Did you know that acne is increasingly seen in adult women? Almost twice as many women seek help for their acne than men, and one-third of total acne office visits are made by women over 25 years old. Acne traditionally has been attributed to four main factors: sebum production, Propionibacterium acnes colonization, follicular hyperkeratosis, and inflammation. Other factors like hormonal fluctuations, genetics, cosmetics, diet, tobacco use, and stress are likely involved as well in the development of acne in adult women. But what if acne was simply caused by gut issues?
I’m 27 years old and I’ve never had acne in my life. Never. Until the beginning of this year when I’ve started to break out around my chin. At first, I’ve attributed my breakout to hormonal fluctuations, which is really common for a woman. But after a few months, it started to get worse and worse, without understanding what was going on. I was breaking out everywhere on my face; on my chin, cheeks, all over my forehead and even on my temples.
I’ve done so much research, I’ve tried so many different skincare, I’ve even restricted my diet by removing specific foods which could potentially cause my acne, nothing worked. By changing my diet, I was able to see some improvement, but not for long. I wasn’t able as well to understand the cause of my acne; did I changed something in my skincare routine? Did I change something in my diet? Honestly, I nearly started to be paranoid by thinking that probably tap water that I was drinking every day could be responsible for my acne.
One day, while looking at some old pictures on my beautiful skin I had lost, I remembered clearly that something happened in my life at this time: I get my wisdom teeth out. I’m sure you would ask me: “yeah cool, but what is the link between getting your wisdom teeth out and acne?” One word: antibiotics. I remembered that it was the first time in my life that I had to take two weeks of antibiotics: one week before the procedure, one week after. I remembered as well that I get ill after the procedure, and some pimples started to appear on my chin… you know the story. So, I started my research again and what I’ve found changed my life (and my skin).
Skin-gut axis: The relationship between intestinal bacteria and skin health
The role of the gut microbiome as an important determinant of human health and disease has emerged as an exciting niche of research in many areas of medicine. An imbalance in the gut microbiome has been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, atopy, and inflammatory disease. Furthermore, the relationship between the gut microbiome and their potential role in the development of skin diseases is an area of research for which we are only now starting to gain an understanding.
The small and large intestines provide residence for a vast community of bacteria, which we call the gut microbiome. The theory of the gut-brain-skin axis outlines the relationship between the skin, gastrointestinal system, and mental health. Notably, the role of the gastrointestinal system is an area of particular interest as it relates to inflammatory skin conditions such as acne. The gut microbiome is dynamic; it changes and can be harmed by diverse factors such as a poor diet (too much-processed foods), too much alcohol, a lack of regular physical activity, smoking, not getting enough sleep, too much stress, and finally antibiotic use. Antibiotics work by either killing bacteria or preventing them from multiplying, however they affect both good and bad bacteria. In fact, even a single antibiotic treatment can lead to harmful changes in the composition and diversity of the gut flora. Eventually, the gut lining becomes leaky and toxins are released into the bloodstream causing inflammation throughout the body. Thereby, acne is a “natural” inflammatory disorder that has demonstrated its response to this shift in gut bacteria and subsequent inflammation.
Probiotics to clear acne
Luckily, the gut microbiome reacts to various stimuli and by altering the gut microbiome, it is possible to decrease systemic inflammation, and these results can improve the severity of inflammatory skin diseases such as acne. The idea of treating acne with probiotics dates back to the 1930s. During that time, Lactobacillus acidophilus (a common probiotic found in foods such as yogurt) was a popular diet supplement for the treatment of acne among the public. During the past few decades, there has been renewed interest in probiotics not only in regards to digestive health but also in the management of skin diseases including eczema, atopic dermatitis, acne, and allergic inflammation.
The term probiotic has been defined as “living microorganisms which, when consumed in adequate amounts, confer a health effect on the host”. Whether as live active cultures found in some yogurts or as daily supplements, probiotics are live, “friendly” bacteria that may benefit a person’s health.
Now, emerging research is finding that the benefits of probiotics may extend beyond the digestive tract to the skin. In fact, skin prone to acne or rosacea has shown improvement with daily probiotic use, giving dermatologists reason to consider supplementing traditional acne therapy with a dose of this beneficial bacteria. Most bacterial cells that live inside and on the body are harmless, and studies show that, in fact, they can be extremely beneficial to the body’s normal functioning. Researchers are studying how this type of healthy bacteria applied topically to the skin or taken orally can benefit these skin conditions.
Oral probiotics for acne
Oral probiotics sold as daily supplements containing Lactobacillus and/or Bifidobacterium can influence skin conditions such as acne and rosacea by affecting what we explained previously as the “gut-brain-skin axis.” The probiotics will line the gut and create a healthy, sealed barrier that prevents inflammation that can trigger acne or skin inflammation diseases. Few international studies have shown a correlation between oral probiotic use and improvement in acne. A recent Korean study of 56 acne patients found that drinking a Lactobacillus-fermented dairy beverage effectively reduced their total acne lesion count and decreased oil production over 12 weeks.
I’ve done the same experience with my skin. For 30 days, I’ve taken an oral probiotics daily supplement and I’ve seen a massive difference on my skin! After 1 week, my skin was less oily, I was experiencing fewer breakouts and my acne scars was healing properly. After 1 month, my acne was gone. Even if now I’m still experiencing one or two pimples a month, the difference is incredible. I would suggest using the Udo’s Choice Super 8 Microbiotics which contain 8 bacterial strains designed specifically with a higher percentage and concentration of L. acidophilus. Each capsule contains 42 billion viable cells at the time of manufacture and at least 31 billion viable cells at expiry. You can take it in the morning 30 minutes before your breakfast or in the evening 5 hours after your lunch and 30 minutes before your dinner.
In addition to oral probiotic daily supplement, I enriched my diet with probiotic foods such as Kombucha which is a fermented black/green tea and live yogurt which is made from milk that has been fermented by friendly bacteria, mainly lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria. There are many other probiotics foods that you can eat as well, such as kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, miso, pickles, traditional buttermilk, natto or some cheese.
Probiotics skin care for acne
Currently, some cosmeceutical manufacturers have started using probiotics in their products based on early researches – including probiotic masks, creams or cleansers. There are different ways that topical probiotics can benefit the skin.
- Protective shields: probiotics applied topically sit on the skin’s surface and prevent the skin cells from seeing the bad bacteria and parasites that can cause inflammation.
- Antimicrobial properties: the substances produced by probiotics have antimicrobial properties, meaning they can create holes in bad bacteria and kill them. Probiotics can help fight harmful bugs from triggering inflammation.
- Calming effect: When certain types of probiotics are placed in contact with skin cells, they calm the parts of the cells that may want to react to the presence of bad bacteria that they see as a threat.
In addition to oral probiotic daily supplement, I’ve tried to use skincare enriched with probiotics. I would recommend using the Vichy Slow Age Anti-Aging Fluid which is enriched with a probiotic-derived Bifidus: the Bifida Ferment Lysate. You can use as well the Vichy Idealia Illuminating Day Cream; the active formula of this moisturizer is enriched with Kombucha (Black Tea Ferment). The number of beauty products which contain probiotic is rising, however, some brand has difficulties to sell the value of “good bacteria” for your skin as we always seen bacteria as a bad thing either for your health or your skin. I would like in the future to dig into this topic and test different probiotic skincare range in order to help you to find the best probiotics beauty products for your skin. To be continued 🙂