"It seems like probiotics (the good-for-you bacteria that aid in digestion and promote gut health) are popping up everywhere—from your daily supplement regimen to your afternoon snack of kombucha and Greek yogurt. But what about putting them on your face?

If you’re wondering how a bacteria meant to help your digestive tract could possibly benefit your skin, Roshini Raj, MD, board certified gastroenterologist and internist, can explain.

“We’ve always understood that our digestive health can impact our entire body—everything from sleep and energy to overall body inflammation and immunity—and especially our skin,” Dr. Raj says. “Sometimes patients would walk into my office and I would know immediately that they were struggling with a GI issue by just looking at the state of their complexion.”

The gut-skin connection got her wondering whether that relationship could work in reverse. If orally ingested nutrients like antioxidants can be used topically to nourish the skin, could probiotics be applied the same way? Years of research led her to one answer: Yes.

“It’s not about ‘killing’ the bad bacteria, it’s about boosting the good and promoting the right balance.”

That discovery resulted in the launch of the probiotic skin-care line TULA, which employs its signature bacterial strains (plus lots of superfood ingredients) to strengthen the natural barrier your skin uses to ward off pesky inflammation-causing bacteria. To do so, TULA harnesses the power of probiotics to help balance the skin’s flora in the same way probiotics use their anti-inflammatory properties to help establish balance in the gut.

The balance between “good” and “bad” bacteria is why washing your face with bacteria-infused cleanser isn’t counterproductive, Dr. Raj says.

“When you wash your face, especially with harsh cleansers and soaps, you are removing both the good and bad bacteria from your skin,” Dr. Raj says. “Any disruptions to the balance of bacteria—too much bad—leaves skin susceptible to skin irritations such as dryness, inflammation, and infection.”

To put it succinctly: “It’s not about ‘killing’ the bad bacteria, it’s about boosting the good and promoting the right balance.”

But before you decide to swap your daily oral supplement for topical probiotic treatments, Dr. Raj recommends you give the two the chance to work together.

“Oral probiotics can do wonders for your internal health, and have a beneficial effect on skin as well, as skin cells develop internally on a dermal level,” Dr. Raj says. “However, oral probiotics and other supplements aren’t a replacement for topical skin treatments. In fact, these supplements make your skin-care products work even better.”

Hannah Crane