Lactobacillus: What Is It, Skin Benefits & Side Effects

Exploring the use of Lactobacillus in skincare
Fact-Checker: Priya Singh
This article was last updated on: October 2, 2023
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Navigating the world of cosmetics can often feel like stepping into a sophisticated science lab, with its myriad of product labels dancing with chemical compounds and biological ingredients. With names that seem plucked straight out of a high school biology textbook, it’s easy to get lost in the jargon.

One such ingredient that is quietly making its mark in the beauty industry is Lactobacillus. The name might trigger flashbacks to biology lessons on friendly gut bacteria and fermentation processes, a strange concept to connect with glowing skin. Yet, this ingenious little microorganism is more than the name initially suggests.

In this article, we will delve into the world of Lactobacillus. We will explore why this ‘good bacteria’ is woven into the intricate fabric of some of our favorite cosmetic product formulations.

What is Lactobacillus?

Lactobacillus belongs to a group of friendly bacteria often associated with gastrointestinal health. You’ll find them in probiotics, fermented foods, and now, your cosmetics – showing up in specialist “probiotic skincare” lines that are designed to improve your skin’s look and feel by enhancing and supporting the skin’s microbiome (the microorganisms that live on your skin’s surface).

In the context of cosmetics, lactobacillus serves as a skin conditioning agent. It helps to moisturize and soothe the skin while also promoting a healthier skin barrier.

How does it achieve this feat? This probiotic microorganism interacts with your skin’s native bacteria. They sync with your skin’s microbiome to improve skin health and appearance. While the concentration of Lactobacillus will vary across products, it’s most commonly found as a part of a more comprehensive formulation of ingredients. On its own, it’s not typically found on the shelves as a singular ingredient product.

Who Can Use Lactobacillus?

One of the attractive aspects of Lactobacillus is its incredible adaptability. It is suitable for all skin types, from those with sensitive skin to those who are acne-prone. Lactobacillus can adapt to your skin’s unique ecosystem, providing benefits without causing irritation.

If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, the good news is that Lactobacillus typically comes from plant sources, making it an excellent choice for those pursuing a cruelty-free skincare routine.

As for pregnant or breastfeeding women, Lactobacillus is generally considered safe to use. However, as with any new product, it is always recommended to consult with a medical professional before making any changes to your routine.

Lactobacillus Skin Benefits

  • Improves Skin Barrier: Lactobacillus helps fortify the skin barrier, reducing potential harm from environmental pollutants and irritants. It can achieve this by producing lactic acid, which prompts the skin to produce ceramides. Ceramides are lipids that form the essential protective barrier of the skin, locking in moisture and warding off harmful microorganisms and pollutants.
  • Enhances Skin Moisture: The probiotic nature of Lactobacillus allows it to retain moisture and keep the skin hydrated. The lactic acid produced by Lactobacillus also helps maintain the skin’s natural pH balance, which can aid in preserving the skin’s moisture levels.
  • Calms Irritated Skin: Lactobacillus can help calm down skin inflammation and redness. It does this by reducing the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines – signaling molecules that promote inflammation. The result is a visibly calmer and more balanced complexion.
  • Promotes Overall Skin Health: Lactobacillus aids in maintaining a healthy skin microbiome, the complex ecosystem of bacteria on our skin. A balanced microbiome is crucial for skin health, as it influences everything from the skin’s ability to heal itself to its radiance and even tone.

It’s important to remember that while Lactobacillus offers significant benefits, these effects are not permanent. A consistent skincare routine containing Lactobacillus must be sustained to continue reaping these benefits, as the skin’s microbiome thrives on stable, nurturing care.

Lactobacillus Potential Side Effects

Keep in mind that skincare isn’t a one-size-fits-all world. Everyone’s skin is different – how our skin responds to a particular ingredient can vary dramatically based on factors like skin type, sensitivity levels, and even genetics. It’s essential to find your skin type to understand what ingredients can work best for you.

Potential side effects and interactions with Lactobacillus are minimal, but they include:

  • Skin Irritation: While rare, some people might experience skin irritation, especially those with extremely sensitive skin.
  • Allergic Reactions: People can have allergic reactions to Lactobacillus in sporadic cases. Signs of an allergy could include severe redness, itching, or hives.

If you experience any of these side effects while using a product with Lactobacillus, it’s essential to stop using it immediately and consult a dermatologist. They can provide you with personalized advice and possibly alternative solutions.

However, it’s worth noting that adverse reactions to Lactobacillus are uncommon. The ingredient is generally safe and effective for most people.

When trying any new skincare product, it is essential to carry out a patch test before using it broadly. This precautionary measure can help identify how your skin will react to the product – you can find our helpful how-to-do-it guide here.

Comedogenic Rating

Lactobacillus is typically given a comedogenic rating of 0. This means that it’s non-comedogenic and unlikely to clog your pores. This is primarily due to its probiotic nature, and it works more on a biological level than a physical level, impacting the skin’s ecosystem rather than interacting directly with the skin’s surface.

Therefore, lactobacillus is an excellent choice, even for those prone to acne or breakouts, because it reinforces the skin barrier and helps maintain a balanced bacterial environment.


Achieving your skincare goals often involves a blend of research, experimentation, and consistency. Among the myriad of ingredients you may encounter, Lactobacillus stands out with its unique probiotic properties. If you’re seeking to boost your skin barrier, retain moisture, and support a healthy microbiome, products containing Lactobacillus might be worth considering.

Despite the scientific-sounding name, Lactobacillus isn’t so much an avant-garde player as it is an unsung hero in the skincare world. As we become more aware of our skin as a living ecosystem, ingredients like Lactobacillus that improve that environment will likely rise in popularity.

When it comes to seeing the results of using products with Lactobacillus, patience is key. As with most skincare products, it takes time for your skin to adapt to the new ingredient and respond accordingly. Typically, you can expect noticeable changes over a few weeks of consistent use.

Your concerns about using Lactobacillus might stem from unfamiliarity or misconceptions. While its name may be associated more commonly with gut health and yogurt cultures, Lactobacillus in skincare is safe and beneficial for most people. If you’re committed to feeding your skin with ingredients that support its health and vitality, Lactobacillus might be a great addition to your skincare routine.

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