Phyla: Cassandra Bankson Approved!

Acne causes a lot of pain and suffering, but acne treatments often don’t help. Harsh acne products let us down time and time again, but we feel like we have no choice – we want clear skin, after all. But these harsh acne products are proven to cause a lot of skin damage, and often they do more harm than good.

Many acne sufferers, including one of our co-founders, have faced relapses, accumulated skin damage, gut issues, and serious medical risks like IBS, liver damage, and depression from these harsh treatments. The products that promised you clear skin cause redness, dryness, and irritation – all for short-term solutions where you’re only a relapse away from going back to square one. And as much as doctors and skin care specialists want to help, there has been no breakthrough innovation in acne skincare in the last 40 years.

The big question we faced as a team of scientists and acne sufferers was, “Why does clear skin have to come at such a cost?” We knew there had to be a better solution. Given the current harsh options and a lack of research in the acne skincare industry, it became Phyla’s duty to develop a healthier acne treatment that was not only safe, gentle, and effective to use; but also protected and nurtured your skin for life.

We turned to the microbiome for answers to this problem, and we found something interesting: a natural probiotic called phage, which is a harmless virus that kills only the acne-causing bacteria C. acnes. Even more fascinating, this phage is predominantly found on healthy skin, and it might be the reason why some people never seem to get a pimple! We were incredibly excited to have found this solution, and we have worked hard to overcome the many challenges to bring this revolutionary technology to market.

Our innovative acne product caught the attention of one of the most beloved skin care specialists on Youtube who our team knew and admired, Cassandra Bankson. As a cystic acne sufferer herself or as she likes to call, a “cyster”, Cassandra fully resonates with our company’s mission and our co-founder’s own experiences with acne, and she became very intrigued with our product’s technology and the work that goes into developing it. So we invited her to our facility in Petaluma and our research lab in San Francisco to give her an exclusive look into Phyla’s unique production process.

Throughout the day we were able to show Cassandra and her team around our lab facilities, educate them on the importance of the microbiome and the live probiotic (called bacteriophage) that we discovered in our lab, and discuss how we stabilized and incorporated this probiotic into our products to provide a safe application for our users. The brand new type of skin probiotic we discovered kills the bad bacteria associated with acne and keeps the good bacteria to help balance the skin’s microbiome. Strong and healthy microbiomes tend to be more diverse with both good and bad bacteria, which makes the skin more resilient towards common skin concerns like acne.

Our brand’s approach to combat acne by maintaining a healthy skin microbiome, rather than getting rid of its appearance on the surface provides a more gentle and natural treatment to those who face these problems. As discussed in our video with Cassandra, this live probiotic is naturally found on healthy skin which also makes it safe to use everyday, unlike traditional acne products. In our San Francisco lab, Cassandra viewed samples of our phage with our co-founder and CEO, Dr. Yug Varma. They discussed the struggles of acne, why traditional acne products fail, and how Phyla’s technology solves acne by removing the root cause of the disease.

A few of our key core values as a company is to provide full transparency behind our product’s technology, and to keep our innovative solution accessible to those who have found no cure after trying all the acne products on the market. Given Cassandra’s platform and her experience as an esthetician, our team was very thankful to be given the opportunity to showcase the cutting edge findings we are bringing to the skincare industry to both her and her audience.

Try our products risk-free with our 60-day guarantee! For more information about our product’s technology and an inside look into our production process, watch Cassandra Bankson’s visit to the Phyla facility here.

How Do You Discover and Develop Your Probiotics?

Phyla acne care system science and discovery

Our discovery starts in our advanced biotech labs, where we have developed a platform to discover and catalog the hundreds and thousands of microorganisms in the skin microbiome. We noticed that one microorganism, a phage, seemed to be a key difference between samples from healthy skin and acne skin. Some of the latest microbiome research also points to these phages being a differentiating factor between healthy and acne skin. This led us to wonder whether the organism plays an active role in keeping skin blemish-free. You see, this phage naturally targets Cutibacterium acnes (C. acnes) with deadly efficiency, and C. acnes is the prime bacterial cause for acne. So what if this phage could help balance the microbiome by keeping this acne-causing bacteria in check, and provide a natural and gentle way to get blemish-free skin?

