What Are Prebiotics & How Can They Help Your Blemish-Prone Skin?

You’ve likely heard of probiotics, as they have been considered pretty bionic when it comes to balancing and treating our gut microbiome. In fact, the first line of defense for almost anything gut-related is probiotics. But, when it comes to clearing your skin, it’s prebiotics that have the muscle to be the best blemish treatment.

Let’s back up: Essentially, our skin is covered with trillions of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. It is its own ecosystem, and it needs to stay in balance so that healthy bacteria can run off the bad bacteria.

You can compare this to the gut microbiome—something we hear more and more about. It wasn’t until recently that people started talking about healthy guts and leaky guts, and everything in between. And how the health of our gut microbiome affects many aspects of our health well beyond our bathroom habits. Well, your skin is no different. When the bad bacteria outnumbers the good bacteria, inflammatory skin conditions like acne strike.

If probiotics enjoy the reputation of being touted as “good” bacteria, prebiotics are the powerhouse that makes them grow and multiply, creating an army capable of fighting off bad bacteria. “Prebiotics are nutrients that help to influence the growth of ‘good’ bacteria. A classic example is that fiber is a prebiotic helping to support the growth of good bacteria in your gut,” explains Chris Caires, Perricone Chief Scientist.

“It’s like super-food for your face. We want to feed it beneficial bacteria so that they can grow and multiply and push out the unhealthy bacteria. In the case of blemishes, we use prebiotics shown by research to promote the growth of bacteria that can kill the dreaded P. acnes bacteria, which is responsible for clogging pores and causing blemishes.”


Research shows P. acnes is associated with teenage blemish. This inflammation of the sebaceous glands and hair follicles often occurs in puberty, as follicles mature, creating more of the P. acnes bacteria. The skin’s response is an blemish outbreak. Other studies have shown that increased levels of Staphylococcus bacteria are found in the skin of people with eczema. While it’s unknown whether the staphylococcus causes eczema or if the eczema itself is a breeding ground for the bacteria, it is clear that the bacteria on our skin’s microbiome affects what’s happening with our complexions.


According to research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, a review of studies testing probiotics and prebiotics used in dermatologic conditions reported a decrease in the atopic dermatitis (eczema) in infants, an improvement in acne, plus photoprotection and wound healing benefits.

In yet another study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, British scientists investigated the effects of prebiotics on the growth of blemish-causing bacteria on the skin to see if topically applied prebiotics could be as effective as topically applied antibiotics. After three weeks, they found a significant reduction in the inflammation of the bacteria without killing off beneficial bacteria (as antibiotics would). In 91% of volunteers, they noted a return to the skin’s natural, healthy equilibrium and a decrease in the “hold that the acne bacterium has on the skin of the sufferers.”

In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science, a topical product containing a 5% extract of these lysates was found to reduce acne lesion size and improve skin barrier function in patients with blemishes.


Think of probiotics as the yin to prebiotic’s yang. Probiotics like lactobacillus and bifidobacterium are found in kombucha, kimchi, and other fermented foods are “live active cultures. Think yogurt for your face,” explains Caires.

“But with probiotics, there are significant challenges since (like yogurt) products with living bacteria in them tend to need to be refrigerated and expire in a matter of weeks.”

This sets up a potential problem for creating a probiotic that is actually effective when applied to the skin.

What is sometimes found in skincare products touting probiotics is actually probiotic lysates. “These are bacteria, usually lactobacillus, that have been grown and then been killed and sterilized,” says Caires. “The cells break open which is called a lysate. The theory is that the molecules inside the bacteria cells can impart some positive benefits on the skin’s microbiome.”

In a 2012 study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science, a topical product containing a 5% extract of these lysates was found to reduce acne lesion size and improve skin barrier function in patients with acne.


Designed to restore balance within the skin’s natural microbiome, the patent-pending science behind Blemish Relief is the prebiotic approach. It’s a system that adapts to your skin’s unique microbiome to target blemishes without overdrying the skin (after all, you shouldn’t have to live with a new skin issue—like redness and scaliness—while trying to combat your original problem!).

Using naturally occurring prebiotics, Blemish Relief helps your skin safely and gently fight back against acne without disrupting its natural equilibrium. It’s the teamwork of powerful ingredients that really makes the dream work – in eliminating the blemish-causing bacteria.


The secret sauce in Blemish Relief Prebiotic Acne Therapy? Sucrose, an ultrafine sugar prebiotic that gently exfoliates and supports a healthy microbiome. It’s able to unclog pores and remove dirt and oil without stripping the skin of necessary, healthy hydration. Sucrose encourages the growth of good bacteria.


These fatty acids not only attack blemish-causing bacteria while also encouraging the growth of good bacteria, but they also quickly minimize current blemishes alongside salicylic acid (a beta-hydroxy acid which can exfoliate and shed dead skin that can clog pores).


This powerhouse ingredient, also known as vitamin B3, has the ability to impact a trifecta of skin issues by erasing the look of imperfections, visibly minimizing redness/balancing tone after a breakout and unclogging pores.


No wrinkle or acne-fighting product would be complete (or impactful) if it didn’t contain this superhero of the ingredient world. For acne sufferers, it helps ward off future breakouts by unclogging pores, and speeding up cell turnover. Safely inside a stable time-release system, it activates at the exact right moment and location within your skin.

“The reason people are using biotics is diverse–sometimes it’s to influence our skin’s own bacteria ecosystem,” says Caires. “Other times it’s to interact directly with our human skin cells. But in all cases, the desired benefit is always skin health, beauty, and wellness.”



Writer and expert