This Fancy Bacteria Is A Skin-Care Savior

When we think about our skin, the last thing we want to ponder is bacteria. Because, ew. But whether you want to talk about it or not, your skin is crawling with the stuff. Chew on this little tidbit from a research paper in Nature Reviews Microbiology: "The skin is also an interface with the outside environment and, as such, is colonized by a diverse collection of microorganisms — including bacteria, fungi, and viruses — as well as mites." Yup. Many of those bacteria, such as P. acnes, are just chillin' on your skin, feasting on the sebaceous secretions of your pores, without a care in the world. Everyone has this particular bacterium, but it's not always benign; if your skin has increased sebum production, it can cause the bacteria to grow rapidly. This, in turn, causes inflammation, and, ipso facto — oh hi, pimples. But not all bacteria are evil. In fact, probiotics, which encourage the growth of "good" bacteria and prevent the overgrowth of "bad" bacteria, are extremely beneficial for your health. According to many dermatologists, probiotics can do the same thing for your skin as they do for your digestive tract. When the bacteria on your skin are balanced (not going haywire and getting inflamed), it means the odds of your skin having issues like acne or rosacea are going to be reduced. At least, that's the hypothesis. There still aren't a lot of studies that have researched the positive effects of topical probiotics on the skin; the focus, rather, has been on ingesting them. Still, there is some anecdotal evidence that these little microorganisms can do wonderful things for your complexion. Which is how I found myself lying face-up as a trained aesthetican slathered my face with bacteria goo post-facial. Now, I should mention here that, on my face, extractions can usually be referred to as "challenging." There are quite a few blackheads hanging out, waiting to cause havoc, and they are hell-bent on staying right where they are. Add to that the fact that I am the biggest baby about pain, and let's just say I've had more than a few facial pros throw up their hands in frustration and just slap a clay mask on. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on which way you look at it), Carrie Lindsey, the talented aesthetican based at Brooklyn's Shen beauty boutique, refused to be deterred. After what has to be one of the most exhaustive, whiny facials she's probably ever given, she wiped the sweat from her brow and pronounced me blackhead-free — or, as close to it as possible. I took one look at my red, splotchy face and silently had an emotional meltdown. Lindsey must have seen the look of abject terror on my face because she instantly whipped out Aurelia's Cell Revitalise Rose Mask. She applied the probiotic-infused cream to my skin in gentle, circular motions and popped me under an LED light to "cook," promising me it would all be better in the morning. Okay lady, sure, I thought. I prepared to go home, have myself a good cry, and bring out my foundation big guns the next morning to try to cover the red mess. Well, this is me eating my words. The cream instantly soothed my recently traumatized skin and continued to work its wonders as I slept. I woke up the next morning to calm, smooth skin with just a hint of splotchiness here and there. Magic! "Aurelia Cell Revitalize Rose Mask is my go-to mask for soothing dry, irritated skin or post-extraction skin," says Lindsey. "The balance of rose and probiotics calm inflammation and aid in the elimination of topical bacteria." The cream can be used as intended, as a wash-off mask (Lindsey says to apply it for 30 minutes up to an hour and then remove), or as a sleeping mask if your skin is super irritated — i.e. my face. Lindsey notes that the mask is "nourishing for the driest of skin [and] healing for sensitive/irritated skin, on top of being balancing for all other skin types." And it's an absolute lifesaver on skin that's been bullied by cold winter winds. Basically, it's a jack of all skin-care trades. All I know for sure is: This kept my face from hyperventilating, which, in my book, is worth more than gold. Speaking of gold, this puppy isn't cheap — $100+ for a jar. But if you've got the cheese to drop on a fancy, bacteria-enriched cream, this should be the first place you look.

Cell Revitalize Rose Mask, $112, available at Shen.

More from Skin Care

R29 Original Series