Probiotics are renowned for their role in promoting healthy gut bacteria, but what about using probiotics for healthy skin?
The premise is this: inflammation in the gut (usually from a not-so-healthy diet) can trigger certain skin conditions, like acne and rosacea. Consuming probiotics (the healthy bacteria found in some foods and dietary supplements) puts good bacteria back into the gut, which can help reduce inflammation.
As a long-time acne sufferer, I’ve heard and read volumes about the gut-skin connection. I have to admit, after cleaning up my diet and incorporating a high-potency probiotic supplement, I did see an improvement (nothing too drastic, but as any acne sufferer knows, every little bit helps!).
Another important thing to consider is that some people just have a predisposition to certain skin conditions, and so they might notice that flares are linked to their gut health.
Even the American Academy of Dermatology recommended introducing healthy bacteria into the gut to counteract flares in skin conditions.
And apparently the link between the gut and skin health is well documented. Impaired gut function, whether through the overgrowth of bad bacteria or due to a preexisting condition, can contribute to skin conditions.
For example, people with a condition called small intestine bacteria overgrowth (where bad bacteria is more prevalent in the gut than good bacteria) were ten times more likely to have acne or rosacea than a healthy control group!
What Does the Research Show?
The American Academy of Dermatology also said that US-based studies on the gut-skin association were still underway, but international studies are already showing some promising evidence.
A Korean study found that drinking a lactobacillus-fermented dairy drink (ahem… like superfood kefir!) effectively reduced acne in participants and decreased their skin’s oil production over a 12-week period!
In an Italian study, half of the participants used an oral probiotic supplement along with a traditional skincare routine to address their particular skin condition. The other half used the same skincare routine but were not given the probiotics. Want to guess which group fared better? Yep, the probiotics group did better in the study, and experienced more relief from symptoms associated with their skin conditions.
What About Using Topical Probiotics?
As I mentioned before, I’m a long-time acne sufferer, and an acupuncturist once recommended I try plain, full-fat yogurt as a face mask. I can’t say I noticed any drastic improvements as a result, but the chilled yogurt felt so good on my inflamed skin. It lessened some of the redness too, which was also a welcome change. If you’ve got some plain yogurt on hand, it’s definitely worth a try, if only to momentarily soothe skin that’s been inflamed by acne (or even a sunburn).
And interestingly enough, the American Academy of Dermatology backs this one up too! Probiotics applied topically can help protect the skin by keeping bad bacteria and parasites from causing a negative reaction from the body’s immune system.
Apparently, the good bacteria in probiotics also have antimicrobial properties, so they can destroy the icky stuff on skin that causes acne.
While there aren’t any studies to back up the use of my favored yogurt mask, after reading all of this, I’d say it’s definitely worth a try if you’ve been suffering from some sort of skin inflammation.
Which Probiotics are Best?
Since there’s not a wide body of research to support the use of probiotics for skin health yet, there isn’t any one type of probiotic that’s conclusively proven to help any skin condition.
But there are some easy ways to incorporate more healthy bacteria into your diet. Try including more fermented foods like kefir, yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, or kimchi.
If that’s not doing it, or if you just don’t like any of those foods, you could consider adding a probiotic supplement. These can get a little pricey, but they are worth it!
Checking labels is important when buying a probiotic supplement. It’s also a good idea to get one that comes in an encapsulated pill that can survive in the stomach long enough for the good stuff in the capsule to reach your gut. Also pay attention to how it needs to be stored. I’ve noticed refrigerated probiotics tend to have a higher number of probiotic strains and they also have a longer shelf life.
Some probiotics can be misleading, and will say they have X billions of CFU (colony forming units, which is just the way most manufacturers measure probiotics), but it will be at the time of manufacture. Safe to say some of those are no longer live and active by the time they reach your pantry, so read the label!
An acupuncturist also recommended to me that I should shoot for at least 50 billion CFU per day. I know it seems like a lot, but there are a ton of probiotics out there with 50 billion (or more!), but of course the cost goes up as the CFU numbers increase!
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