Probiotics For Acne & Skin Health: Everything You Need To Know

Nikhil Goswami

Coming face-to-face with a new round of acne breakouts can be scary, or at least stressful enough to make you desperate for a solution. Perhaps you have tried every sort of treatment to reduce your skin inflammation, yet your acne keeps coming back. 

Acne is by far the most common skin condition. It can greatly affect a person’s emotional state, causing frustration, confusion, and low self-esteem for people of all ages. According to Mayo Clinic, acne can be very persistent. In the past, doctors thought that acne was related only to hormonal fluctuations in teenagers.

Today, medical science delves into the types of and reasons for acne.  Some acne does not go away on its own after your teenage years. Moreover, researchers and dermatologists have concluded that several events can cause acne to flare up in individuals of any age. Left untreated, frequent acne breakouts can cause scarring, pain, and discomfort.   

Still, acne is hard to control because there is no one-size-fits-all approach for treating stubborn breakouts. Doctors often prescribe quick fixes in the form of different supplements or topical medications. The odds are what is beneficial for mouth-centric and chin breakouts will not work for occasional red bumps. A doctor will prescribe a different medicine based on the type, color, size, and location of acne. Therefore, consulting a licensed dermatologist is essential.

Medical professionals are trying to tackle this frustrating skin condition by developing newer and better solutions. One of the strategies is to control acne by understanding the relationship between skin health and gut bacteria.

Lately, the use of probiotics for acne treatment has been spotlighted. In this article, we will talk about the link between acne and probiotics. Also, we will highlight how can you take probiotics and how they may help your skin heal faster.


Acne is a scientific term that elaborates the process when there is clogging in the skin follicles. Follicles are a part of the skin that links the pores on your skin to the oil glands beneath it. 

The skin condition of acne is not categorized as one type of blemish on the human skin. In fact, acne is an umbrella term covering several types of skin blemishes. 

Doctors divide acne into two main types: inflammatory acne and non-inflammatory acne. Pimples or zits, cystic acne, nodules, and papules come under inflammatory acne. On the other hand, non-inflammatory acne is categorized by the absence of redness, pus, and swelling, as in blackheads and whiteheads. 

Generally, the human body can have different types of acne. You must have noticed different acne blemishes on different parts of your body and face. Any type of acne can occur anywhere on the body. However, there are certain areas that are more susceptible to developing certain kinds of acne. For instance, whiteheads and blackheads often appear inside the ears, on the nose, or on the forehead. Pimples and papules often occur on the chest, neck, face, and back. However, painful pimples under the skin, such as cystic acne and nodules, can appear anywhere on your skin.

Excessive release of sebum (your skin’s natural oils) from the sebaceous glands in your skin can clog your pores, along with dust and dirt from your environment. When your skin produces more sebum than normal, your skin is overly lubricated. It causes the trapping of dead skin cells that block your skin follicles. These blocked pores that appear as blackheads are the breeding house for inflammation and infection.

Some areas of your body produce excess skin oil, get clogged, and be infected simultaneously, such as your face. If the acne-causing bacteria is present in the blackheads, the spots appear as pustules (whiteheads) and papules (a painful red bump). Among various hormonal, dietary, and environmental factors, the effect of your gut microbiome in triggering acne stays a major consideration. 

What Causes Acne?

In more scientific terms, a bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) causes the development of acne, ruining your skin health. According to studies, P. acnes can get inside the pores of your skin, triggering an immune reaction that results in inflammation, ergo, breakouts. 

Besides bacteria, several other elements can trigger acne development, the most major one being hormonal changes. At different points in a person’s life, for example, puberty or around menstruation, hormonal fluctuations occur.  

Puberty especially is a time when the concentration of acne-triggering hormones can overly increase. That’s why most people begin to suffer from acne breakouts in their teenage years. Even reduced, hormonal shifts keep happening throughout your life. 

So, if you have acne-prone skin and your body goes through another hormonal shift, you may face episodes of breakouts again. Generally, most hormonal shifts happen during different life events, including pregnancy, menstruation, menopause, and aging.

While these events are related to the human body, other instances are linked to the environment. Environmental factors include stress, medications, reaction to skin care products, genetics, certain health diseases, and skin injury or abrasions such as sunburn. 

Genetics also plays a big role. Some people are just genetically more predisposed to acne. They have sensitive skin that is more likely to flare up at any hormonal shift or stressful day. 

Besides, your diet and the amount of water you drink align with your skincare routine, influencing your overall skin health. All these events and elements can contribute to some individuals’ recurrence and severity of breakouts.

How Can Gut Health Affect Your Skin and Why?

