No one likes to wake up and discover their skin has broken out overnight! Perhaps you have tried all sorts of treatments and so-called “miracle cures,” yet your acne just keeps coming back.
According to the Mayo Clinic, acne outbreaks can be very persistent! Even worse, acne isn’t a skin problem that goes away after your teenage years as doctors once thought.
Today, medical professionals and researchers know that many different events can trigger acne and that breakouts can continue to happen throughout your life. This has led to new research to find better solutions for persistent acne, including the use of probiotics!
In this article, learn about the link between probiotics and acne and find out how taking probiotics may help your skin to clear and heal!
What Is Acne?
Acne is a medical term that describes what happens when skin follicles (the part of the skin that connects the pores to the oil glands) become clogged.
According to Medical News Today, acne isn’t just one single type of skin blemish. In fact, there are many different types of skin blemishes that are grouped under the umbrella term of “acne.”
Pimples (zits), blackheads, whiteheads, cystic acne, nodules, and papules are all different types of skin blemishes that are considered to be acne.
It is common for people to get different types of acne in different places on their face and body. For example, whiteheads and blackouts often occur on the nose and inside the ears. Papules and pimples often appear on the neck, chest and back as well as on the face. Painful nodules and cystic acne can occur anywhere.
What Causes Acne?
While learning about acne, what it is, what causes it and who is most at risk isn’t the most fun experience you will have in life, it can certainly help you find new solutions that may work better to clear up your skin!
Acne can be caused by a variety of life events. Pretty much everyone knows that hormonal changes that commonly occur during the teen years can trigger acne breakouts. But hormonal shifts occur all throughout life, and as your hormone levels change, you may once again experience breakouts. Common life events that may trigger hormonal shifts include menstruation, pregnancy, menopause and the simple process of aging.
Stress, family history (genetics), use of some medications, reaction to some skin care products, certain health issues or diseases, skin abrasion or injury (such as sunburn) and similar events can also trigger acne outbreaks.
What you eat and how well hydrated you are along with your skin hygiene routine can also impact your skin’s health, which can contribute to the frequency and severity of acne breakouts for some people.
What Are Probiotics?
Probiotics are the name given to a group of microorganisms that are considered to be beneficial to human health.
Probiotics, according to Healthline, can be bacteria or yeast. If you have ever heard the phrase “friendly bacteria,” probiotics is likely what you were hearing about!
There are different types of probiotics, and as research in this field progresses, researchers are discovering that certain types of probiotics can be very beneficial for certain health conditions or concerns.
Your own digestive system is where most of the probiotics that already live inside your body are located. Researchers commonly call this your “gut flora.”
Over time and with use of some medications (especially antibiotics), the healthy bacteria in your gut can become depleted. When this happens, your body has trouble absorbing and using the nutrients from your food, fighting off viruses and infection and keeping the body healthy.
NOTE: It is important not to confuse probiotics and prebiotics. The former group is what we are talking about in this article! The latter is actually a type of nutritious fiber that feeds the probiotics!
How Do Probiotics Work?
Researchers already know that probiotics can work in positive ways to help the body with chronic health conditions such as constipation or diarrhea (especially from antibiotics use), chronic digestive issues, acne and certain other dermatologic conditions.
However, researchers still aren’t clear about exactly how probiotics do what they do!
Leading theories suggest that taking probiotics can replenish your body’s own healthy gut flora, improve your body’s immune system function, repair your digestive tract after illness or injury, fight off “unfriendly” microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses and improve your body’s ability to use nutrients from food by improving digestive function.
However, the most important thing to know if you are struggling to heal your skin from acne is that probiotics can help! According to Science Direct and the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, probiotics have been shown to have a very promising impact on chronic acne.
How Do Probiotics Impact Acne?
Because medical research isn’t completely clear yet about just how probiotics do what they do, it isn’t possible to explain in great detail the interaction between taking probiotics and experiencing a reduction in acne flare-ups.
However, the research is clear that there is a link between taking probiotics and helping your skin heal from acne!
As of 2014, the American Academy of Dermatology announced in an official press release that probiotics could very well be the most promising future treatment for both acne and rosacea.
Researchers studying the use of probiotics to reduce acne are looking at two applications: topically (applied to the skin’s surface) and internally (taken as a supplement).
What are the benefits of Probiotics?
When used for treating acne, medical researchers from the American Academy of Dermatology cite three potential benefits you may experience by taking probiotics topically, orally or both.
Skin Protective Shield
When used topically by being applied to the skin’s surface, probiotics can form a protective barrier or shield to keep away undesirable microorganisms such as “bad” bacteria, fungi and toxins.
The topical probiotics literally sit between the skin’s surface and the unwelcome toxins to prevent them from coming into contact with the skin and provoking an immune system response in the form of acne.
