Strengthening your skin’s immunity can make you look younger.

You've come down with the dreaded winter cold. First load up on vitamin C, drink lots of fluids, and maybe even take some probiotics. Then try the same approach with your skin care. Turns out, your skin is the body’s true first line of defense and remedies for a weak immune system can also have a positive effect on the health of your complexion. Recent research (including numerous articles1 published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology) reveals the important role skin plays in the immune system2, which is why beauty brands are launching new products designed to enhance skin’s defenses, reversing the signs of aging, and leaving your complexion clearer and smoother.

"Immunity is a hot topic in dermatology right now," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in the Dermatology Department at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. "Besides playing a vital role in maintaining hydration, the outer layer of skin also protects the body from free radical damage and infections," he explains. The skin’s immune system is responsible for fighting off aging attackers like UV rays, dryness, pollution, and stress. While antioxidants (like vitamin C) prevent free radicals from stimulating chain reactions that lead to cell damage, immunity-boosters provide cells with the energy to fend off aggressors, as well as to repair damage after the fact. "When working properly, a healthy skin barrier can protect itself and resist aging," says Zeichner.  

That’s why supplements that aim to improve health from the inside out are gaining popularity, as well as topical immunity boosters that claim to reverse acne and aging. A 2013 UCLA study4 published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that acne-prone subjects lacked a certain strain of surface bacteria, suggesting that skin needs good bacteria to keep the bad in check. New York gastroentologist Roshini Raj, MD, co-founded the Tula skincare line based on the principle that applying probiotics to skin has been shown to stimulate elasticity and collagen production. Zeichner agrees, adding that probiotic supplements can lower the inflammation that causes systemic damage to the skin too. If you’re interested in an immunity-boosted beauty regimen, check out these products and start strengthening your immune system and your skin:

The Beauty Chef Glow Inner Beauty Powder: A probiotic powder that also contains prebiotics (plant fibers that promote the growth of existing good bacteria) to make skin more radiant.

Good Belly: A favorite of celebrities like Jessica Chastain and Justin Timberlake, this vegan probiotic drink contains lactobacillus plantarum 299v. According to Raj, “when ingested, probiotics benefit the skin from the inside out. By lining the gut and creating a healthy and sealed barrier, they can prevent system-wide inflammation that might trigger acne or rosacea.”

Immunocologie: This skin care line is based entirely on improving the immune system. Its Vital Oligo complex contains 15 minerals that energize the immune system and combat dryness, sagging skin, dark circles, and eye puffiness.

Osmosis Restore Immune Repair Elixir: An oral supplement that contains an immune-supporting oxygen molecule called trioxolane that helps heal age spots, reduce pore size, and calm inflammation.

Phyto-C’s SuperHeal O-Live Lotion: A moisturizer that contains olive leaf extract, which is known for its ability to fight bacteria like staphylococcus (which is abundant on skin), allowing your face to fend off other aggressors.

Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate: The result of two decades of skin immunity research in partnership with Harvard Cutaneous Biology Research Center, this serum uses a mix of Bulgarian rose water and the CM Glucan yeast to target protective Langerhans cells in the skin’s epidermis, causing an immune response that promotes collagen production.

Too-Faced HangoveRx: A makeup primer that combines naturally antibacterial coconut water with probiotics like lactobacillus to improve skin tone, texture, and moisture levels.

According to Zeichner, these products can be used in addition to any morning antioxidants or nighttime retinoids that are already a part of your ritual. Will taking your daily dose of bacteria become just as essential as your moisturizer? Only time will tell.   

Sources:

  1. Skin and the immune system
  2. Healthy and disease-affected skin
  3. Atopic dermatitis and the stratum corneum
  4. Anti-acne skin bacteria