The Microbiome in Skin Care: Challenges and Opportunities

August 2018

A key driver in the evolution of skin care is the “microbiome”, or the micro-organisms that naturally occur on human skin. As consumers increasingly turn to products that improve long-term health, interest in skin care products that contain prebiotics, probiotics or postbiotics, or are “biome friendly” are exploding in popularity, particularly in Asia Pacific. However, innovation in this space is not without its challenges, and not all products are seeing the same level of success.

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Innovation in skin care is increasingly focused on addressing the skin microbiome

Consumers of skin care products are very aware of the potential damage that external factors (antibacterial agents, pollution, etc) can have on the long-term health of their skin, and are turning more and more to products that not only address cosmetic concerns like fine line reduction or moisturisation, but that also improve future skin health.

Ease of market entry means that smaller companies are competing with global beauty heavyweights for this market space

Lack of a standard definition of “probiotic skin care”, coupled with lenient regulations for probiotic skin care products, means that it is very easy for smaller companies to compete for market space with long-established beauty heavyweights like Elizabeth Arden, though a high price point has kept products from entering mainstream skin care.

The movement of “big pharma” into this space is a clear indication that this trend will only continue to grow in popularity

Several big pharmaceutical companies (Johnson & Johnson key among them) are moving toward incorporating probiotics and/or biome-friendly components in their skin care products. Investment by “big pharma” in developing products to respond to consumer demand means that new brands are likely to be introduced in the coming years, and that the market for these products will become more competitive.

Despite huge popularity and early success stories, there are significant challenges to growth, including lack of standardisation, technology and regulations, lack of consumer education, and high price points

Probiotics and the microbiome in skin care are the biggest driver in the growth of science-based skin care products, and it is likely that this growth will persist in the coming years. Important challenges remain, though, and may result in some slowing of growth if they are not addressed concurrently with product expansion and innovation.  


Key findings

The Microbiome in Skin Care

Microbiome in skin health
What causes damage to the microbiome? (1)
What causes damage to the microbiome? (2)
Changing epidemiology of skin conditions plays a role too

Consumers Driving Demand

Consumer demand shifting toward protection and defence
What is driving the protection trend?
Consumer demand shifting to products with multiple benefits
The hype is real
Four main ways to enhance skin care to address the microbiome


Why prebiotics?
Prebiotics in skin care is not a “new” thing: just look at the ingredients
La Roche- Posay’s prebiotic skin care line has been an immediate success
OSKIA builds on early successes with its sulphur-based line
Aleavia’s use of plant-based prebiotics keeps its line botanical


Not all probiotics are the same
Prebiotics, probiotics, and postbiotics
Though probiotics are new to skin care, there are already success stories
YUN is the first company to add probiotics to water-based creams
Gallinée’s patented Triple Biotic Complex breaks new ground
ESSE Skincare corners the sensitive skin market
Mother Dirt and AOBiome lead the way in the US market
TULA personalises the experience with a Skin Quiz for consumers
Clinique uses non-active bacteria to address skin redness
Aurelia branches out with luxury miniatures and a children’s line
Lack of a common definition leads to increased competition
Azitra uses filaggrin to target eczema
BASF looks to build 3-D models of the skin to reduce ageing
Givaudan aims to “turn on the microbiome” with Revivyl
Pharma and beauty heavyweights are getting involved too

Opportunities for Growth

Innovation beyond skin care
Long-term health and quality ingredients drive consumer choice
Start-ups challenge global beauty heavyweights
Asia Pacific driving demand
Probiotics capitalise on the premium segment
Working with the digestive microbiome
Getting dermatologists on board

Challenges to Growth

Challenges to probiotic skin care (1)
Challenges to probiotic skin care (2)
Will probiotics lose ground to “biome friendly” products?
Postbiotics must also be considered
An uncertain future

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead


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