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What is Acne?

Acne is an extremely prevalent skin condition where lesions (pimples) are formed as a response to sebaceous glands getting clogged by oil, dead skin cells, or other particles. There are several common lesions generally associated with acne that range in their severity and treatment needed, and are generally categorized as being non-inflammatory or inflammatory. Whiteheads and blackheads, closed and open comedones, are considered the most non-inflammatory, with blackheads being caused when whiteheads widen and are exposed to air. Inflammatory types of acne include papules, pustules, nodules, and cysts, which again can range from mild to severe in how they affect the skin. Nodules and cysts have the most potential to damage the skin and are the toughest to treat, generally requiring dermatological intervention. Depending on the type, how inflamed a lesion is, and how it is handled, scarring to the skin might occur that sometimes can be permanent. 

How does Gut Health Impact Acne?

While genetics, hormones, and poor hygiene, all are historically discussed causes of acne, clinical evidence has shown that gut health and skin health have a particularly important bidirectional relationship in regards to acne, known as the “gut-skin-axis.” Several studies have shown the correlation between people with gastrointestinal disorders being more likely to also have skin conditions, underscoring how much influence the gut may have on the body. It is known that a healthy gut helps keep the intestinal barrier functioning properly and keeps unwanted particles from leaking into the bloodstream. This is seen in leaky gut, and may also have an impact on skin if these potentially harmful substances are making their way to the skin. Additionally this barrier leakage may be caused by an imbalance of bacteria in the gut, gut dysbiosis, which can cause all kinds of systemic inflammation in the body and lead to acne as a response. Certain diets that have been tied to gut inflammation, such as ones high in sugar or processed foods, have also been linked to acne. Even antibiotic overuse has been linked to recurring acne, likely due to again a disruption to the gut, and in turn causing acne as an inflammatory response. 

Do Probiotics help with Acne?

More research is needed, but studies have shown that probiotics might positively impact the gut and skin barrier function by inducing the growth of beneficial bacteria. This may help reduce inflammation, and thus potentially be extremely helpful in alleviating skin disorders such as acne. However, it is important to note that not all probiotic strains may be favorable for each person, only certain strains may help balance the gut while others may have the opposite effect. Therefore, using personalized probiotics unique to a person’s gut microbiome is the smart option in making sure you are only consuming helpful probiotics that may have a positive effect on overall your gut health and skin health. 

What Supplements help with Acne?

There is actually clinical evidence that certain supplements may be causing acne, similar to the potential effect harmful probiotic strains can have on the skin. Some of these supplements are biotin, iodine, and whey (generally contained within protein powders). Studies have shown that use or overuse of these can cause acne, and that when they were cut out of the diet, acne slowly disappeared. While more evidence is needed on just how effective certain supplements are for acne treatment, there are a few, such as tea tree oil, zinc, vitamin D and collagen, that have been shown to have some positive benefits and it couldn’t hurt to add these to your diet.