The human gastrointestinal system, or simply the gut, contains a blend of healthy and bad bacteria. A healthy gut houses a complex ecosystem of beneficial microbes living in the gut to create the gut microbiome.

It may sound as if these microbes are helpful only in the local gut functions. In fact, the gut microbiome’s influence is far-reaching and impacts the health of many other organs in your body. 

Scientists have implicated the role of gut health in the development of many common skin conditions, including acne, psoriasis, and eczema. The skin disorder that people often mistake for acne is rosacea.

Rosacea is a skin disorder that results in the formation of small bumps and visible blood vessels on the face. It gives your face an intense blushing effect. You can differentiate between acne and rosacea using the location of redness as a primary factor. 

When you have acne, the redness associated with the zits is localized around individual spots on your skin. However, in rosacea, intense skin flushing usually appears on the center of your face. 

The link between rosacea and gut has been demonstrated in a large study. The research concluded that many individuals with rosacea also suffered from gastrointestinal diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Gut and Immune Response

Your gut can impact your skin health directly through what doctors call the gut-skin axis. Since 70% of your immune cells are present in your gut, the gut microbiome can greatly influence the working of your immune system. 

Dysbiosis is frequently present in patients with acne, which can have a negative impact on their immune systems. Dysbiosis is a condition when there is an imbalance between the healthy and harmful bacteria in your gut. 

When your gut has failed to maintain a healthy balance between good and bad bacteria, your body may produce inflammation or gut infection as a response. Due to gut infection, the gaps between the cells lining your gut increase, resulting in a leaky gut. 

Moreover, the bacterial by-products are harmful to your body that should be eliminated. When your gut wall lining is weak, these by-products leak through the lining and enter your bloodstream. Then, the blood flow delivers the debris to your skin, causing it to become dry and tough.

On consuming probiotics, the beneficial gut bacteria, there is inhibition of bad or pathogenic bacteria, which strengthens the gut wall lining. However, when there is an increase in the population of bad gut bacteria, the contents of your gut leak. Your mind perceives this condition as a threat. Therefore, it produces an immune response to get rid of this threat. A heightened immune response can cause acne development as a side effect. If your acne is caused by poor gut health, taking probiotics to support the good bacteria in your gut microbiome will largely solve your skin problems. 

The Skin Microbiome

Like your gut, your skin has several colonies of microbes that make up the entire skin microbiome. Certain strains of bacteria are common to your skin. These include Propionibacterium, Micrococci, Staphylococci, and Corynebacteria. 

The composition of the skin microorganisms varies from one individual to another, just like your gut microflora. Also, different factors influence the composition, including gender, age, and environment. 

Out of all the major strains of the skin microbiome, the colonization of your skin with Propionibacterium acnes is what triggers acne. Antibiotics are the first line of treatments against the acne vulgaris caused by this bacterial strain.

Unfortunately, due to the increase in cases of antibiotic resistance worldwide, and their unpleasant side effects, scientists are deriving other means for acne treatment. People who experience inflammatory skin conditions like acne often search for a safe alternative. According to doctors, probiotics can live up to the patient’s expectations in lowering inflammation and preventing the side effects of antibiotics. 

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics are a group of microorganisms that possess health-boosting properties. According to Healthline, probiotics can be either bacteria, yeast, or both. The collection of these microorganisms promotes the production of healthy bacteria in the human body.

Many people use the term “friendly bacteria,” which is often used for probiotics. On that note, probiotics are divided into different types depending upon their source, bacteria or yeast. Moreover, researchers are discovering that certain strains of probiotics can treat certain health concerns.  

As we have mentioned, your digestive system houses most of the probiotics in your gut. In scientific terms, the entire collection of bacteria in your gut is called your “gut flora.” 

With time and the consumption of certain medications, the concentration of healthy bacteria in your gut depletes. In this condition, your body faces great difficulty in absorbing and utilizing the nutrients from the food you consume. Therefore, the body’s natural immune response to fight viruses and pathogens becomes compromised.

Researchers categorize true probiotics as living organisms in fermented foods such as yogurt and high-quality gut supplements. Eating foods high in probiotics or taking supplements can help balance your gut microbiome. The improvement of the digestive tract microbiome, and reduction in overall inflammation, are some of the main benefits of utilizing probiotics.   

How Do Probiotics Work?

It’s significant to know how probiotics work and understand the signs probiotics are least before taking them to promote safer consumption. It is already known that probiotics can work to help heal the human body of certain chronic health conditions or at least alleviate the symptoms. Different studies have proved the efficacy of probiotics in treating constipation, diarrhea, chronic digestive issues, and certain skin conditions such as acne.

