After working in the beauty industry for nearly a decade, we know when a product is hyped for reasons beyond being the new new. Microbiome skincare is hot hot hot right now, and biophile skincare is leading the pack when it comes to innovation, ingredients and efficacy (especially for sensitive skin). Keep reading for alllllll the details.
By: Nicolle Mackinnon
IN THIS POST:
- Why microbiome skincare?
- What makes biophile great for sensitive skin
- What’s biophile’s ‘Biotic Broth’?
- Microbiome skincare routine: biophile skincare review (my thoughts!)
Hi, my name is Nicolle Mackinnon and I have sensitive skin. 👋
I’ve struggled with sensitive skin, breakouts, rashes, irritation, redness and reactivity my whole life. Often, in trying to protect or treat my skin, I wind up making it worse because I react to some new ingredient. I have an entire list in the notes on my iPhone of the ingredients I know I’m allergic or sensitive to.
I’m the person who brings her own pillowcase to a hotel because the bleach/detergent residue on the starched, in-room pillow will inevitably cause a breakout to appear on my face (like clockwork!). The adhesive on Band-aids gives me a days-long angry, itchy red rash wherever it touched. A formula with too much coconut oil actually dries out my skin, leaving irritated dry patches on my face.
Needless to say, I don’t mess around when it comes to skincare routines—and the nature of my job means I have A LOT of skincare to try. After trying more products than I can count, I don’t say this lightly: biophile is the best skincare system I’ve come across. Hands down.
I was incredibly skeptical about it, as products that are TOO active also cause irritation for me (here’s looking at you, plant-based “retinol”). My skin needs crazy hydration, and all the skin-soothing ingredients. I’ve experimented with so many products, trying to nail that perfect combination of ingredients to balance my skin. And nothing has even come close to the biophile trio.
With these three products, I rarely have to think about my skin—and that’s a first for me. Like, ever. Before biophile, I was constantly worried about how my skin looked, and felt. It was red and itchy, with blemishes popping up all the time, and unidentified rashes emerging overnight. I mean, how could I call myself a beauty editor when I had “terrible” (in my mind) skin?
Biophile’s unique combo of products changed all that. I have smooth, calm, hydrated skin when I’m using this trio. Even after a day in the sun or a harsh Minnesota winter stretch, my face is happy, with more of an even tone, fewer blemishes, less redness, practically no irritation. It feels like a small miracle to me. And I’m ready to shout it from the rooftops (jump to my product-specific review here).
Here’s why biophile is standing out amongst the dense probiotic-skincare crowd: They’re using the power of microbial fermentation to create highly concentrated, sustainable, pro-biome formulas with new levels of efficacy and purity. Grace and Alison, the brand’s co-founders, met through a mutual friend, and with a common mission to bring greater wellness to people through better, more sustainable products, they combined forces to bring biophile to market.
Just two years later, the pair launched biophile to a glowing reception at Indie Beauty Expo, where the Bio-Shroom Rejuvenating Serum was named “Best Face Serum” in 2019. We can see why—not only is the Shroom Serum (all products should have such fun names, don’t you think?) on our list of best-of when it comes to effective skin treatments, but the trio of products biophile brought to the market is a little mind-blowing to me.
It’s not only a unique formula with science-backed ingredients, but it’s also one of the most effective, gentle, powerful skincare routines I’ve tried. Jump to my review for the specifics, but first, let’s talk about why microbiome skincare is even a thing.
RELATED: Learn more about the biophile origin story here.
Why microbiome skincare?
Groundbreaking discoveries on the human microbiome have shifted our understanding of how the skin functions, Alison says, creating a whole new paradigm in how we should care for it. Not only is that an exciting new frontier for innovation, but it’s also a calling to create products in a whole new way. Alison explains:
“Microbiome research emerged in the late 2000s, and with it, we learned that not only are we more microbe than human (outnumbering our own cells by 3:1) but this universe of microbes that live in our guts and on our skin were key allies to our health. We learned that our microflora was essential for our skin immunity and protection from the elements, that it synthesizes nutrients, promotes a strong barrier and keeps our skin calm and hydrated.
