Probiotics aren’t just for healthy digestion. They may also play a role in skin health, particularly when it comes to anti-aging and acne. Typically, skin conditions are treated topically with creams or lotions applied directly to the skin. But, probiotics help skin by addressing the root cause of many conditions- gut health.
Probiotics are good-for-you bacteria available
in dietary supplements and food. They are found in raw and fermented foods,
such as kombucha, sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and natto (fermented
They usually live in your gut, where their
primary function is to support normal digestion and a healthy intestinal
environment. Having a healthy and varied population of beneficial bacteria in
your gut helps break down the food you eat, maintain a healthy gut lining,
produce many vitamins and minerals, and assist with nutrient absorption.
Not all bacteria in your intestine are
beneficial, some can be harmful and make you sick. But, research has found that
the balance of “good” vs. “bad” bacteria in your gut can impact body systems
other than digestive health, such as your skin.
Imbalanced intestinal bacteria, known as
dysbiosis, can result in the lining of the small intestine becoming thin, weak,
and too permeable. This is referred to as leaky gut syndrome and it’s
considered one of the root causes of inflammation.
When the gut is healthy, the nutrients you
need for healthy skin, like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, are better
absorbed and accessible. When the bacteria are not in balance, the nutrition
that your body and skin needs is unavailable.
Probiotics can help restore balance to the
intestinal bacteria and provide skin health benefits. Whether you are treating
breakouts or looking for anti-aging benefits, research is finding that
supplementing with probiotics can help improve the appearance and texture of
Several studies have linked probiotic
supplementation with improvement in symptoms of acne.
In one study, 300 test subjects with acne were
given oral probiotics containing the strains Lactobacillus acidophilus and
Lactobacillus bulgaricus. Reductions in breakouts and improved skin texture
were noted in 80% of the acne test group.1
Traditionally, acne is managed with a combination
of topical cleansers, ointments, and oral antibiotics. Since antibiotics
contribute to imbalanced gut bacteria, probiotics may prove to be a beneficial
alternative or complementary option in the management of acne.
There are also some findings that suggest
probiotics can improve symptoms of other inflammatory skin conditions, such as
psoriasis and eczema, although more research is needed.2
Probiotic supplementation has also been linked
with improving signs of aging skin. Signs of aging may include dry skin,
wrinkle formation, loss of elasticity, and spots caused by UV damage.
In a study of 110 test subjects with visible
signs of skin aging, improvements in skin hydration and a reduction in wrinkle
depth were noted after 12 weeks of supplementation with probiotics containing
Lactobacillus plantarum.3 Another study found improvements in
reversing signs of sun damage with probiotics.1
There are many strains of bacteria that fall under the probiotic umbrella. To best support your skin, choose a supplement and/or foods that contain a variety of strains, particularly those in the Lactobacillus family.
Yours in health-
Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD
IVL’s Community Registered Dietitian
1. Salem I,
Ramser A, Isham N, Ghannoum MA. The Gut Microbiome as a Major Regulator of the
Gut-Skin Axis. Front Microbiol.
2. Rather IA,
Bajpai VK, Kumar S, Lim J, Paek WK, Park YH. Probiotics and Atopic Dermatitis:
An Overview. Front Microbiol.
3. Le DE et al. Clinical Evidence of Effects
of Lactobacillus plantarum HY7714 on Skin Aging: A Randomized, Double Blind,
Placebo-Controlled Study. 2015;25(12):2160-8.