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What's the Difference Between Probiotic, Prebiotic, & Postbiotic?

There are pretty significant differences but they're all working toward the same goal.

Prebotics contain non-living components that are targeted to help beneficial bacteria thrive so they can out-compete the bad bacteria. 

Probiotics contain live beneficial bacteria meant to help balance your biomes.

Postbiotics are previously probiotic solutions that are no longer alive.

Why Do I Need Bacteria On My Skin?

Your skin has a biome and needs a healthy population of helpful bacteria but they are often killed in the friendly fire of harsh cleansers and anti-acne products that aim to remove the bad bacteria.

Your benzoyl peroxide cleanser doesn't know the difference between bacteria that cause acne and the bacteria that keep you healthy.

What Are the Benefits of Prebiotic Skincare?

The goal is to have so many good bacteria in your skin biome that there isn't room for bad bacteria.

Think about your skin for a second as a fight between the good bacteria and the bad bacteria. 

Probiotics are like adding troops to the good side.

Prebiotics make the troops you have better and stronger.

A prebiotic moisturizer helps feed your good bacteria so they can thrive, leaving no room for acne-causing bacteria. 

In my experience, prebiotic moisturizers have been most effective in balancing my complexion.

What Are the Benefits of Probiotic Skincare ?

Probiotic skincare is similar to your doctor telling you to take probiotic pills for your stomach. Your digestive system needs helpful bacteria to function so when you've been sick, you replenish your gut biome with probiotics.

It's the same with probiotic skincare products. They help restore your skin's biome.

Where Are the Probiotic Moisturizers Then?

That's a very good question. I have yet to find a moisturizer that is actually probiotic. There are plenty that are advertized as probiotic but they do not contain live cultures. 

If a product contains probiotic bacterial but does not contain live cultures, it's postbiotic. 

The scientists at ISAPP (International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics) have an article specifically about this: Dead bacteria – despite potential for benefit – are not probiotics.

The title sort of covers exactly what's in the article. A lot of industries are using probiotic and postbiotic interchangeably and these scientists are not having it. 

They give one example of someone claiming that sourdough bread is probiotic. Eating uncooked sourdough dough would be probiotic (and unwise) but once the bread has been baked, all those probiotics are now postbiotic. 

Postbiotics are still highly beneficial to your skin but not for the reasons the word "probiotic" would make you think. Postbiotics are the non-living ferment (which your skin can use as a prebiotic) as well as whatever those bacteria were producing which include skin-happy enzymes and things like lactic acid, a well-trusted chemical exfoliant. 

Postbiotics are great for your skin but it's frustrating that they are so mislabeled. 

So Why Is The Article About Probiotic Skincare?

Because this is the word you're going to find on the products. If you want biome-centric skincare, "probiotic" is the term the industry is going with most of the time, whether or not it is scientifically accurate.