However, scientists are still working to understand how probiotics deal with these health issues. Modern research suggests that the use of probiotics can improve the health of your body’s natural gut flora. This way, these beneficial microbes enhance the function of your immune system and kill bad microorganisms, including bacteria and viruses. Furthermore, probiotics boost the natural repairing mechanism of your digestive tract after injury so that your body takes up nutrients efficiently. 

However, one of the most important things that probiotics do is to improve your skin barrier function, inducing faster wound healing. According to Science Direct and the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, probiotics have elicited a promising effect in treating chronic acne. 

How Are Probiotics Helpful in Treating Acne?

The debate of nature versus nurture is long-established. However, science has shown that the microbial environment can greatly impact the expression of genes. Our DNA and genes are responsible for transferring genetic health conditions to the next generation. A genetic predisposition can cause conditions like diabetes. However, if an individual faces specific environmental factors, it can trigger the genome and determine the severity of conditions like acne.

Still, scientific research is limited to elaborating on the relationship between probiotics and acne breakouts. Therefore, scientists are still working to have a clear image of how probiotics do what they do to reduce acne flare-ups. 

Nevertheless, the current research shows a definite link between consuming probiotics and your skin healing faster from acne vulgaris. In 2014, the American Academy of Dermatology officially announced in a press release that probiotics could be a potential future medical treatment for both rosacea and acne.

Researchers are working to understand the mechanism through which probiotics reduce acne. Two types of probiotics are currently the topic of new research. Topical probiotics, creams, and such that patients can apply directly to their skin, and internal medication, taken orally to raise the body’s overall gut health, are being studied. 

Probiotics and Immune Regulation

Studies on the interaction of probiotics with the receptors in our body have shown that probiotics can interfere with gene expression. For example, if you are genetically predisposed to acne, probiotics might suppress that gene. Moreover, researchers have found that probiotics may also promote the cellular differentiation of the immune system.

As you probably know, our gastrointestinal tract is the largest reservoir of healthy bacteria that promotes our overall health. Due to this, it acts as the largest immune organ of our body that takes part in the immune response system.

You might think medication shows its effects only locally when you use topical probiotics. However, the truth is probiotics influence extends to other organ systems as well. Gut health is highly interconnected with skin, mental, and reproductive health, just to name a few. 

Short bursts of inflammation help encounter pathogens in the body. Contrary to that, long-term chronic inflammation can be detrimental when no threat is present. Therefore, an ideal probiotic helps enhance the individual’s immune reaction to true pathogens. It also stops the ongoing immune response when there is no bodily threat. Scientists call this concept “immune regulation.” 

Researchers have found that certain bacterial strains possess anti-inflammatory properties. Since acne is more of a skin inflammation, adding several strains of Lactobacillus to the daily regimen can help control it.

Like Lactobacillus, B.coagulans can potentially treat your skin condition, thanks to its immunoregulatory properties. Hence, probiotics that contain these powerful bacterial strains have helped acne-prone skin by producing antibacterial proteins. It means a probiotic supplement can potentially be used in place of antibiotics for certain ailments.

What Are the Benefits of Probiotics for Acne Breakouts?

Scientists say that these supplements can help your skin quality immensely. There are several benefits to using probiotics for treating acne. Topical, oral probiotics or both these supplements can boost your skin health without any differentiation. The major benefits that probiotics can produce in your body are as follows.

Anti-Microbial Action

Applying probiotics topically on your skin or consuming them as a supplement can kill the bad microorganisms. That is what the term “anti-microbial” refers to.

The probiotics have anti-microbial properties, due to which they can fight against bad microbes. Hence, the probiotic supplements help prevent skin inflammation that could trigger acne breakouts. 

Probiotic strains, including Lactobacilli and Bifidobacterium, have shown promising effects in lowering the production and release of proinflammatory cytokines. Probiotic supplements can reduce the delivery of TNF- α, IL-6, and IL-8 factors, triggering an inflammatory response. Instead, increasing the growth of healthy gut bacteria helps release anti-inflammatory cytokines.

Skin Protective Shield

You can apply topical probiotic supplements on the surface of your skin. Doing so allows probiotics to develop a protective barrier to keep unhealthy microbes at bay. Topical probiotics can help your skin to guard against bad bacteria, fungi, and toxins. 

Moreover, the topical application of good bacteria serves as a layer between your skin’s surface and undesirable pathogens. Thus, probiotics block toxins from infiltrating your skin. Hence, it blocks the way toxins can provoke an immune response in the form of acne.

Besides, if you take care of your skin well, you must often exfoliate to get rid of dead skin. The use of cleansers and other exfoliating products can strip your skin of its natural oils. It results in the disruption of the skin’s natural barrier function.

