New Study Shows Probiotic Supplements Reduce Acne

According to a new study published at the Journal of cutaneous medicine and surgery, probiotic supplementation may fight acne and reduce side-effects from oral antibiotics.

This is going to be a rather short post as the details of the study are in short supply. But this is an important topic, so I figured you should know about this.

Anyway, in the study the researchers divided 45 18- to 35-year old women into three groups. The group A got a probiotic supplement, the group B got an oral antibiotic (minocycline) and the group C got both (antibiotic + probiotic). The participants were followed for 12 weeks.

Unfortunately the study abstract doesn’t give out detailed results and the full-text version is not available online (when will these people move to the digital age…). But here’s what we have:

  • All the groups showed statistically significant improvements at week 4 and kept improving with the subsequent follow up visits at weeks 8 and 12.
  • At weeks 8 and 12 group C showed statistically significant improvements over the other groups. This means their acne had reduced more than in the other groups.
  • The abstract made no mention of the differences between groups A and B. Looks like the group B (antibiotics) got somewhat better results than the group A (probiotics). We can infer this from the fact that, when compared to the group C, the group B had higher ‘p-value’ than the group A. But it’s likely that groups A and B got similar results with the antibiotic group showing little bit better results.
  • The people (13%) from the group B had to stop the study as they developed vaginal candidiasis. Presumably nobody in the other groups withdrew.

The study authors conclude:

Probiotics may be considered a therapeutic option or adjunct for acne vulgaris by providing a synergistic antiinflammatory effect with systemic antibiotics while also reducing potential adverse events secondary to chronic antibiotic use.

I’m not surprised that taking probiotics helps acne. There’s fairly good evidence to suggest a link between gut issues and skin problems. Another recent study showed a correlation between Helicobacter pylori infection (in the stomach) and acne rosacea, as did this review of the subject.

Probiotics can help with gut problems, but they are by no means a magic bullet and fully addressing gut issues usually takes more than a supplement. Still, they have a role to play, and it’s encouraging to see some clinical evidence backing them.

Probiotics can help with gut problems, but they are by no means a magic bullet and fully addressing gut issues usually takes more than a supplement. Still, they have a role to play, and it’s encouraging to see some clinical evidence backing them.

Points to take home:

  • If you take oral antibiotics, then make sure to also take a probiotic supplement. You’ll likely get better results and suffer fewer side-effects.
  • It’s possible probiotic supplements help with acne, but I wouldn’t bet my house on it yet. To say for sure, we need more evidence from better quality studies.

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About Me

Hi, I am Acne Einstein(a.k.a. Seppo Puusa). I'm a bit of a science nerd who is also passionate about health. I enjoy digging through medical journals for acne treatment gems I can share here. You can read more about my journey through acne and how I eventually ended up creating this.

6 thoughts on “New Study Shows Probiotic Supplements Reduce Acne

  1. This is a really interesting post as I’ve had mixed results with probiotics. I took them religiously (the proper ones which need to be stored in the fridge and have billions of bacteria) and yet they caused not noticeable improvement in my skin. A few weeks ago I started taking them again as my skin has got worse recently and, strangely, it made my forehead acne a lot worse. I stopped taking the probiotics after a week as it was obvious that this was the cause of the increase in forehead acne, it’s calmed down since.

    I’m sure probiotics will help some people – it makes sense, especially if somebody has abused their gut with years of antibiotic use – but my experience shows the adverse effects can also be extreme for some people.

    • There’s still a lot we don’t know about probiotics and their effect on health. So I would expect some people to have negative reactions to them. Because, without really understanding the bacterial composition in your gut, it’s kinda hard to know what strains to take. At this point it’s a bit of a hit and miss affair.

  2. Probiotics tend to make my acne worse. I recently tried a large dose of 1.5 trillion cfu’s (spread out) and it caused a pretty major breakout.

  3. Seppo,

    I hope you are well.

    I was wondering if there are many academic articles relating to Prebiotics, as opposed to Probiotics? Prebiotics being the “food” to encourage the promotion of friendly bacteria, gut flora or whatever you wish to call it. The theory is the immune system learns not to overreact to friendly bacteria in the gut. This information is then communicated to the immune system acting on skin cells and the bacteria trapped there in blocked hair follicles.
    After all, although the immune system does not cause the initial inflammation and production of squalene peroxide, it does have a role to play in how severe the acne becomes. The difference between a whitehead and a nasty, pus filled pimple.
    There are many root causes for acne: hormones, irritation, stress to name a few. Regardless of the cause, if the immune system can regulate itself to not overreact, then the acne symptoms may be reduced, not curing the acne but making it more manageable.
    Have you come across any research relating to prebiotics?

    MichaelC

    • Yes, I’ve seen quite a bit of research on probiotics, especially in relation to gut issues. While the research is far from conclusive it does suggest that prebiotics work as well as probiotics (or at least that’s the impression I have in my head now). Prebiotics often contain FODMAPs and as such may not be suitable for everyone.

      Yes, the gut bacteria seems to interact with and regulate the immune system. What implications this has on the immune reaction in the skin, nobody really knows. It’s too simplistic to assume that strong immune reaction in the gut translates into the same in the skin. The skin, like the gut, has its own immune system/functions that’s connected to the ‘central’ immune system.

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