We collected a large library of C. acnes phages using our platform technology, and through full genome sequencing, we were able to check whether any potentially harmful behaviors were encoded in these phages. Phages have two types of lifecycles, or two ‘flavors’ – lytic and lysogenic. The lytic phages are always in ‘kill mode’, while the lysogenic phages have an additional ‘dormant mode’ that makes them slip into the bacteria’s genome, where it can make the bacteria more nasty and virulent. We only selected the obligatory lytic phages for our use, and we made sure that their genomes didn’t carry genes for antibiotic resistance.

Once we had a small group of phages with all these beneficial properties, we tackled the next challenge – how do we keep phages alive in formulation? All skincare and beauty products contain antimicrobial preservatives. This is necessary so your face cream or lotion doesn’t grow bacteria or mold once you open it, or while it’s sitting in your warm, humid bathroom. Unfortunately, these preservatives would also kill any probiotics that you might want to put in it. At this point, if you’re asking, “Wait, does that mean that my probiotic skincare doesn’t have any live cultures?”, well, that’s a blog post for another day.

Back to our problem: how can we keep these phages alive in a serum, without compromising on the safety of our products? First, we had to select the hardiest, most stable phages from our collection. We performed several assays and tests, and finally landed on our most stable phage – codenamed MEPA-012. Then we looked for other research on formulation with live phages, but there is almost no work that’s been done on this new type of probiotic. Thus, we had to start from scratch. We tested cosmetic ingredients one by one, to determine whether they were compatible with our phage. We first tested preservatives that would keep our phage alive. Luckily for us, since phages are metabolically inactive (kind of like the dormant bacteria in probiotic supplements), certain preservatives that target active metabolic processes were fully compatible with our phage. We built on these results and tested numerous oil phases, emulsion systems, emollients, humectants, and thickening agents. We finally built up a huge database of formulation know-how, which helped us understand not only how to stabilize our phage in a serum, but also how these ingredients affect our skin microbiome. 

You see, we use a lot of products on our skin – it is estimated that women apply an average of 515 separate ingredients on their skin every single day. There is not much research on how these ingredients affect our microbiome, and our internal testing shows that many commonly used cosmetic ingredients kill beneficial members of our skin microbiome. Our focus is on minimizing the burden and effect of skincare ingredients, so that they care for the skin, and don’t suffocate it. To this end, we designed a system that you can use daily to control blemishes and breakouts, without any of the harsh side effects like redness, dryness, and irritation. We’ve designed each product with a minimalist ethos, and we don’t use any ingredient that’s on the banned list of cosmetic ingredients in Europe – a much more stringent list than the US. We recognize that cleansing, treating, and moisturizing are some of the basic functions of a daily skincare regimen. (Sunscreen is also very important, and we’re working hard to solve that need too!) In our testing, most moisturizers would kill the phage, and so if you moisturize right after applying the serum you wouldn’t see any benefits from our probiotic. We built our moisturizer to be light and hydrating – like a cloud – while preserving the phage on your skin. Thus, the system works in tandem to optimally support the integration of the live probiotic on your skin.

How do you test your probiotic?

Once we isolated and fully characterized the phage, we grew it up in order to incorporate it into the serum. This manufacturing process was developed fully in-house, using the advanced expertise of the founders in fermentation R&D and pharmaceutical biologics manufacturing. Starting from all vegetarian components, we developed and scaled a highly efficient manufacturing process to obtain a concentrated and highly purified phage stock. All our manufacturing processes are supervised and validated by a third-party quality inspection team, and we go over and above the requirements of cosmetic ingredients manufacturing by adopting more of a pharmaceutical-grade approach. This is part of our brand DNA, and it reflects the scientific roots of our products. You can find more technical details of our manufacturing and testing process here.

Our probiotic is tested for purity and identity by third-party labs, and all of this documentation is kept on file for every batch we make. The founders are instrumental in every step of this process, and their knowledge and obsessive attention to detail ensures that every batch meets the highest standards of quality and purity. 

