Tula is a cosmetics brand with an interesting premise: that topically-applied probiotics can improve skin quality. Their founder is a dermatologist named Dr. Roshini Raj, and the brand sells products for acne, anti-aging, dark spots and oily skin.
In this article we’ll review the ingredients in some of Tula’s most popular products based on published medical research to determine if they’re likely to be effective at improving skin quality. We’ll also analyze whether topically-applied probiotics have generally been found effective in medical studies.
Do Topical Probiotics Work?
The skin naturally has a variety of up to 1,000 healthy bacteria, referred to as the skin microbiome. When we refer to the “microbiome,” we’re typically referring to the bacteria in our gut, but we coexist with beneficial bacteria in the skin too.
Medical research has found that topically-applied probiotics can have a positive effect on inflammatory skin conditions. A 2022 review published in the Pharmaceutics journal found that topical probiotics have demonstrated positive outcomes for a wide variety of skin conditions: acne, rosacea, psoriasis and dandruff to name a few.
There’s also some early research that topical probiotics may be effective for anti-aging. A clinical trial from 2020 found that a topical probiotic called Nitrosomonas eutropha reduced the appearance of wrinkles.
Most of the research on topical probiotics is very recent. It looks promising, but we believe it’s too early to conclusively state that topical probiotics are effective. It’s definitely too early, in our opinion, to state that topical probiotics are effective for anti-aging.
We need more medical studies to determine which topical probiotic strains are effective for which skin conditions and/or aging skin. Just because one probiotic strain is effective doesn’t mean all are, because every strain has unique effects.
Tula Moisturizing Cream Review
Tula’s best-selling product is their moisturizing cream, called Hydrating Day & Night Cream. The brand claims it can provide “all day hydration” and “revive the appearance of dull and tired skin.” There’s also a claimed anti-aging effect.
This cream has 54 individual ingredients which seems excessive for a basic moisturizing product.
The product page advertises the inclusion of peptides, but we don’t see any peptides in the full ingredients list, which is quite strange.
The product page also advertises “probiotic extracts,” but we only identify one single probiotic extract on the ingredients list: Bifida Ferment Lysate. We were able to locate one medical trial proving that this ingredient had a beneficial impact on reactive skin, at a concentration of 10%.
There doesn’t appear to be any medical evidence that this probiotic is effective for skin hydration or anti-aging, and Tula doesn’t publish the concentration of this ingredient in their formulation, so we have no reason to believe it’s effective.
There’s also the extremely confusing statement that the product “does not contain live cultures.” Probiotics, definitionally, are live cultures. So Tula is marketing this cream as a probiotic cream but also noting that there are no live probiotics in the formulation.
Chicory root extract is another active ingredient in Tula’s moisturizer, and this does appear to be an effective ingredient. A recent medical trial published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment found that this botanical compound showed protective and restructuring effects on the skin when applied topically.
Patients using chicory root extract experienced minimized skin water loss and skin irritation compared to a control group during the trial.
Turmeric root extract appears to be another effective botanical ingredient in Tula’s moisturizing cream. A medical review found it to be especially effective for patients with skin conditions, likely due to its anti-inflammatory effect. The researchers noted “early evidence” of “therapeutic benefits for skin health.”
Tula touts the benefits of apple in their marketing to “hydrate & help smooth the look of fine lines and wrinkles” but we can’t find much evidence backing these statements. This formulation contains apple fruit extract, but we could only find one trial suggesting that apple fruit extract was effective for skin hydration, and the trial used concentrations much higher than would be included in Tula.
Generally the issue with skincare products containing tons of ingredients is that it’s near impossible to assess the efficacy of each ingredient because skincare brands never publish the dosage or concentration.
A medical study may find that green tea extract, at a concentration of 10% in a cream, is effective for skin aging when applied topically. If a skincare product contains 70 ingredients and green tea extract is one of them, this does not mean that product is necessarily effective, because the concentration of green tea extract could be 0.01%.
The first 5 ingredients in Tula Hydrating Day & Night Cream are: water, butylene glycol, ethylhexyl palmitate, squalane, and glycerin. Cosmetics products are required to list ingredients in order of relative dose, so we know that these ingredients are all more prominent in the formulation than the previously-referenced botanical active ingredients.
This moisturizing cream also has some questionable filler ingredients that we’d recommend avoiding. Fragrance is shown in medical literature to have potentially harmful effects on human health, and we always recommend avoiding skincare products containing fragrance.
Another extremely questionable ingredient in this product is butylphenyl methylpropional, also known as lilial. This is another synthetic fragrance ingredient that has been shown in a medical trial to be toxic to mitochondria and increase reactive oxygen species production. It was banned in the European Union (E.U.) on March 1 of 2022 due to toxicity concerns. The E.U. has much stronger consumer protections than the U.S.
Overall we don’t recommend this product due to the safety concerns. It has a few active ingredients which may be effective for skin quality improvement, but the synthetic fragrance ingredients make it too risky of a choice in our opinion. We also believe that keeping it simple in regard to skincare formulations is more logical than using a product with 54 individual ingredients without published concentrations. Since you’re only going to be using a small amount of a moisturizing cream, you’re likely to get an incredibly tiny dose of each of the 54 ingredients.
Tula Sunscreen Review
Another one of Tula’s most popular products is their sunscreen, called Daily Sunscreen Gel Broad Spectrum SPF 30.
This is a chemical rather than a physical sunscreen, and we discussed why chemical sunscreens tend to be worse for human health in our recent Elta MD sunscreen review article.
Avobenzone is one of the three active ingredients, and it’s been shown in a medical study to cause obesity-inducing changes to human cells. The linked study concluded that avobenzone “functions as a metabolic disrupting obesogen.”
Homosalate is the second of the three active ingredients, and also has concerning clinical data. A medical trial published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology in 2020 found that homosalate is cytotoxic (toxic to living cells), genotoxic (damaging to the genetic information in cells) and that it accumulates in living ecosystems.
Octisalate is the final active ingredient, and this appears to be the safest of the chemical agents used to prevent UV damage in this product. There still is lacking long-term safety data on this compound in our opinion.
Clearly we would not recommend Tula’s sunscreen due to the inclusion of two chemical sunscreen ingredients which we find to be potentially harmful to human health.
We only recommend physical sunscreen which is non-toxic and doesn’t pose the same risks of endocrine disruption as some of the chemicals highlighted in this product.
Tula Eye Balm Review
The final Tula product we’ll review is their eye balm, called Glow & Get It. It’s another one of their best-selling products.
Even though the skin around the eyes is some of the most thin and sensitive skin on the body, Tula includes artificial dyes in this product which we find to be totally unacceptable from a risk perspective.
Blue 1 is one of the dyes in Tula’s eye balm, and is proven in medical research to cause hypersensitivity reactions in some patients, so applying it near the eyes is unsafe in our opinion.
Yellow 5 is the other dye used in this product, and was found in the same medical review of food dyes linked above to be frequently contaminated with carcinogens (cancer-causing compounds), to cause hypersensitivity reactions, and to be genotoxic.
There is no need to review other ingredients in this formulation due to the inclusion of synthetic dye.
We have never reviewed a cosmetic product to date that included synthetic dye, and to include it in an eye balm shows a total lack of regard for consumer safety in our opinion.
We strongly recommend avoiding this product.