Probiotics For Acne – Everything You Need To Know

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By Meghan Stoops, RDN

Reviewed by Juliana Tamayo, MS, RDN - Last Updated

probiotics for acne

Probiotics have received a lot of hype lately for their long list of potential health benefits, namely for gut health. But did you know these beneficial bugs can also be good for the skin? 

If you suffer from acne, you know the impact it can have on your mental health. Any skin ailment can wreak havoc on our self-esteem, but acne is a more common culprit, not to mention the physical discomfort that accompanies it. So, how can probiotics help?  

probiotics in bottles and bowl

What Are Probiotics?

Our bodies are comprised of trillions of microbes that serve a variety of essential functions for our body systems. Often referred to as “good bugs” or “gut flora” these microbes are made up of a diverse population of viruses, bacteria, and fungi living mainly within the digestive tract, but can also be found in other areas of our body and on our skin. Known as the microbiome, this diverse group of microbes has been studied for their beneficial effects on gut health, immune health, brain health, heart health, and more. 

To best support your microbiome, it’s encouraged to consume probiotic and prebiotic food sources. Probiotics are foods that contain live microorganisms that help contribute to the diversity of your gut flora. You can find good sources of probiotics in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, and more. 

yogurt for probiotics

Prebiotics consists of indigestible fibers that act as a food source of prebiotics. Good prebiotic food sources include chicory root, dandelion greens, Jerusalem artichoke, garlic, onions, and more. You can also choose probiotic and prebiotic supplements if you have difficulty getting these food sources into your diet.

What Causes Acne?

Acne can result when the pores of your skin become blocked with oil, bacteria, or dead skin cells, resulting in an inflamed pustule often called a pimple, zit, or blemish. Those who are at more of a risk of developing acne include the following:

  • Oily skin type
  • Hormonal changes including puberty and pregnancy
  • History of endocrine conditions
  • Certain medications
  • Family history of acne
  • Poor sleep
  • High stress
  • Using products that contain oils on their skin
  • Poor diet

Acne is an incredibly common skin condition in America, and although it does not pose a risk to your health, it can be very uncomfortable and even result in scarring. 

Can Probiotics Help with Acne? 

New studies are suggesting probiotics may be an important factor in skin health. When we think about our gut microbiome, we know it’s important to have a diverse group of intestinal flora to get the maximum benefit for our health. The same goes for our skin. We have a wide range of different bacteria that sit on top of our skin, some are beneficial while others are not. The trick? Finding the right balance.

woman with probiotics

Although more research is still needed on the best way to use probiotics to balance our skin bacteria and improve certain conditions, such as acne, some experts believe a topical probiotic may be most helpful. Unfortunately, this means taking a probiotic supplement over the counter may not be the answer to your skin woes. In this case, it’s best to discuss possible topical probiotic treatments with your Dermatologist.

Another potential solution is to focus on diet to best control your skin ailments. Some foods have been associated with having a negative effect on the skin, including processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and dairy products. Instead, focusing on consuming a diet rich in skin-loving foods may help some. These include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, fruits, vegetables, probiotics, and prebiotic food sources. 

Probiotic and prebiotic supplements may be helpful to some in treating acne conditions by helping to reduce inflammation. Results are best seen in those with inflammatory-type acne. Other research notes that an oral supplement combined with a topical supplement may help treat some forms of acne.

To best treat acne, it’s important to know the type of acne you are suffering from. For example, someone with acne due to hormonal changes may be best treated differently than someone who is suffering from acne because of their skincare products. If you are unsure what type of acne you have, or the potential cause, consider discussing it with your dermatologist to help come up with a treatment plan.

Can Probiotics Cause Acne?

Although most probiotics are considered beneficial and unlikely to result in increased skin conditions, there has been some association between certain probiotics and possible increased incidences of acne. For example, insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) is believed to play a role in the development of acne. Some probiotic strains modulate IGF-1, thereby possibly playing a role in acne development. However, other studies suggest probiotics to help regulate IGF-1 and thus reduce incidences of acne. More research is still needed to better understand this role. 

Best Probiotics for Acne

Because much is still unknown, it is encouraged to emphasize diet and probiotic/prebiotic foods versus supplements when looking to help with acne. For those who struggle to get in adequate amounts of these foods due to allergies, food preferences, or lack of access, a probiotic supplement can be used.

If choosing a probiotic supplement, it’s important to choose a high-quality product from a reputable manufacturer. To ensure you are getting the most out of your supplement, look for a probiotic that contains a minimum colony-forming units (CFUs) in the billions. This is the number of beneficial and viable cells in your product. The higher the number, the better. Research suggests probiotics ideally should contain 1 million CFUs per gram to survive digestion. 

Looking for a probiotic supplement for skin health is just like searching for one for gut health as they contain the most research on their benefits. Some research suggests Lactobacillus Acidophilus may be most beneficial to include in your probiotics for skin health while other studies suggest a mixture of strains. Some high-rated probiotics you might consider if you’ve been instructed by your doctor to take a supplement, include the following:

Align Probiotic Extra Strength Capsules

probiotics for acne align probiotic extra strength capsules

Align is not only a trusted brand for probiotic supplements, but it also doesn’t require refrigeration as most probiotics do. It contains 5 billion CFUs at the manufacture date and 50 million until the “best by” date on the product. It’s formulated to contain Bifidobacterium longum 35624, a well-known strain that has been extensively studied for its effects on digestive health. You can purchase this product from Amazon for $49.97 for 42 capsules.

Garden of Life Once Daily Probiotic Capsules

probiotics for acne garden of life once daily probiotic capsules

If you are looking for a dairy-free or vegan-friendly option, Garden of Life Once Daily Probiotic capsules are an excellent choice. This product contains 14 different probiotic strains along with a prebiotic fiber blend. It contains 30 billion CFUs with a guaranteed CFU count through the end of the product’s “best by” date. This product does require refrigeration. You can find Garden of Life probiotic capsules and other Garden of Life products on the official Garden of Life website or on Amazon for $23.09 for 30 capsules making it a great budget-friendly option.

NOW Probiotic-10 25 Billion Capsules 

probiotics for acne now probiotic 10 25 billion capsules 

Now Probiotic Capsules are dairy-free and contain 10 different probiotic strains. This product contains 25 billion CFUs guaranteed by the “best by” date. This product is great for people with food allergies as it is processed in an allergy-free facility. Now probiotics are also certified by Underwriters Laboratory for third-party testing to ensure the quality and purity of their product. You can purchase NOW probiotic capsules on Amazon for $25.99 for 100 capsules.

Always speak with your doctor or healthcare provider before adding a probiotic supplement to your routine.

Conclusion: Probiotics for Acne

If you are struggling with acne, you might want to consider if probiotics may be a good path for you. The bacteria on our skin act like the bacteria in our gut, with both good and bad players. To help treat or avoid acne, it’s important to have a healthy balance of these organisms. Although more research is still needed on how to treat acne with probiotics depending on the type and cause of acne, most experts feel diet, or supplemental probiotics may be helpful. Before self-treating with probiotics, discuss your condition with your dermatologist and healthcare provider to help determine the best treatment for you.

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Meghan Stoops, RDN

Meghan Stoops is a Registered Dietitian and licensed Nutritionist with a bachelor’s in Dietetics from San Diego State University. Meghan developed an interest in dietetics early on through her own personal struggles with nutrition misinformation. She began doing her own research, which sparked her passion for nutrition and it’s impact on our physical and mental health. Today, she takes take a non-diet, all-foods-fit approach to nutrition, and is devoted to teaching others that eating healthy does not mean restriction or sacrifice.