Probiotics for Acne: Fighting Bacteria With Bacteria

by Raychel Agramon, RN, MPM, February 13, 2020

probiotics for acne

For the longest time, probiotics for acne has plagued the lives of teenagers – and adults as well. These zits and pimples are very unsightly, especially when they are big and located right smack in the middle of your face. In a world where appearance matters, acne has been said to bring about some self-esteem issues as well. 

If acne has been affecting you (and your psyche) for some time now, and if antibiotics, AccutaneTM or retinoids just don’t seem to work for you, then you should consider a safe yet effective trend: Probiotics.

probiotics for acne

What are Probiotics for Acne?

Probiotics are live microorganisms – such as bacteria or yeast – which help improve digestive health. They can be obtained by eating fermented food or taking specialized supplements. 

Apart from helping with common digestive problems such as bloating or diarrhea, probiotics bring other advantages as well. One of its well-regarded benefits is its possible ability to fight against acne and other skin conditions. 


probiotics for acne

Acne: The Result of Bacterial Imbalance 

Scientifically speaking, acne results from the blockage of pores from sebum, dead cells, or other substances. If left unattended, they can be infected. In some instances, scarring might even develop.

Hormones, medications, and environmental exposure all play a role in the development of acne – however, there is another factor to consider: dysbiosis. 

Dysbiosis is defined as the imbalance between the good bacteria (probiotics) and the bad bacteria living in the gut. When this happens, there is an increase in the production of p-cresol and free phenol, metabolites that reach the skin via blood circulation. These substances lead to decreased hydration and keratinization, thereby upsetting the natural skin barrier. When this happens, there is a higher risk of acne development. 

The History of Probiotic Use in Acne

Since dysbiosis is considered one of the major culprits behind acne, the eventual course was to restore the balance by increasing probiotic intake. 

The thought of using probiotics for acne is not new, the idea has been floating around for several decades now. Since the 1930s, Lactobacillus acidophilus had been the supplement of choice for people with acne. However, the prowess of probiotics had only been proven in 1961, many thanks to the efforts of Dr. Robert H. Siver. His study showed that 80% of patients enjoyed clearer skin after taking a supplement made with Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus. 

Because of Siver’s findings, more scientists have undertaken studies to determine the effectiveness of probiotic use. Most were met with similar positive results, the most recent one being the 2016 study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology. In this study, 89% of patients who received probiotic supplementation experienced a decrease, if not complete elimination, of acne lesions. It also led to an increase in the quantity of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacteria (good bacteria,) as well as a decrease in the presence of bad skin bacteria (from 70% to 14%.) 

probiotics for acne

Attacking Acne with Probiotics

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition has said that “Probiotic use as adjunctive therapy in dermatologic practice holds promise."  With many studies supporting the beneficial role of probiotics in acne, a lot of healthcare professionals have been campaigning for the inclusion of probiotics in anti-acne regimens. 

While fermented food such as sauerkraut, yogurt, and kimchi are chockfull of probiotics, their bacterial populations pale in comparison to supplements. If you wish to achieve the same results to the aforementioned studies, then you need a fixed probiotic dose, one which you can only get from supplements. 

For best results, opt for products that contain these skin-friendly strains: 

  • Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Lactobacillus paracasie
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Bifidobacterium longum
  • Bifidobacterium lactis

More than just eating probiotic-rich food and taking supplements, you need to limit the consumption of acne-causing food sources as well. If you want your probiotics to work at a faster rate, then you should avoid pimple-causing food products such as dairy, processed, starchy, and sugary food sources. 

Another way to achieve breakout-free skin is to make use of probiotic skincare products. This can help strengthen the skin barrier so that acne and other skin problems are avoided. Remember that topical application is best done in conjunction with oral supplementation. This will ensure that bacterial microbiome inside (gut) and outside (skin) the body are maintained in ideal balance. 

Some Parting Words 

In summary, a lot of studies show that probiotics may be the key to acne-free skin. When taken orally, they can balance the bacterial population in the gut, so that harmful metabolites are not circulated to the skin. 

As for skincare, probiotic preparations can target affected areas directly. Both oral and topical methods are very helpful to the skin, so both should be taken in conjunction. 

While probiotics are effective by themselves, you must also engage in other activities that would help prevent breakouts. That includes washing your face regularly and cleansing items that come in regular contact with your skin. 

Remember: acne might be distressing both physically and psychologically, but it can be addressed naturally! All you just need to do is get a great probiotic supplement and take good care of your skin.