Meg Hagar, MS, RD, CDN, CHHP
What is the best probiotic to take for acne?
Updated: Nov 12, 2021
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By now, probiotics are all over the internet but the best probiotics for acne aren't talked about enough. Do probiotics help with acne or do they actually cause acne? With all the different types of probiotics out there it can be hard to navigate. So today, I'm going to dive into the best probiotics for acne but specifically what strain of probiotic is best for acne!
A recent study (1) has proven that people with acne actually have a completely different arrangement of gut bacteria and fungus compared to those without acne. The study found that those with acne had less gut diversity (meaning fewer different types of strains and species- current research shows we want MORE gut diversity for optimal gut health and health overall) AND an undesirable balance of particular bacterial families in the gut. While the study isn't proving acne is caused from dysbiosis (an unbalaned gut) it is solidifying the theory that those with acne likely have dysbiosis, and in my opinion, certainly supports the need for gut support in the journey of healing your skin. This study also supports the theory behind the link between gut health and acne. Therefore, for many of my clients, I start them on probiotics to help acne. In my practice, I've found that the right probiotic is an integral part of the best acne treatment for my individual clients. There's also the issue of potentially making digestive symptoms worse- when certain conditions are present (like SIBO, for example) taking a probiotic may make you feel worse and unfortunately won't do much for your skin.
Now, don't go running to the store and pick up just any probiotic. While I do believe most good quality probiotics would be helpful for managing dysbiosis and acne- not all probiotics are created equally and research only supports certain strains for use in healing acne.
While there is much more to it than just getting a probiotic with these specific species of bacteria, I have yet to find a single probiotic on the market that has all the specific strains and species of probiotics that are best for acne, so you may have to mix and match. Here are some species I look for when working with my acne clients:
Streptococcus salivarius is a species of bacteria that is used often in "dental probiotics" to help fight recurrence of strept throat and respiratory infections. This particular species has been shown to help inhibit the growth of P. acnes (the bacteria on the surface of our skin that has been linked to presence of acne). A specific strain, K12, has been shown to decrease inflammatory markers internally that may be associated with acne (2). While good quality capsule probiotics that contain this bacteria are limited as far as I know, sometimes I recommend a lozenger like this one that does contain this strain:
While we don't know if the bacteria is getting to the intestines in this form, we can definitely start working on the microbiome of the mouth- which can effect your gut health (and therefore acne). Read more about that here.
Lactobacillus paracasei NCC2461 (or ST11) has been shown to help downgrade inflammation in the skin (4). Probiotics are tricky because many companies don't show the specific strain of the species they're using in the formula. There are some probiotics that do contain Lactobacillus paracasei but we don't know if it's specifically the NCC2461 strain.
Saccharomyces Boulardii is a beneficial type of yeast believed to be helpful in healing acne (3). The all-encompassing probiotic below contains this species and the other best probiotics for acne too.
Bacillus Coagulans has been shown on a small scale to modulate activity of the immune system and help reduce damage by reactive oxygen species (ROS)- these are those pesky substances found to cause damage to the skin and promote inflammation and aging (4). This probiotic has several (but not all!) strains and species of the list above:
Since there is no perfect probiotic out there (yet!) for acne, I like to blend a few. I recommend a probiotic that contains many different species and strains, at least a billion CFUs of each strain- and don't be afraid to mix a couple of them or rotate to ensure you're getting the right species and strains to help heal acne. Also, it's worth it to note that probiotics with strains from the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus family in general have been shown to increase the types of bacteria found in the gut of participants without acne in the study noted above.
On the other hand, I'm a big believer in healing through food! I like to think as fermented foods the best acne home remedy! I recommend aiming for at least 1 (2 if you can!) servings of fermented/probiotic foods to your diet. Such foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, apple cider vinegar, probiotic yogurt or kefir, coconut kefir and/or 4oz Kombucha.
Now that science has shown that if you have acne, you likely have gut dysbiosis as well, a good place to start looking for the root cause of your acne is your gut. Want a peek into your gut health? Order your gut test here and enter code HEALMYGUT at checkout for 10% off your order!
Don't forget, skin issues are multi-factorial, meaning one thing will not be the answer for everyone. Using probiotics for acne is just one of the very safe and potentially effective things to try to help acne, since now we know that probiotics help acne! However, if you need a little help narrowing down the root causes of your acne, take my free acne quiz!
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(1) Deng, Y., Wang, H., Zhou, J., Mou, Y., Wang, G. and Xiong, X. (2018). Patients with Acne Vulgaris Have a Distinct Gut Microbiota in Comparison with Healthy Controls. Acta Dermato Venereologica, 98(8), pp.783-790.
(2) Delost, G., Delost, M., Armile, J. and Lloyd, J. (2016). Staphylococcus aureus carriage rates and antibiotic resistance patterns in patients with acne vulgaris. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, [online] 74(4), pp.673-678.
(3) Teotia, U., Kumar, R., Mishra, A., Verma, D., Role of Probiotics and probiotic beverages on human health. International Journal of Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Research, [online] 2(3), pp.78-84.
(4) Kober, M. and Bowe, W. (2015). The effect of probiotics on immune regulation, acne, and photoaging. International Journal of Women's Dermatology, [online] 1(2), pp.85-89.