We also learned that disruptions in this ecosystem (reduced diversity and balance) resulted in skin issues like acne, psoriasis, dryness, sensitivity and premature aging, and much of this was linked to our modern lifestyles and the skincare products we were using.”
Crazy, right? Alison says this was the “ah-ha!” moment for her: Combining her expertise in bio-science with her experience in natural skincare innovation, she set out to pioneer a new generation of advanced, clean beauty that would work synergistically with the ‘life force’ of the skin—our microbiome—to reach its full potential. And, instead of using chemistry, she wanted biology to lead the way.
So what does that look like in practice when it comes to formlating? Let’s start by breaking down some info about microbials.
Just like probiotic foods support the microbial health and diversity of your gut, says Alison, so too can they support the microbial life on your skin. “Probiotics in skincare are proven to be helpful for the microbiome, but these are not the only things we should be using to nurture the microbiome,” she says. “Prebiotics and postbiotics are equally (if not more) important and much easier to formulate with.”
Here’s the difference, in Alison’s words:
- Pre-biotics are complex sugars that selectively promote the growth of healthy bacteria on the skin while discouraging pathogenic species. [biophile] uses prebiotics that have been clinically shown to promote peacekeeping bacteria on the skin and increase skin barrier support, fight acne, calm and hydrate the skin, and boost overall skin wellness.
- Post-biotics: These are the rich metabolites and cellular fragments created through bacterial fermentation that consist of micronutrients and communication molecules shown to have a direct effect on the skin’s immunity, barrier health and microbiome vitality. This is what biophile’s Biotic Broth is all about (see more about the broths here).
- Pro-biotics: This is often inaccurately attributed to postbiotic ingredients, but probiotics are actually living bacteria in a formulation. The only difference between a living probiotic and a postbiotic or killed probiotic is that live probiotics also fight pathogenic bacteria through competitive displacement on the skin’s surface.
Biophile’s products contain Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, both of which are common in the oral, OTC probiotics on the market. Alison says that they chose those particular strains, which are both lactic-acid-producing bacteria, because they are the top probiotic players for the gut, and there has been some research to show these are beneficial for the skin as well.
Says Alison, “I selected 2 key strains from Lactobacillus and two Bifida strains that have been demonstrated to release compounds that strengthen the barrier, have anti-inflammatory action, hydrate, fight acne and even reduce wrinkles. Using these bacteria to create our fermented broths means all of those beneficial compounds these microbes release are captured into the broth and get delivered to the skin and biome.”
Now, biophile isn’t the first (and won’t be the last) brand to lean into the probiotic / microbiome skincare trend. But, biophile does stand out by not diluting these key ingredients with fillers, preservatives, silicones and more. Looking at the labels on other probiotic skincare brands, you might see inactive ingredients.
And much like sunscreen, those secondary ingredients are just as important. Says Alison, “Putting these ‘biotic’ ingredients in a harsh, chemical-laden formula will not do the skin any favors. It needs to be formulated clean and holistically for it to be beneficial.”
What makes biophile great for sensitive skin (and really, all skin types)
Though the biophile formulas are incredibly active and highly concentrated, they’re remarkably gentle as well. “We only use ingredients that are skin compatible and promote wellness,” says Alison, “the majority of which are made through fermentation.”
That fermentation process = one of the keys to being safe and effective for sensitive or reactive skin types. The natural process in which microorganisms break down substances into smaller molecules, makes them more powerful and effective while being gentler because of that skin compatibility.
Microbes also create postbiotics (like enzymes, amino acids, peptides and vitamins), says Alison, that are anti-inflammatory, nutritive and support the skin barrier and microbiome.
All of these goodies are within biophile’s Biotic Broths™, a nutrient rich superfood for the skin made by fermenting plant, fungi and superfood extracts with probiotic bacteria—and the second reason biophile is great for sensitive skin. 👇
These Biotic Broths™ are the backbone of the formulas (a.k.a. water phase), to which biophile’s team adds powerful actives, peptides and bio hydrators to make highly active formulas that are still gentle on the skin.
