Pro-bacteria, not Anti-bacteria; a New Way of Thinking in the Treatment of Acne


Acne has long been thought of an over abundance of bad, pore clogging, acne causing bacteria that needs to be eradicated. Topical creams, prescription strength scrubs and oral antibiotic therapies have been mainstream treatments for acne sufferers. While the idea of getting rid of known acne causing bacteria sounds like a slam-dunk, we forget about the bacteria that support or skin health and actually fight off acne causing bacteria on their own!

Topical antibiotic creams are the leading treatment for acne, and while this may help reduce current acne eruptions, this does nothing to prevent future lesions; in fact, it may be perpetuating further outbreaks. How so? Well, antibiotics are not specific. They kill the good and the bad guys. The skin has its own ecosystem with acne fighting bacteria and when disrupted by poor diet, hormonal imbalances, over washing of skin or medications, the balance can be skewed into an acne causing bacteria environment. 1

The way to win this cycle is not only focusing on reducing the over abundance of acne causing flora but to build up good flora and restore the balance. And, voila! Kiss your acne goodbye! This balancing act is much easier said than done. As everyone is individual and unique, come from different households with varying levels of cleanliness, eat different foods and have our own exclusive medical histories.

When it comes to acne treatments, the best place to start is the digestive tract. 2 If there is a lack of food digesting probiotic flora, there can be a decrease in absorption of skin supporting nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin D and zinc to name a few. The food we eat affects our digestive system directly, which is obvious.

High sugar diets and processed foods end up reducing the number beneficial probiotics and actually feed the acne causing bacteria. A diet rich in fermented foods and short chain fatty acids (found in fruits and vegetables) provide nourishment for the good guys in our digestive system. This lends itself to one of the ways diet can affect skin health, however, food sensitivities also play a large role in the expression of acne breakouts.

The food we eat affects our digestive system directly, which is obvious. What isn’t so obvious is how chronic stress and medications affect our digestive probiotic balance. Medications including steroids, birth control pills and antibiotics are known disruptors of the probiotic digestive flora. The more we suppress our own advantageous flora the more likely we are to allow inappropriate bacteria to thrive. This imbalance in the digestive system is called dysbiosis. Dysbiosis equals inflammation and exacerbation of acne.


Chronic stress has been researched as another leading cause in the reduction of beneficial digestive flora. 4 When you think about it, stress typically reduces the immune system, and reducing probiotics that keep the bad guys out makes us much more susceptible to invaders. 5,6 Stress management can help reduce acne and boost your immune system at the same time!

Reducing sugar in the diet, stress reduction and reducing the need for dysbiosis promoting medications are all key in regaining a balanced digestive tract. Taking a probiotic supplement can also be beneficial to help reset the balance in the digestive system. Especially if someone is on an antibiotic regimen, probiotic supplementation is a must. 2 Bifidobacillus bacteria, which resides mostly in the colon, is very susceptible to antibiotic treatments, meaning they are accidentally killed off in large numbers during treatment, which is a suspected cause of antibiotic induced diarrhea. 1,3 It takes months, even years to regain the bifidobacillus numbers that help keep balance in the digestive system, making supplementation a must.

Resist the urge want to utilize antibiotic products to reduce acne outbreaks, instead think first of your friendly bacteria and how to regain the balance!


  1. Bowe. Antibiotic resistance and acne: where we stand and what the future holds. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2014. Available at: Accessed January 13, 2015.
  2. Bowe, WP, Logan, AC. Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis – back to the future?. Gut Pathogens. 2011. Available at: Accessed January 12, 2015.
  3. Jung, GW, Tse, JE, Guih, I, Rao, J. Resul Prospective, randomized, open-label trial comparing the safety, efficacy, and tolerability of an acne treatment regimen with and without a probiotic supplement and minocycline in subjects with mild to moderate acnet Filters. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2013. Available at: Accessed January 14, 2015.
  4. Knowles, SR, Nelson, EA, Palombo, EA. Result Filters Investigating the role of perceived stress on bacterial flora activity and salivary cortisol secretion: a possible mechanism underlying susceptibility to illness. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2008. Available at: Accessed January 13, 2015.
  5.  Logan, AC, Katzman, M. Result Filters Major depressive disorder: probiotics may be an adjuvant therapy. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2005. Available at: Accessed January 13, 2015.
  6.  Logan, AC, Venket, RA, Irani, D. Result Filters Chronic fatigue syndrome: lactic acid bacteria may be of therapeutic value. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2003. Available at: Accessed January 12, 2015.
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