A critical part of testing is the safety of our products on human skin. Even though all our ingredients are certified green and cruelty-free, we perform extensive safety testing with volunteers to adhere to, and surpass, the industry standards. We use third-party services to provide unbiased safety testing results on all our products, and they have reported a perfect response (no irritation or sensitization) on 100% of subjects.

Since we have live phages in our serum, we take great care to ensure that the phages are at optimal levels at all times. The phages are extremely stable in refrigeration, but since they are a live culture they do have a more limited shelf life at room temperature. We have extensively tested and evaluated the stability of live phages in our serum at room temperature and elevated temperatures, as well as the effect of shipping on their potency. We are proud to report that the phages are extremely stable in all these scenarios. As such, we recommend that you keep the serum refrigerated until you use it, and then you can keep it at room temperature for your everyday use. We still recommend that you keep it refrigerated if you can, because it delivers a lovely cooling effect on your skin. This is especially welcome on inflamed or acne-prone skin, but in general, it provides your skin with relief and comfort at least once or twice a day.

probiotics for the skin

The Phyla System Probiotic – Quality by Design

Phyla Acne Care System Science

The Phyla System has been designed with our customers in mind using minimal ingredients and keeping all of the bad stuff out! Did you know that there are over 1500 banned cosmetic ingredients in Europe but only 10 in the USA? We designed and manufactured our product with rigorous quality standards to make sure the product was safe, non-toxic, and beneficial and all of our ingredients are neither banned in the US or in Europe. Our products are 100% animal component-free which means we are 100% vegan. We also do not test any of our products on animals and never will. We are Leaping Bunny Certified as 100% cruelty-free. Our products have been tested and are free of phthalates, parabens, and artificial fragrances. We are also nut-free, gluten-free, and use non-GMO plant-based ingredients.

When designing the Phyla System, we took great care to make sure that every ingredient was safe. We wanted to share some information about the probiotic ingredient in the serum and the quality by design principles that we established in the manufacturing process and testing process. As we have shared in other blogs, the probiotic we use is a C. acnes bacteriophage is found naturally on healthy skin. This probiotic targets the bad bacteria that are responsible for acne allowing the rest of the bacterial community on the skin to flourish. We want to be clear that this is not a medical treatment or phage therapy but a first-in-class cosmetic probiotic for the skin. Take a look at our Blog on “What is a probiotic” for more information.

Now, when we designed the manufacturing process for our probiotic we decided to keep this process in-house at our GMP manufacturing facility in Sonoma County CA to maintain control of the manufacturing process dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s. Our facility is 100% animal component-free and we follow all of the cosmetic products regulations and guidelines, but more importantly, we actually take this to the next level and follow many pharmaceutical guidelines as well which is not required. The proprietary probiotic ingredient is manufactured in small batches under cGMP quality systems (these are called current good manufacturing practices and you might read about these on labels of high-quality supplements you purchase). The manufacturing process that we use involves fermentation like other probiotic products but we use all vegetable-based components in this fermentation process which is actually quite hard to do! The final purification of the probiotic makes sure that the final product in the bottle is the bacteriophage in a stabilizing buffer and nothing else – we test the potency of the product in-house too to ensure that the phage is doing what it is supposed to do! We then further send out samples of this ingredient to a qualified independent third-party laboratory to test the product for safety and purity. We do this for every batch that we make. Once we have all of the testing complete, an independent Quality Manager reviews all of the manufacturing and testing records and if everything looks ok, signs off that this is released to be incorporated into the serum, then we transport this to our manufacturer who makes the final serum and bottles the product.

Now another thing that folks might wonder about is the stability of our probiotic serum. How stable is your probiotic? Is it still ok when you ship it to me? We have undergone rigorous stability testing to ensure that the probiotic in the serum is stable for a very long time refrigerated, at room temperature for about 2 months, and then even heated up in an incubator which is as warm as the body temperature for 2 full days! We have continuous ongoing cGMP stability testing and if any product fails to meet a specification, it will not be sold to our customers. We also have done mock shipping studies where we have shipped the serum across the country and subjected the serum to many temperature fluctuations and environments over a 2 week period. Once the serum was returned back to our facility, we tested it and the serum is completely stable with the probiotic remaining exactly the same as the way we manufactured it. Good news right? We do recommend that you refrigerate the serum once you receive it to ensure the integrity of the product as we do notice that the potency does start to decline a bit after several weeks at room temperature. The serum also is very soothing when applied chilled, so that’s an added bonus. We are working on a room temperature stable formulation as well for the future so stay tuned!

