Meet The Pharmacist Putting Bacteria In Your Skincare Regime

When French pharmacist Marie Drago was diagnosed with pyoderma gangrenosum and Crohn’s disease after a three-month course of antibiotics, she remembered reading a study about the health benefits of a probiotic diet. She gave it a shot and, after around 10 days, her digestive symptoms were gone. “Everyone is different and something that worked for me doesn’t mean it can work for everyone, but for me the changes were quite dramatic,” Drago explains. “I also found it had a very positive impact on my anxiety.”
A probiotic diet is made up of food and drink containing live microorganisms that are beneficial for the body. Yoghurt is the most well known, packed with friendly bacteria, while kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and tempeh are all popular. These fermented foods work with the body’s own bacteria and, in some people, have been found to reduce depression, settle digestive health, and even clear the skin.
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During her experience, Drago educated herself on the world of probiotics and bacteria. For those of us who didn’t pay attention in science class, this all begins with microbiomes. “Now that DNA sequencing is becoming cheaper, we can really start to explore this world. Think of it as your own personal rainforest: huge, fragile and still being explored. We’re mainly concentrated on the gut microbiome (because it seems to be linked to so many modern plagues like obesity, depression and loads of autoimmune diseases), but the skin microbiome is now coming into focus, too. So on one hand you have this amazing discovery of this brand new microbial world living on/in/with us. On the other hand, we are discovering that antibiotics, pollution and our modern lifestyles might be destroying a very important part of our own ecosystem, with serious consequences.”
So what exactly are the benefits of probiotics in skincare? “Probiotics used in cosmetics tend to come from the lactic acid bacteria family (lactobacillus). They have a soothing effect on the skin, as they seem able to modulate inflammatory response from the skin,” Drago explains. “So they will be good on sensitive skin, or to prevent ageing. It’s all due to the anti-inflammatory effect of probiotics, that seems to reduce inflammation mechanisms triggered by the immune system overreacting. Less inflammation means less skin damage, so in effect preventing skin ageing.”
Keen to bring her personal experience together with her pharmaceutical background, she set out to found a skincare brand that would shine a light on the positive impact of probiotics. A relatively new area of science, Drago’s research didn’t turn up many results, so she decided to work with a French university to do the testing herself. Eventually, Gallinée was born, an edited range of products that bring pre- and post-biotics to your bathroom shelf. But she wanted to take the premise one step further. “For me, after bringing probiotics to your skin, the next priority is to care about the bacteria that’s already on your skin, and help them help you. At Gallinée we do that using prebiotics and post-biotics. The beneficial bacteria on your skin (95% of them) have several roles, that still need to be understood.” For example, Drago says the good bacteria on the skin “contribute to the makeup of the 'acid mantle', the physical layer of protection of the skin. They will also reduce the transepidermal water loss and thus help fight dehydration.”
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Like many of the most successful skincare brands right now, Drago decided to launch with a small range of products. “I’m quite a lazy person, and I wanted to create simple products that I would actually use myself.” The brand’s offering, with her patented Triple Biotic Complex running throughout, includes the body milk, a nourishing formula with firming bogbean and hydrating sweet almond; a fast-absorbing shea butter hand cream; a 98% natural and non-drying foaming cleanser; a two-in-one radiance-giving white clay face scrub and mask; and a highly concentrated facial moisturiser, which is packed with 30% active ingredients (most skincare products have between five and 10).
Our verdict? The formulas are perfect for sensitive skin but, during winter, ideal for any skin type. Lightweight (with no greasy residue), the creams curtail excess oil but deliver the hydration hit you need during colder months. What’s brilliant about the range is its ability to tackle more specific skincare issues, too. For those with rosacea, psoriasis, acne or eczema, you’ll see a noticeable difference within a few days. “The more we study these skin conditions, the more we understand they’re caused by a bacterial imbalance, so it makes so much sense for these conditions.” Meanwhile, Drago has her sights set firmly on the future of probiotics to treat acne: “For me, the big U-turn coming soon is going to be how we treat acne. I think in five years no one will use antibacterials anymore, but instead try to grow beneficial bacteria.”
Is a probiotic diet essential when using Gallinée? “I think it’s a nice combination,” says Drago. In fact, she has worked with chef Antonia Magor to create a gift set that includes Magor’s cookbook, comprising 25 pro- and prebiotic recipes, plus a trio of Gallinée products. Having tried out the range ourselves over the course of a week – and seen the results – we’re looking forward to prebiotic skincare becoming a wider-researched and formulated area of the beauty industry. Who knew bacteria in our bathroom would ever be a good thing?
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