When used topically and/or taken internally as a supplement (in food or as pills), probiotics have demonstrated that they can literally attack and kill bad bacteria.
This is where the term “anti-microbial” comes from. The probiotics fight back against harmful microbes, or microorganisms, to prevent them from creating skin inflammation that leads to acne.
Calming the gut/brain/skin connection
As the Journal of Gut Pathology explains, researchers know there is a link between what happens in the gut, in the brain and in the skin. When harmful microbes are present in the body, this triggers the immune system to jump into action to fight back. The battle produces inflammation as the immune system clashes with the invading microorganisms.
Taking probiotics topically, internally or both is thought to calm that inflammatory response and reduce the incidence of acne breakouts.
What the Research Says About Probiotics for Acne
The Pharmaceutical Journal says that the use of both prebiotics and probiotics shows promise for treating acne in the future.
In the Dermatology Times, researchers cite growing concerns about resistance to antibiotics as a reason to move towards a probiotics treatment model. Probiotics (used both topically and internally in supplement form) have been shown to be effective for more than a decade in treating both rosacea and acne.
The International Journal of Dermatology reports on how the use of probiotics can change the skin’s own microbiome to reduce inflammation, repel unwanted toxins and bacteria and guard against acne breakouts.
There are also numerous popular news reports citing the beneficial impact of probiotics on skin health and acne reduction. Probiotics are non-toxic and beneficial to the body in a way that modern medical drugs often are not. By adding back “good” bacteria to the body, this shifts the burden of the immune system to continually fight off an influx of harmful microorganisms.
The American Nutrition Association states that gut imbalance has been implicated in acne breakouts and, by adding healthy probiotics to the body, the body becomes better able to fight back against inflammation and environmental toxins, including side effects of medications like antibiotics.
How to Choose the Best Probiotics for Acne?
There are many different types of probiotics. While researchers have not investigated the properties of every single different strain of probiotics, certain strains have been identified that can have a beneficial impact on skin health by reducing acne.
Lactobacillus Acidophilus, or L. Acidophilus, is one of the best-known probiotics strains. This strain has been tested and found to be beneficial in helping reduce acne. Another beneficial strain of probiotics for treating acne is called Lactobacillus Bifidobacterium, or L. Bifidobacterium.
Researchers have known about both of these strains since 1961, and research into their various health benefits has been ongoing for both internal and topical uses for acne.
The International Journal of Women’s Dermatology reports that perhaps the very first use of probiotics for overall health and longevity was as far back as 1907! Today, both oral and topical use of probiotics are recommended by many dermatologists for skin health and treating acne.
What the AAD Recommends When Using Probiotics for Acne
The American Academy of Dermatology currently recommends that patients interested in using probiotics to treat acne breakouts should talk with their doctor about adding foods known to contain healthy friendly probiotics and taking an oral probiotic supplement.
Foods that are known to contain healthy microorganisms include yogurt, kefir, certain fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha beverages, tempeh, pickled foods and sauerkraut, among others. When adding probiotics in the form of foods, be sure to look at the label to verify that the food contains “live and active” cultures.
There are many different probiotics supplements (pills or capsules) that may be helpful in healing your skin from acne. You should definitely make sure that any supplement you select contains both Lactobacillus Acidophilus (L. Acidophilus) and Lactobacillus Bifidobacterium (L. Bifidobacterium).
Talk with your dermatologist as well about choosing a topical probiotic to help your skin protect itself from harmful microorganisms at the surface level.
By combining nourishing probiotic-rich foods, probiotics in supplement form and a topical probiotic, you can give your body the best chance of healing from acne and preventing future breakouts.
Why Try Probiotics for Acne?
Research to date – more than a decade’s worth – shows that probiotics for acne can bring about beneficial improvements in skin health as well as a reduction in follicle clogging due to inflammation and toxins.
Probiotics can also bring other benefits, including improved gut health, immune system response, longevity and overall healing of the skin/brain/gut network.
Patients suffering from rosacea, atopic dermatitis, acne, and other skin conditions have been helped with the addition of probiotics.
Best of all, you can take probiotics in a number of ways to help ease acne flare-ups and improve your skin’s health. Topical skin preparations, oral probiotics supplements, and nourishing probiotics-rich foods can all help you to add healthy probiotics to your daily health regimen.
It is always wise to talk to your doctor before beginning any new health routine. This is especially true if you are taking any medications now or are managing a chronic health condition. If you are currently taking antibiotics, talk with your doctor about the best time and method to take probiotics for skin health.
If you are suffering from painful occasional or chronic acne, probiotics show potential to help ease your discomfort, promote faster healing for current breakouts and help guard against future acne episodes.