Here’s another question we get – is the probiotic safe? We have tested the probiotics on hundreds of volunteers and we have had no reports of any adverse effects whatsoever. The product is also currently in an ongoing cosmetic clinical trial with results coming out soon!

We are very excited to have our product now available for consumers and stand behind the quality systems, manufacturing, and testing that we have done to ensure that the product is of the highest standards and is safe! Thanks for reading and if you have any further questions send us a note at

The Phyla System has been designed with our customers in mind using minimal ingredients and keeping all of the bad stuff out!

Are Phages Safe? Addressing the Safety of the Probiotic We Use

Phyla's acne care system is based on science

Phages are an integral part of our microbiome. They are tiny microorganisms – viruses that kill bacteria – and are nature’s best defense against bacteria. They are so numerous that over 1,000,000,000 (yep, that’s a billion!) phages pass through our body every day. Thus we are constantly in contact with multitudes of phages, which are considered completely benign. In fact, they barely interact with human cells at all!

The phages that we have discovered kill only the bacteria associated with acne Cutibacterium acnes, or C. acnes. Research has shown that these phages are naturally present on healthy skin, and they have likely coexisted with healthy skin for a very long time. Thus, these phages are completely natural and completely safe. In our biotech labs, we isolated several of these phages that target C. acnes and selected the ones that are highly stable and do not contain any harmful or problematic features in their genomes. This means that our phage will not cause antibiotic resistance, or create any superbugs. In fact, by hopefully lessening the use of antibiotics, we will be a part of the solution to the antibiotic crisis we are facing.

During the development and testing of our proprietary probiotic ingredient, we have followed, and routinely exceeded, the requirements for probiotic ingredients. This includes extensive safety testing and pharmaceutical-level manufacturing of this key ingredient. We’ve developed our acne care system with the highest levels of quality, and as a brand, we value real science and transparency of our methods and practices. Further, we think that most acne products are incredibly harsh to the skin and can lead to skin damage and premature aging. Our acne care system is far safer to use, as it delivers results without all those unwanted side effects like redness, dryness, and irritation.

phage probiotic acne care

How Is Phyla’s Probiotic Technology Radically Different?

Phyla's Phortify Probiotic Serum

We bring hard scientific results to skincare and are going where no one has gone before because Phyla started off as a biotech company.

Our probiotic is actually a bacteriophage or a phage. Phages are viruses that exclusively target bacteria, and they’re extremely widespread in the environment and in our body. In fact, phages are such a common part of the microbiome that about a billion of them pass through our bodies every day! Phages have never been used for acne before, and we are proud to be the first.

So are phages a probiotic? Here’s the definition again: “live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”. Viruses are certainly microorganisms, and they DO confer a health benefit in adequate amounts. So they certainly fit the definition! In addition to several scientific studies showing that certain phages are very efficient in specifically killing bacteria associated with acne, we have data showing excellent safety of phages when applied to the skin. We’re also wrapping up a larger study to look at the effect of phages on acne-prone skin, and we’re excited to share this with you very soon!

Now some might say that since phages are viruses, they are not strictly living. That’s true since phages are considered not quite living, and not quite non-living. However, if you consider a probiotic supplement, the bacteria in that pill are about as alive as the phages in our serum. They are not metabolically active or dividing, but when they hit the gut they will become active. In the same way, the phages in serum are dormant and only activate when they hit the skin. Cool, right?

As a microbiome researcher, to me, it’s more accurate to say that they’re in a non-metabolic state. That’s just a fancy way of saying ‘dormant’, since phages come to life once they come in contact with their bacteria of choice – the kind that causes acne, in this instance. And then they wreak havoc on their target, killing every one of them in the vicinity until there are none left. They do this with breathtaking elegance and precision, and they don’t target any other beneficial bacteria in this process. 

