Probiotics have long been lining health shop shelves, touting all manner of gut-balancing properties. Chances are, most of us have taken an oral probiotic at one time or another in our lives. But, probiotics for the skin? Now, that’s something you’ve probably never considered. We know probiotics consumed orally have been shown to offer major benefits for the gut, but now, a breed of bacteria strains, designed to work from the outside in, is taking centre stage.
Just like the capsules you swallow to keep your gut happy, it is said that probiotics can have biome-balancing properties when applied topically to the skin. This discovery led to an arsenal of probiotic beauty products being developed around the world — from cleansers and serums to masks and mists — packed with different types of friendly bacteria that promise to soothe inflammation, strengthen the skin’s barrier and even tackle acne. But, in amongst the global noise, one South African skincare manufacturer is leading the pack with its scientific, results-driven approach to probiotic skincare.
Esse Probiotic skincare
In 2009, KZN-born Esse began its move into probiotic skincare off the back of exciting new research findings regarding the skin’s microbiome. It was discovered that our skin is a living ecosystem with human cells and resident microbes which each contributing to optimum skin health. This ecosystem needs to be fed and properly looked after, and that’s where Esse probiotic skincare comes in. The brand launched a range of probiotic skincare products designed to nurture the skin’s microbiome, thereby helping to protect the skin from pathogens, maintain effective barrier function, and prevent premature ageing.
While the probiotic skincare trend took off in the rest of the world, Esse was the first South African company to bring a live probiotic serum to market. With 1 million live probiotic microbes per millilitre in the Esse Plus Probiotic Serum, you can be sure that this product will get working for you from the moment you start using it. Of course, it also helps that the entire Esse range is completely natural, so your skin won’t be disrupted by synthetic chemicals and other weird stuff if you use them in tangent with the Esse Probiotic Serum.
How does the probiotic serum work?
Probiotics are live microbes that are good for you, they can shift the skin’s ecology to favour a diverse ecosystem that is healthy enough to resist attacks from pathogens and to slow the rate of ageing in skin by reducing inflammation. Esse says its products seed the skin with probiotics and feeds the skin with prebiotic nutrients to ensure an intervention in microbes that balances the ecology on the skin. To manufacturer its Ecocert certified organic products, the brand uses mild preservatives and rapidly biodegradable foaming agents, and the pH of all Esse products are kept at 5.
While the stresses of modern living are stripping our skin of its natural microbes, leading to premature ageing and reduced skin health, Esse’s Probiotic Serum seeks to ‘rewild’ the skin by creating an environment that allows your natural microbial diversity to return to normal. To do this, Esse makes use of pre-and probiotic actives in highly advanced organic formulas specifically designed to support your skin microbiome.
Rewilding the skin: hands-on with Esse’s Probiotic serum
Esse invited me to join the probiotic skincare movement and ‘rewild’ my skin using the Probiotic serum. A type of detox if you will, to get my skin and the natural microbes that live on its surface back to a more natural state of flow. To do this I had to get back to basics with my skincare. Esse encouraged us to ditch the morning cleanse, use the Esse probiotic serum at night, and pick one day a week to go make-up free.
It may sound irresponsible to ditch your morning cleanse, but the theory is that dropping the twice-a-day cleansing ritual is beneficial to help get your natural microbes behaving as they should. According to Esse, natural oils that your skin produces overnight are very ‘expensive’ (metabolically speaking) to produce. Research has led to the discovery that these oils are very useful to healthy skin microbes. By removing them, we compromise our skin microbiome and open the playing field to unwanted bacteria. So, for this experiment I was encouraged to just rinse my skin with a little water in the morning, followed by toning and applying moisturiser.
I also didn’t struggle to pick a day to go make-up free. I’m lucky enough to work from home, so most days I don’t wear makeup. The theory behind this step is that no make-up means you can skip a cleanser all-together on that day. Esse says that for compromised skin, this is probably one of the most beneficial practices to get into if you’re wanting to restore your skin’s microbiome to its most natural state.
The last step involved using the Esse Probiotic Serum every night for 1 week before reducing the usage to every other day for 1 week, and finally reducing usage even further to 1 to 2 times weekly for maintenance only.
After a full month of using this serum and cutting back my skincare routine to the bare minimum my skin looked and felt amazing. I’ve only been using a very gentle Esse cleanser, Avène Thermal Spring Water, and Avène moisturiser on my skin along with the Esse Probiotic Serum and my skin is loving it. It really does feel like balance has been restored on my skin.
I haven’t struggled with ‘mascne’ as much, if not at all, and the texture of my usually dry skin has improved. The serum has an almost oil-like texture to it, and the rich formula of the serum has been particularly wonderful for my dry skin. After a month of using this serum religiously, my skin feels a lot more hydrated, and it’s looking plump and healthy.
I usually struggle with irritations on my skin during this time of the year, because of spring allergies but for now, my skin seems to be handling the spring season a lot better than usual. My skin isn’t as red and reactive as it usually is and there’s a good chance this is as a result of balance being restored to my skin by the rewilding process and the Esse Probiotic Serum.
Is the Esse Probiotic Serum for you?
While the Esse Probiotic Serum has been developed to benefit all skin types and concerns, it will prove to be particularly useful to those with sensitive skin and reactive skin, as well as acne sufferers. Probiotic skincare is also a great solution to anyone looking for something more powerful than your ordinary antioxidant serum aimed at tackling skin damage and sensitivity caused by pollution and environmental aggressors.
What’s more, the entire Esse brand gets a big thumbs up for its environmentally friendly practices. The products are ‘no harm’ with accreditation from PETA and Beauty Without Cruelty; certified by the Vegan Society; and they’re plastic- and carbon-neutral. The packaging is fully recyclable and the Probiotic Serum is beautifully packaged in recyclable glass. The packing of the serum was specially designed to be a true airless system so as not to interfere with the probiotics in any way. The outer glass unit houses a polypropylene bag in which the product is contained and once the product is finished, the top can be screwed off and snapped from its glass container to be recycled.
The Esse Probiotic Serum is available at Wellness Warehouse at R1,375 for 30ml.
After years of working as an Editor and writer for popular websites like Joburg’s Darling, Cape Town’s Darling and Joburg.co.za, Crystal left her sanity and an established career in lifestyle journalism behind to follow her dream of creating a website for the intellectual and discerning woman. Today she spends her time chasing the thrill of being the first to know about ‘the next big thing’. She’ll try anything once and has been known to put her body, hair and health on the line – all in the name of research.