I just came across Clinique’s Redness Solutions Makeup SPF 15 with Probiotic Technology ($24.50) and paused for several reasons. First, I’m prone to, shall we just say, a little flushing and am always intrigued by possible solutions for skin redness. Second, Clinique’s products have been getting notably smarter in recent years and are beginning to standout amongst department brands. Third, there’s this thing called “probiotic technology”.  Hmm, probiotics seem to be fashionable these days, but how did they get from yoghurt to my makeup? And what’s behind all the probiotic hype anyway?

Probiotics are live microorganisms thought to be healthy for the host organism. They are also called "friendly bacteria" or "good bacteria. The world is full of microorganisms (including bacteria), and so are people's bodies—in and on the skin, in the gut, and in other orifices, as the National Institutes of Health put it. Interactions between a person and the microorganisms, and among the microorganisms themselves, can be crucial for health and well-being.

When things get out of whack (think irritable bowel syndrome or ezcema), probiotics are said to help. And so, live probiotic cultures are available in fermented dairy products (yogurts), probiotic fortified foods and topical applications.

The problem is that there isn’t much research to back up probiotic use. A key difficulty is that the human body is home to some 400-500 types of microbes. In such a diverse environment, it is tricky finding the right bacteria for the right job.  And some probiotic strains don’t do anything at all. Some might do harm, according a trial on a mixture of six probiotic bacteria that increased the death rate of some patients.

In 2005 In November 2005, some evidence was presented that showed that probiotics could prevent and manage atopic dermatitis (eczema) in children. But at the same time, it was cautioned that any beneficial effect was usually low, a strong placebo effect often occurs; and more research was needed.

As far cosmetics are concerned, the claims made for probiotics seem to stretch credulity. It is said that constant attack from the sun, pollution and chemicals, leads to imbalances that cause wrinkles and “products with probiotics balance the microflora of the skin, returning it to a naturally healthy state.” Probiotics are said to balance the pH of the skin,  which in turn reduces inflammation and redness. Hence, its presence in Clinique’s redness reducing foundation.

The so-called probiotic can be found in the ingredients as lactobacillus ferment. This is found in other brands that espouse probiotics, such as Chantecaille, Lancome and Nude.  I could find no independent evidence that lactobacillus ferment (usually derived from soy milk) has any effect on the skin, or specifically on acne, rosacea or pH balance

Ingredients in Redness Solutions Foundation:

Active ingredients: octinoxate 5.90%, zinc oxide 3.70%, titanium dioxide 2.90%

Ingredients: water\aqua\eau ,methyl trimethicone , phenyl trimethicone ,dimethicone , triethylhexanoin ,butylene glycol, trimethylsiloxysilicate ,peg-10 dimethicone, lauryl peg-9 polydimethylsiloxyethyl dimethicone , c12-15 alkyl benzoate, lactobacillus ferment, citrus grandis (grapefruit) peel extract, magnolia grandiflora bark extract, poria cocos sclerotium extract, astrocaryum murumuru seed butter, glycerin, caffeine, sodium myristoyl sarcosinate, caprylyl methicone ,methicone , polyglyceryl-6 polyricinoleate, disteardimonium hectorite, isopropyl titanium triisostearate, dimethicone crosspolymer-3, lecithin, tocopheryl acetate ,laureth-7 ,dimethicone/peg-10/15 crosspolymer, sodium chloride, dipropylene glycol ,disodium edta ,aluminum hydroxide, polyaminopropyl biguanide ,phenoxyethanol ,[+/- mica ,titanium dioxide (ci 77891) ,iron oxides (ci 77491, ci 77492, ci 77499)] <iln37379>