Phyla's targeted acne care technology

What Makes Phyla Different from Other Acne Products

What makes Phyla acne care different

What Makes Phyla Different from Other Acne Products

Traditional acne treatments use harsh chemicals like benzoyl peroxide and adapalene to treat your acne. Not only are these ingredients ineffective in the long term, causing endless cycles of relapse; but they are incredibly damaging to the skin. In fact these ingredients have also been shown to trigger inflammatory pathways associated with aging. Thus, prolonged use of these damaging ingredients causes premature aging and comes at a significant cost to healthy skin. Unfortunately, there has been no meaningful innovation in acne since retinoids were introduced in 1982, which makes it nearly 40 years of stagnation in acne care. 

Phyla is the world’s first and only acne care line to incorporate live phages, the first TRUE skin probiotic. Bacterial overgrowth is a central cause of acne, and recent breakthroughs in skin microbiome research have unveiled mechanisms by which Cutibacterium acnes, or C. acnes, inflames the skin and causes acne. Phyla is building on this important work, and we have discovered novel probiotics, called phages, that exclusively kill the acne bacteria, without harming the good bacteria on your skin. These phages are found on healthy skin.  We make and purify them to the highest standards in small batches for stable incorporation into our serum.

With harsh chemicals like benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics, and retinoids, your skin accumulates damage that is irreversible and evident only years later. By using phages to recalibrate your skin microbiome, not only are we setting you up to have truly healthy skin for life, but you can do this without compromising your skin’s health. A third of people who find benzoyl peroxide effective have to stop using it, because it is too irritating and inflaming to their skin. The Phyla system is so gentle that you can use it every single day for years, with none of the redness, dryness and irritation of other products. With regular use, the Phortify Probiotic Serum also evens skin tone, reduces redness, and soothes inflammation.

What Makes Phyla Different from Other Acne ProductsPhyla is the world’s first and only acne care line to incorporate live phages, the first TRUE skin probiotic.

The Phyla™ system was designed to give you the great-looking and healthy skin you deserve. Unveil what nature gave you by being kind to your microbiome.

The Truth about Fungal Acne, and What to Do If You Have It

The Truth about Fungal Acne, and What to Do If You Have It

What is fungal acne? Like most people you are probably hearing a lot about this and googling “what is fungal acne?” When reading on the internet it is so confusing! So as any responsible scientist would do, I took a look at NCBI to see what has actually been studied or published on this.

Here’s some knowledge that hopefully will help to simply put your mind at ease.

What is fungal acne, how is it different from regular acne, and how to treat it?

Normal acne is caused by p acnes that lives on all of our skin but when it overgrows it causes the inflammation in your pore that leads to acne. When you have fungal acne, which is very rare, it is caused by a fungus, not a bacteria. The fungus is usually Malassezia which is the same fungus that causes dandruff. Normally fungal acne should not occur and is super rare because the microbiome of the skin/face should protect you. But when you take something or do something to your skin that damages your microbiome, then it is no longer able to protect you and then this fungus can grow on your skin.

How do you tell if you have fungal acne? You will get the bumps on your skin like normal acne but they will be very itchy, so that is the first clue that you might be experiencing fungal acne. Additionally, it will burn to the touch if it is really bad. But don’t depend just on this. We recommend going to a doctor to have it checked out. If a doctor does diagnose you with fungal acne they will likely prescribe an anti-fungal pill which you will take orally or they will prescribe a cream that you would apply to the skin. The good news is that fungal acne should respond very quickly to this type of treatment.

Just remember that fungal acne is super uncommon and is caused by a fungus, not a bacteria. It is quite itchy and if you think you have it go to a doctor to be sure as they can easily treat this with anti-fungal medications.

Thanks for taking the time to read and if you have any questions be sure to send us a note!

