Breakthrough makes skin care based on friendly bacteria possible

Date: 22 November 2016

Introduction: A collaboration between biotechnology firm YUN and the University of Antwerp leads to the development of probiotherapy for the treatment of acne, athlete's foot and vaginal infections.

Thanks to groundbreaking research the University of Antwerp and biotechnology firm YUN have been able to develop a new technology that takes care of common skin concerns with probiotherapy.  The research team identified a number of friendly bacterial strains that are strong enough to fight off harmful bacteria and fungi, without damaging the skin’s natural balance.  Additionally, brand new processes and compositions were developed to ensure these live bacteria maintain their activity after being processed into skin care products.  This means an important breakthrough in the fight against bacterial resistance and the overuse of antibiotics. 

Restoration of natural balance

Our skin has a microscopic layer of bacteria and fungi: the human microbiome. These natural microorganisms protect us against infections and irritations. When the balance of this natural protective layer becomes disturbed, problematic skin conditions such as acne, athlete’s foot and vaginal infections can occur.  We often treat these with antibacterial soaps, antifungal sprays and even antibiotics.  Although effective, these products damage the microbiome even further, leaving us open to new infections as the natural protective layer of friendly bacteria is stripped away too. 

Probiotherapy, on the other hand, restores and maintains our skin’s natural protective characteristics. Dr. Ingmar Claes, researcher at the University of Antwerp: “By applying live, friendly bacteria directly where the microbiome has been compromised, the skin is able to restore its balance and fight the problem off naturally.  It’s a more advanced skincare as the skin’s flora is left unharmed and there is no risk of resistance to treatment.”

Pioneers in probiotherapy

The Antwerp biotechnology firm YUN is the very first player worldwide to employ live bacteria to combat specific skin concerns.  With the University of Antwerp research team, it was able to select bacterial strains that are strong enough to fight off harmful ones. Additionally, they have developed a groundbreaking solution to keep the bacteria alive for a longer period of time. 

Prof. Sarah Lebeer: “We are starting to realise that there are lots of friendly bacteria that actually make us healthier. For example by restoring our intestinal microbiome or stimulating our intestinal transit. More recently, research has shifted its focus to the skin.  It showed us that regular preservatives in skin care products kill bacteria, including the friendly ones we so desperately need. In order to avoid this we’ve developed a number of alternative processes and formulations.  Thanks to, among other, microcapsules we are able to keep our bacteria in a watery state for a long period of time, for example in a skin cream.  The bacteria are kept in a dormant state, without being killed or losing their effectiveness. Only when they come into contact with skin do they become active again.”

Opening the way for skin products for the consumer

The combination of the patented YUN bacteria and the technology that makes it possible to apply these bacteria directly to problem areas has opened the door for the development of innovative skin treatments that maintain the natural skin flora. This gives YUN a world first in the race for sustainable solutions against the overuse of fungicides and bactericides.

“We are absolutely convinced that our children will benefit when we start loving our bacteria instead of combating them with every possible means,” says Tom Verlinden, CEO of YUN. “Nature has its own way of maintaining balance, so let’s use it.  The idea of fighting bacteria with bacteria is beautiful in all its simplicity.  I was immediately sold on the research of prof. Lebeer. Probiotherapy – using friendly bacteria to strengthen your natural biome – offers the most amazing opportunities for better treatment of common skin concerns.”