recently took an antibiotic, a prebiotic supplement may help you get back to normal.


If your skin is sensitive, cracking, irritated, or dry, a prebiotic skincare lotion, hand cream, soap, or deodorant may help restore your skin’s healthy bacteria to get it back to a moisturized state.


While the research is still ongoing, current data shows that prebiotics help our probiotics, which then protect and nourish the body, leading to better gut health and skin health!


Take a look at some prebiotic and probiotic made from natural ingredients sold right here at Grove.

Shop prebiotic & probiotic supplements and skincare

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