Phyla Acne Care What Is Fungal Acne

How Our Technology Works

To understand how our technology works, and why our approach is so revolutionary, let’s see how current acne products work. It’s important to note that the active ingredients in all acne products out there have an antibacterial effect – from over-the-counter products to strong prescription medication. Benzoyl peroxide and antibiotics simply kill all the bacteria they touch – they don’t discriminate between good and bad bacteria. This isn’t a good option, because other than being very harsh on your skin, they cause massive disruptions in your microbiome, which can leave you susceptible to skin infections. Also these harsh measures inevitably lead to recurring acne, since the bad strains tend to be more resilient and craftier than the good guys. Does any of this sound familiar to anyone who’s had to deal with le zits?

Retinoids are some of the most effective acne treatments we have, and it works by remodeling skin. It shrinks your pores and drastically cuts down on oil production, so it literally shrinks and starves the P. acnes out of its home. Of course, the heavy helping of side effects of retinoids comes with include extreme dryness and skin irritation, birth defects, liver damage, depression and suicide. For an acne drug. Oh, the things we do for clear skin.

And the fact is, since acne occurs in our youth when our skin is resilient, we are so eager to get rid of it that we don’t think twice before we bombard our fragile skin with all sorts of intense and harmful chemicals. Harsh substances like benzoyl peroxide and retinoids have been shown to activate pro-inflammatory pathways in our skin, which are also involved in aging. So while you’re desperately trying everything under the sun to push the acne off your skin, you don’t realize that in 20 years you’ll be wondering why your skin looks so much worse than it should, and what you could have possibly done differently.

Salicylic acid is a gentler, milder option than these, and kills P. acnes indirectly. Since P. acnes is anaerobic, it needs a clogged pore (aka whiteheads and blackheads) to keep the oxygen out. Salicylic acid is keratolytic, which means it breaks up these clogs and exfoliates the skin, exposing the P. acnes to oxygen and stopping it in its tracks. It also lowers sebum secretions, and robs the P. acnes of some of its food.

So it seems like all these products try to limit the growth of P. acnes indirectly, but they all do this in an indiscriminate way, killing both good and bad bacteria and being incredibly harsh on acne skin that needs to be treated with TLC. In an ideal world, we would simply get rid of the acne-causing bacteria without disturbing the good community of bacteria on our skin. Ideally, we could do so without being harsh on the skin, treating it with the care and consideration it deserves. Ideally, we could use this soothing treatment that gently reshapes your microbiome to health, well, forever. Without side effects. Without redness and irritation. Without irreparably damaging your skin and aging it prematurely.

The thing is, your microbiome is kind of like a beautiful garden that you tend and nurture with care. One day, you see a weed in your lawn. What do you do: douse the whole garden in gasoline and set it on fire, or just scoop up the weed and replace it with a patch of grass? Every time you use benzoyl peroxide and antibiotics on your skin, you’re basically setting your microbiome on fire. And up until now, you’ve had no option.

Here’s where we come in. We’ve discovered a brand new type of skin probiotic, called a bacteriophage (phage, for short). It eats bacteria, and it’s incredibly specific. It’s found in our skin all the time; in fact, it’s found far more frequently on healthy skin, and there’s a hypothesis that its natural occurrence correlated with the absence of acne could mean that it causes some people to never break out. Its specificity means that it will never kill or inhibit the growth of neighboring good bacteria, and because it is naturally found on healthy skin, we know (and have proven) that it is incredibly gentle on your skin and can be used every day without any harsh side effects. More excitingly, since it specifically kills P. acnes only, you can now eat all the spicy food you want, sweat as much as you like, and there will be no overgrowth from the bacteria feasting on your sebum. This means that over time, as the phage continually reshapes and recalibrates your microbiome towards health, you will see the long-term benefits of being acne-free – in the healthiest and gentlest way imaginable.

We’ve figured out a way to keep the phage alive in our formulation, which is no mean feat, and we are the world’s first true skin probiotic – no ground-up dead bacteria, no bacteria from yogurt or dirt. Our probiotic is a microorganism that lives selectively on healthy skin, and is probably the cause of healthy skin. Maybe some people are born with it, but we want to democratize this probiotic and make it accessible to everyone – so that we all can have the great-looking healthy skin we deserve.

phage probiotic acne care