And how do these broths impact skin? “Once you switch to supporting your skin microbiome,” says Alison, “your skin will start to look and feel healthier. This means more balanced, hydrated, calmer skin that glows. People notice changes within the first week of use and they report that it just glows.” (We can attest—redness, irritation, reactivity, blemishes, dehydration…is all soothed with biophile’s trio.)
One question we run into regularly with skincare brands is how they preserve their formulas. Is it harder to stabilize a probiotic base, we wondered? Alison says the broth is its OWN preservative system, which is a beautiful synergy, IMO.
She says, “My strategy with using a lacto-fermented broth as the base is that it would be the probiotic base and preservative system all in one. Fermentation creates by-products like lactic acid, organic acids and antimicrobial peptides that all work to keep pathogenic bacteria and mold growth down while still being microbiome friendly.”
Plus, even though the biophile formulas are made with these fermentation broths and are very fresh, the probiotic bacteria in them are not actually alive in the final formula. “We stop the fermentation process at its peak time and then lyse the cells, capturing all of the nutrients they produce along with the cell wall material in the broth,” says Alison.
Translation? The shelf life isn’t significantly impacted when compared to other better beauty brands. Biophile is shelf-stable for 18 months, or 6 months after opening (best to keep them out of the sun and in a cool dark place).
RELATED: How to choose a probiotic for you.
Microbiome skincare routine for your sensitive skin: biophile skincare review
Biophile has 3 products in total (Essence, Serum and Oil) with highly edited ingredients that have multifunctional benefits and a lot of synergy with each other and the skin. This is designed to be a full regimen (except a cleanser, which Alison is currently formulating! Sign us up to be test subjects!).
Alison says that with the skin microbiome, less is often more when it comes to skincare. “Using a 10-step regimen with products with long ingredient lists puts a chemical load on the skin and microbiome that tends to weaken it. Best to use fewer products and make them count!”
I can testify to that: When I try to get too complicated with my skincare routine, my skin goes bananas (put your hands up if you can relate). That’s why this three-step system is so. good. It’s active, hydrating and efficacious, so you need little else in your routine. Here’s what Lisa and I love about each product.
Step 3: biophile Root Bionic Refining Essence | $78
Lisa jumping in 👋: I tried the entire biophie line and I truly believe the magic here is in the entire system when it’s used together. I have normal skin and I could not get over how plush and velvety my skin felt after using the Refining Essence, Shroom Serum and Bio Barrier Oil—I just kept feeling myself like, WOW! #truestory. That being said, Root Bionic Refining Essence is the product I flew through first. This is a 3-in-1 treatment that preps skin like a boss—even the most sensitive of skin types (just ask Nicolle).
You can use this two ways:
- Either a few drops applied to cleansed skin before your serum and moisturizer,
- OR you can dampen a cotton round and apply it to skin (which is my personal fave). In my opinion, this method freshens and lightly exfoliates in more of a manual, see-instant-results kind of way.
This treatment uses lactobionic acid (with antioxidant and prebiotic activity) combined with willow bark extract, hyaluronic acid and biophile’s nutrient-rich roots biotic broth to resurface, regenerate and support the skin’s microbiome.
My skin feels so soft, smooth and fresh after using this essence. And maybe it’s just me but I also love looking at a cotton pad after using it on my face. Something about seeing any residue on the round gives me so much personal satisfaction. Tell me I’m not alone!
Step 2: biophile Bio-shroom Rejuvenating Serum | $148
Nicolle again: While I love the entire biophile routine, this Bio-shroom Serum might be my favorite step. It’s a gel-like consistency with a really light, earthy scent. The amber formula feels instantly soothing on irritated skin, and it really packs a punch against stressed out skin with antioxidant and adaptogenic support.
How? Three powerful mushrooms. Chaga, reishi and tremella to be exact. Chaga, which has been shown in lab studies to have anticancer properties (1), is high in antioxidants, which can protect cells from free radical damage. Reishi contains high amounts of G. lucidum polysaccharides (GL-PSs), which are reported to exhibit a broad range of bioactivities, including anti-inflammatory effects (2). Tremella exhibits potent antioxidative, anti-inflammatory and anti-aging effects, and can act as a “potential therapeutic agent for oxidative-stress-associated skin diseases and aging” (3).
