February 07, 2014
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Probiotic use improved acne, rosacea symptoms

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Patients with acne or rosacea have shown symptom improvement with daily probiotic use, according to recent research.

“While more studies are needed to identify the most beneficial aspects of probiotics and determine whether topical or oral probiotics yield the best results, I think we can expect to see some cutting-edge probiotic products for acne and rosacea in the near future,” Whitney P. Bowe, MD, FAAD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, said in an American Academy of Dermatology press release.

Whitney Bowe, MD 

Whitney P. Bowe

Probiotic masks, creams or cleansers have been introduced by some cosmeceutical manufacturers based on early research, according to the release, and can benefit the skin by:

  • Providing a “protective shield” by keeping skin cells from reaching bacteria and parasites that can cause an immune response such as redness or bumps.
  • Producing substances that have antimicrobial properties that penetrate bad bacteria and kill them. Probiotics are being tested to determine which ones make such substances.
  • Providing a calming effect to parts of skin cells that want to react to bad bacteria they view as a threat.

Bowe said some of her patients have created homemade Greek yogurt masks to control breakouts or flares, but there is no research to verify their effectiveness.

Oral probiotics could affect the “gut-brain-skin axis,” in which stress alone or in combination with processed foods that lack fiber can slow digestion. This turns gut bacteria into unhealthy bacteria that can be released into the bloodstream and cause skin inflammation.

Oral probiotics are sold as daily supplements containing Lactobacilli and/or Bifidobacterium or in yogurts containing live cultures. A recent Korean study of 56 patients with acne found that drinking a Lactobacillus-fermented dairy beverage reduced lesions and decreased oil production over 12 weeks. In an Italian study, patients who received standard acne and rosacea therapy plus an oral probiotic supplement had better symptom clearance compared with patients who received only standard therapy.

“Although I don’t envision probiotics ever being used as a stand-alone treatment for acne or rosacea, they could be used as an effective combination therapy with prescription medications or over-the-counter topical treatments,” Bowe said.