Acne is a common skin condition affecting millions of people worldwide. Although acne is most prevalent among teenagers and young adults, according to Acne.org, 31.9% of women and 20.5% of men between the ages of 20 and 70 years are affected. When only examining adults in their 20s, rates are much higher, with over 50% of women and over 40% of men battling acne.
Acne is typically characterized by pimples, whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, papules, and cysts caused by oily skin, dead skin cells, and bacteria buildup in the hair follicles.
For many people, conventional treatments such as topical creams and antibiotics are effective remedies. However, as the National Library of Medicine points out, “Treatment is often long and tedious, and can lead to a reduction in quality of life and social isolation.” As such, more and more people are turning to natural alternatives like probiotics in order to reduce the use of antibiotics in treating acne.
Gut microbiota, probiotics and acne
The World Health Organization defines probiotics as “live microorganisms, which, when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host”. Probiotics offer a wide range of health benefits, most commonly improving digestion, enhancing nutrient absorption, and supporting a strong immune system.
All the microorganisms in your body, including bacteria, yeast, fungi, viruses and parasites, make up what is called your microbiota. Approximately 90-95% of these microorganisms can be found in your gut.
A healthy gut microbiota is essential for overall health and well-being. Probiotics play significant roles in gut microbiota composition. But the benefits of probiotics go beyond the stomach. An imbalance in gut bacteria can have far-reaching effects, including skin issues like acne. In fact, the National Library of Medicine writes,
“Acne is a disease that can be related to the condition of the digestive tract and its microbiome.”
The link between your gut and skin
In another article in our Learning Lab we explore the bidirectional communication pathway that exists between your gut and skin. There are several pathways connecting the gut and skin, including the bloodstream, lymphatic system, and nervous system. As mentioned in the previous section, imbalances in the gut microbiota can contribute to acne, eczema, and psoriasis. Likewise, skin conditions can also influence the gut microbiota, leading to dysbiosis and inflammation. One thing to consider is that when your skin isn’t looking its best, it could be an indication that something is off in your gut.
By restoring balance in the gut microbiota through probiotics, we may see improvements in skin health.
Can probiotics help with acne?
The increasing resistance to antibiotics has decreased their effectiveness in treating acne. While research on probiotics in relation to acne is still in its early stages, studies have shown that the use of probiotics may improve the appearance of acne-prone skin.
Additionally, probiotics can indirectly influence acne through their impact on the gut microbiota. As probiotics reduce harmful bacteria and promote a balanced gut environment, studies indicate they may improve skin health.*
Could the answer for helping acne be to focus on gut health? Maybe!
Choosing the right probiotic
Not all bacteria are probiotics and not all probiotics are the same. It is therefore essential to choose the right probiotic strain since probiotics can have different effects depending on their strain. For example, one strain may help with digestion while another may boost the immune system.
In addition to being able to identify the specific strain, it’s also important that the strain has been tested in clinical studies to ensure it’s safe and that the amount is adequate and effective. For more information on how to choose probiotics, be sure to read this guide.
To learn more about probiotics and skin health, explore our other articles and videos here in our Learning Lab.