This review discusses the role of pre- and probiotics with respect to improving skin health by modulating the cutaneous microbiota. The skin ecosystem is a complex environment covered with a diverse microbiota community. These are classified as either transient or resident, where some are considered as beneficial, some essentially neutral and others pathogenic or at least have the capacity to be pathogenic. Colonisation varies between different parts of the body due to different environmental factors. Pre- and probiotic beneficial effects can be delivered topically or systemically (by ingestion). The pre- and probiotics have the capacity to optimise, maintain and restore the microbiota of the skin in different ways. Topical applications of probiotic bacteria have a direct effect at the site of application by enhancing the skin natural defence barriers. Probiotics as well as resident bacteria can produce antimicrobial peptides that benefit cutaneous immune responses and eliminate pathogens. In cosmetic formulations, prebiotics can be applied to the skin microbiota directly and increase selectively the activity and growth of beneficial 'normal' skin microbiota. Little is known about the efficacy of topically applied prebiotics. Nutritional products containing prebiotics and/or probiotics have a positive effect on skin by modulating the immune system and by providing therapeutic benefits for atopic diseases. This review underlines the potential use of pre- and probiotics for skin health.
Keywords: prebiotic; probiotic; skin health; skin microbiota; synbiotic.