The value of consuming probiotics has long been documented. Probiotics, found in supplements, yogurt, kombucha and other fermented foods are essentially bacteria, which are good for your gut health and digestion. They’re the bacteria your microbiome needs to be healthy. But your gut isn’t the only part of you with a microbiome. Thanks to discoveries made by the Human Microbiome project, we now know that our skin has its very own microbiome, home to trillions of microbes. These microbes permeate deep into the skin structure and work with your own cells to perform the complex chemistry that keeps your skin radiant. Much like your gut microbiome, your skin microbiome is passed down from your mother; and your environment as well as the products you use, continuously shape it.
The skin biome is the ecosystem of microorganisms that live on the skin. Yes, your skin is teeming with millions of bacteria, fungi and viruses, which much like the microbes in your gut, impact the way your skin feels and looks. Using products with harsh chemicals on your face can destroy the good bacteria along with bad, leading to a microbe imbalance which according to studies is the cause of skin conditions acne, rosacea and psoriasis.
The thinking behind putting probiotics in skincare is simple. If eating probiotics can heal our guts, which can lead to better skin; can applying probiotics on our skin improve its health directly? Esse Skincare believes the answer is yes.
Trevor Steyn, founder of Esse Skincare is emphatic about the impact of probiotics.
“Genetic sequencing techniques have allowed us to view skin through a new lens. It’s now clear that skin is an ecology, an intricate interplay between human cells and microbes. Trying to optimise skin health without considering microbes is archaic. We consider the skin microbiome in every product that we formulate.”
There are 4 possible ways for probiotics to be included in skincare, Dee Steyn of Esse, explained to me. Level 1 products use “broth” from a microbial soup as an ingredient, Level 2 products utilise probiotic extracts, Level 3 products use whole microbes and Level 4, uses live whole probiotic microbes. Dee explained that Esse does not refer to level 1 technology as probiotic. Esse makes use of Level 2, 3 and 4 for their products.
The majority of the Esse skincare range is made using level 2 technology, utilising probiotic extracts.
These probiotic extracts are called lysates because the probiotic cells are ruptured, killing them in the process. In this technique, the probiotics are again cultured in a nutrient-rich substrate but instead of filtering them off, the cells are broken so that their cell contents leak out before the mixture is filtered. This method results in an “extract” that contains the cytoplasm (cell contents) of probiotic microbes.
With Level 3, the microbes are kept whole but they are killed with heat. This process is called tyndallisation and here the culture of probiotics is heated to 60 °C and cooled again over three days. These probiotics can still dock onto skin cells but obviously can’t grow and divide to significantly alter the skin’s microbiome. Esse uses this technology in their ground breaking, world first Probiotic Serum and the Toner Plus.
For the past month I have been exclusively using 4 Esse Skincare products as my daily skincare routine. Esse Sensitive Cleanser, Esse Toner Plus, Esse Nourish Moisturiser and the star, Esse Probiotic Serum. To say I love them is an understatement, but to be honest I’m not surprised. I’ve used their gel cleanser before and loved it, and as I found out, the rest of their range is just as good, if not better.
One of my favourite things about the range, is how good each product smells. Four steps may seem like a lot, but I love the ritual of it and how each product gives me something new. I do my full skincare routine at night and it signals to me that my day is over. As someone who wears little, if any makeup, the way my skin looks naturally is important. I’m happier to spend more time and money on my skincare than time and money on makeup to cover up my skin. Appearance wise, there hasn’t been a huge change. The biggest difference I am finding is that my skin is noticeably softer, I haven’t experienced any winter dryness. Midway through the month I had a small breakout which seemed to be a pesky hormonal/cycle breakout. It cleared within a week and other than that, my skin has remained clear.
Here’s my thought on every product I’ve used.
Esse Sensitive Cleanser
The Esse sensitive cleanser has prebiotics and level 2 probiotics. The active ingredients in it are a probiotic extract of Lactobacillus and organic aloe vera gel to soothe and calm the skin. It also has Marula Oil, Jojoba Oil, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. Out of the 4 products, I love the way this smells the best, despite the fact that it’s 100% natural and fragrance levels are below 0.03%. It’s a creamy cleanser, does not irritate and removes makeup. It’s incredibly gentle and soothing. I tested the makeup removal claim by using it to wash away eye shadow and mascara and it worked, without irritating my eyes.
Esse Toner Plus
The Esse Toner Plus is a probiotic defence spritz with level 3 probiotics. Using Biome+ technology it packs in a cocktail of prebiotics and probiotics which stimulate the secretion of antimicrobial peptides, increases the diversity and number of beneficial microbes on the skin, and stimulates the skin’s immune defenses. It’s the first spritz Toner I’ve used and I wonder why more companies aren’t using this method. You spritz it and then pat your face dry. It’s also a lot gentler than most toners and doesn’t leave your skin stinging afterwards.
Esse Nourish Moisturiser
The Esse Nourish Moisturiser was designed to boost barrier function in dry, sensitive skin. Skin that has a good barrier function prevents moisture from leaving too rapidly and keeps toxins and opportunistic microbes out. It has prebiotics as well as level 3 probiotics and Low Molecular Mass Hyaluronic Acid. The combination of the above boosts hydration has an anti-ageing effects and boosts the skin condition and plumps the skin. It’s a super light moisturiser and spreads well which I love as it doesn’t leave my skin feeling greasy. Best of all every morning I wake up to super soft skin.
Esse Probiotic Serum
The Esse probiotic serum is the premium Esse product and a world first. It contains level 4 probiotics. It contains one billion live probiotics which are activated as you rub it into your skin, complementing your natural microbial diversity and helping to create the ideal microbiome to slow the ageing process and firm your skin. It’s applied before the moisturizer and much like the moisturizer is an incredibly light product. It’s one of the most expensive products, but you need just a little for one application, so it’ll last a long time. My skin is noticeably softer, but people have also reported it helping with acne and eczema. It’s won numerous awards and I believe lives up to the hype.
My month testing this Esse Skincare range may be up, but my use of Esse is only just beginning.
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Zissy is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to make things, do things and wear things.