And it just feels like silk on my skin! Also, there’s no fermented scent. If you’ve used any probiotic skincare before, you’ve probably sniffed the vaguely Apple Cider Vinegar scent of the fermented ingredients. This Shroom Serum really just smells like aloe, which is refreshing and light.
Step 3: biophile Bio Barrier Nourishing Oil | $118
My sensitive skin was completely anti-oil until about two years ago. Any kind of face oil would contribute to breakouts and clusters of tiny bumps across my jawline and cheeks. I was still pretty much avoiding any face products that weren’t creams until this Bio Barrier Nourishing Oil was introduced to me. I was intrigued by the formula and after hearing more details from Alison about the line’s ingredients, decided to give it a go.
Best choice of 2020. This formula is luxurious and creamy, which is hard to achieve with an oil-heavy face serum. And when paired with the Shroom Serum—ugh! Heaven on my skin. Alison calls it the “plump and seal” effect, and my skin looks and feels brighter, plumper and more glow-y after using it, so I concur. Plus, you get that velvety finish Lisa was talking about. Like, THIS IS THE GLOW I’VE BEEN SEARCHING FOR.
Powered by fermented green tea seed oil, which penetrates skin faster and deeper, the Bio Barrier Nourishing Oil overflowing with antioxidants and adaptogens, like schisandra berry extract. Schisandra (also spelled shizandra) has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties, as well as being beneficial for strengthening skin’s membrane (4).
Plus, the oil contains known powerhouse ingredients like rosehip and red raspberry seed oil and sacha inchi oil. And again, the scent is spot on. It’s light, fresh and slightly citrus-y in a way that really vibes well with summer.
When used all together, the biophile skincare routine is my go-to for sensitive skin. It’s efficacy and how it makes my skin feel push it to the top of my list—and I cry inside every time my bottles are getting low.
Have you tried biophile or other probiotic skincare? What did you think?
The skin’s microbiome is comprised of a universe of microbes that live in our guts and on our skin—we’re more microbe than human (outnumbering our own cells by 3:1)! Microbiome skincare like biophile utilizes microflora to promote skin immunity and protection from the elements, synthesize nutrients, promote a strong barrier and keep our skin calm and hydrated.
Yes. Once you switch to supporting your skin microbiome, your skin will start to look and feel healthier. This means more balanced, hydrated, calmer skin that glows. Probiotics (and prebiotics) in the biophile formulas are incredibly active and highly concentrated, as well as remarkably gentle.
TOG Team Note: This article may contain affiliate links. TOG uses affiliate links as a source for revenue to fund operations of the business and to be less dependent on branded content. TOG stands behind all product recommendations. Still have questions about these links or our process? Feel free to email us.
1. Lemieszek, Marta Kinga;Langner, Ewa; Kaczor, Józef; Kandefer-Szerszeń, Martyna; Sanecka, Bozena; Mazurkiewicz, Witold; Rzeski, Wojciech; Anticancer effects of fraction isolated from fruiting bodies of Chaga medicinal mushroom, Inonotus obliquus (Pers.:Fr.) Pilát (Aphyllophoromycetideae): in vitro studies; International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 2011; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22135889/
2. Wachtel-Galor, Sissi; Yuen, John; Buswell, John A.; Benzie, Iris F. F.; Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition, Chapter 9: Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi), 2011; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92757/
3. Shen, Tao; Duan, Chao; Chen, Beidong; Li, Meng; Ruan, Yang; Xu, Danni; Shi, Doudou; Yu, Dan; Li, Jian; Wang, Changtao; Tremella fuciformis polysaccharide suppresses hydrogen peroxide-triggered injury of human skin fibroblasts via upregulation of SIRT1; Molecular medicine reports, August 16th, 2017; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5561887/
4. Szopa, Agnieszka; Ekiert, Radosław; Ekiert, Halina; Current knowledge of Schisandra chinensis (Turcz.) Baill. (Chinese magnolia vine) as a medicinal plant species: a review on the bioactive components, pharmacological properties, analytical and biotechnological studies; Phytochemistry Reviews, May 12th, 2016; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5378736/