Without a healthy barrier, your skin will be sensitive to germs, environmental stressors, breakouts, and irritation. However, probiotics can aid in strengthening the natural moisture barrier of your skin. This way, probiotics function to banish redness, irritation, and sensitivity. 

Soothe the Connection of Gut, Brain, and Skin

According to the Journal of Gut Pathology, scientists have learned the link between gut, brain, and skin events. They explain that when harmful microbes are in your body, your body’s immune response increases to fight off the threat. 

The whole battle between your body and pathogens results in inflammation. Consuming probiotics internally, topically, or both is a great way to soothe the inflammatory reaction. Hence, regardless of the type of probiotic supplement, you can reduce acne by taking them. 

Patients with acne are more susceptible to suffering from regularity and digestive disorders. Dysbiosis is one of them that causes a “leaky gut.” Due to this, acne patients more frequently experience bowel irregularity than healthy people. Both of these conditions contribute to acne development. However, you can regulate your bowel movements with probiotics and gut wall protection. 

Reduce Oxidative Stress

Your body naturally produces free radicals during the metabolic process going in your system. These free radicals are harmful chemicals that can enter your bloodstream and pass on to different organs via blood. Once the free radicals travel from one location to another, they can create a great mess and damage the cellular integrity of your organs.

Therefore, your body requires antioxidants to capture and neutralize the free radicals that help prevent any damage. Antioxidants are naturally present in brightly colored vegetables and fruits. By consuming them in your diet, you can significantly increase your natural supply of antioxidants.

However, the production of free radicals in your body often increases, causing an imbalance with antioxidants. The situation refers to oxidative stress. When it happens, the excess of free radicals boosts the body’s natural immune response, which may trigger acne. 

Generally, patients with acne often have a high oxidative stress level with oxidative stress markers such as hydroperoxide. Probiotics attack these markers, hydroperoxide, and help maintain the balance between free radicals and antioxidants.

How to Choose the Best Probiotics for Acne?

It’s hard to feel confident in your skin when you have acne. These breakouts will go away eventually. However, in the meantime, there are a lot of options out there for treatment. 

You can find several types of probiotics on the market. Scientists have not yet determined the properties of all the probiotic strains that can help reduce acne. However, certain microbial strains have a beneficial influence on your skin’s health. 

Among these, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, or L. Acidophilus is the most famous probiotic strain. Scientists have clinically tested this strain and concluded it could be a potential acne treatment.

Lactobacillus Bifidobacterium or L. Bifidobacterium is another best-known strain of probiotics for acne. The researchers found both of these strains in 1961. In the following years, they extensively studied the various health benefits of these strains as topical and internal treatments.

What Are the AAD Recommendations for Using Oral Probiotics for Healthy Skin?

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) suggests that patients who want to use probiotics to treat acne should consult their doctors. Not only do you have to talk about the supplements, but you can also seek recommendations on what type of foods you can add to your diet. 

Foods that are a natural source of healthy microorganisms include kefir, yogurt, fermented foods including tempeh, pickled foods, kimchi kombucha beverage, and sauerkraut, among many others. When you prefer foods containing probiotics, you must ensure that the product label says “live and active” cultures. 

As for supplements, there is a variety that you can check on the internet. Mainly, people prefer probiotics in the form of pills and capsules. Before choosing any of these supplements, =ensure that it contains both L. Acidophilus and L. Bifidobacterium strains.  

When selecting topical probiotics for a better skin barrier, you should talk with your dermatologist to avoid any health risks. You can boost your chances of clear skin by consuming nourishing probiotic-rich foods, topical probiotics, and a healthy, natural probiotic supplement.

Conclusion: Do Probiotics Work For Acne? 

More than a decade’s worth of research on acne demonstrates that probiotics for acne can be beneficial in improving overall skin health. Probiotics can also reduce clogged follicles due to environmental stresses like toxins or inflammation.

Probiotics help improve gut health and immune response. Moreover, if you treat acne with probiotics, the supplements will enhance the longevity of your skin health and heal the gut, brain, and skin axis.

Patients suffering from atopic dermatitis, rosacea, acne, and certain other skin conditions have noticed skin improvement using probiotics. What’s great is you can take probiotics in several ways to help calm your acne flare-ups. 

By using the best probiotics supplements and foods rich in probiotics, you can add healthy probiotics to your daily health routine. Most importantly, before starting any new health routine, you must consult your doctor for the best recommendations for your skin condition. 

So, you should talk with your doctor if you are currently on prescription medications or have chronic health conditions. You will only know the best method and time to consume probiotics to stop acne development. 

Probiotics show potential skin benefits in patients suffering from chronic acne or occasional breakouts. However, you must choose your probiotics wisely to promote faster healing of breakouts and avoid future acne episodes.


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