Probiotics For Skin Care: Benefits, How To Use, And Side Effects

Written by Anjali Sayee

Probiotics have been used for centuries to improve human health. Some also believe that probiotics can improve skin health and reduce several skin issues, including acne. But what does science say? In this article, we understand how probiotics can actually improve your skin health, texture and appearance. We will also discuss how you can include them in your skin care regimen. Keep reading to know more.

What Are Probiotics And Why Are They Good For Your Skin?

Certain microbial organisms in the body are beneficial to our health when administered in appropriate amounts. These microbial organisms are bacteria called probiotics that primarily improve gut health. The most beneficial probiotic bacteria are lactobacillus and bifidobacteria that are found in fermented dairy products, powders, and drinks.

Probiotics are not the same as prebiotics. Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that cannot be digested by the human body. They act as food for probiotic microorganisms. A combination of prebiotic and probiotic organisms is called synbiotic.

Probiotics are said to enhance skin texture, appearance, and health. Some believe that oral and topical probiotics can be used to manage skin conditions like acne, make skin glow, and keep skin hydrated and moisturized.

In the following section, we discuss the science-backed benefits of probiotics.

Benefits Of Probiotics For Skin

1. May Treat Atopic Dermatitis

Many studies show the impact of probiotics on atopic dermatitis (1). In a study, oral probiotics administered to pregnant women (with a high probability of having atopic children) decreased the chances of them delivering atopic children (1), (2). In another study, a probiotic supplement containing lactobacillus acidophilus, bifidobacterium lactis, and fructo-oligosaccharides decreased atopic dermatitis in infants between 12 to 36 months of age (1), (3).

About 75% of studies show that probiotics may help manage atopic dermatitis. Nine studies showed that some probiotics may even help manage atopic dermatitis symptoms in adults (4). A lotion containing heat-treated lactobacillus johnsonii was applied to adult atopic patients with mild-moderate severities (5). The application inhibited the bacteria staphylococcus aureus in AD patients.

2. May Help Reduce Acne Vulgaris

In studies, probiotics like lactobacillus acidophilus and lactobacillus bulgaricus were administered to 300 acne patients (1), (6). Eighty percent of the patients showed an improvement in acne and a reduction in inflammatory lesions. Another study showed that oral probiotics, paired with oral minocycline, may help manage acne (1), (7). Lactobacillus rhamnosus, when consumed for 12 weeks, showed an improvement in adult acne (1), (8). In fact, topical lactobacillus bulgaricus was used as early as 1912 to manage acne (1). Research shows that probiotic bacteria Enterococcus faecalis acts against propionibacterium acnes (which causes acne). The probiotic lotions can also decrease inflammatory acne lesions (1), (9).

Other probiotic bacterial strains found to inhibit acne include lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus casei, lactobacillus plantarum, lactobacillus gasseri, and lactococcus lactis (5). Administration of oral probiotic capsules was shown to reduce rosacea and acne, and even lead to complete recovery in some patients (5). Regular consumption of fermented milk containing lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus, over a period of 12 weeks, was also found to improve clinically-graded acne.

3. May Boost Overall Skin Health

Probiotics may have anti-aging properties as they improve skin elasticity and hydration. They are also said to reverse skin damage caused by ultraviolet radiation and offer photoprotection (10). Probiotic bacteria, lactobacillus paracasei, may improve the skin barrier function. Topical application of bifidobacterium longum was shown to reduce skin dryness and aging. Probiotic bacteria may also enhance tissue repair and may aid in wound healing. Topical probiotics shield the skin and boost skin moisture (11). Anecdotal evidence suggests that probiotic bacteria may also make your skin glow.

Skim milk fermented with streptococcus thermophilus was found to improve skin hydration and antioxidant effects (12). Aloe vera, fermented with lactobacillus plantarum, could increase skin hydration fourfold compared to regular aloe vera juice. Fermented soybean milk containing bifidobacterium breve was found to increase hyaluronic acid production in human cells. Probiotics may also repair burns and scars, rejuvenate the skin, and boost its immunity (13). Probiotics may even reduce wrinkle depth and hyperpigmentation in the skin (14).

Probiotic bacteriotherapy was found to help treat skin diseases like eczema, acne, allergic inflammation, and skin hypersensitivity (15). Although limited, research shows that probiotic bacteria may affect the gut microbiome positively and help manage psoriasis (16). Probiotic bacteria, lactobacillus pentosus, may reduce erythema and scaling (1).

These are the many benefits of probiotics for your skin. How can you use them to your advantage?

How To Use Probiotics

Probiotics can be ingested orally in food or capsule form, or applied topically in the form of lotions, creams, and other cosmetic products.

Probiotic foods include cheese, yogurt, and milk made with lactic acid bacteria and fungi fermentation, and leavened bread made with yeast fermentation (17). You can also find dietary supplements and drugs that contain probiotic bacteria. While most dairy products are commonly associated with probiotic bacteria, you can also find non-dairy products like chocolate, cereals, beverages, fruit and vegetable items containing probiotic microorganisms.

Many cosmetic brands add probiotics to their products including lotions, creams, and moisturizers.

Additionally, you can also make homemade face packs and moisturizers with probiotic foods like fermented soybean milk and yogurt.

While probiotics are generally safe, they also may have certain adverse effects. We shall discuss them in the next section.

Side Effects Of Probiotics

Some adverse effects associated with probiotics include (1), (4):

  • Systemic infections
  • Abdominal cramping, flatulence, nausea, diarrhea, and taste issues
  • Some probiotic foods may contain microorganisms not mentioned on the label that may cause serious health risks.

Note: Not all fermented foods should be considered probiotics or safe. Sourdough bread and fermented foods like pickles are processed after fermentation, which kills any living bacteria. Other fermented foods that contain microorganisms include apple cider vinegar, kimchi, kombucha, miso, and sauerkraut – and these are yet to be studied extensively.


Adding probiotics to your skin care regimen offers important benefits. It improves skin moisture and may even soothe skin inflammation. Let’s not forget its UV-protective and anti-aging properties too. However, probiotics may also cause certain adverse effects in some. Hence, consult your doctor before you include any specific probiotic food/product in your diet regimen.


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  1. Review: Probiotics in Dermatology
  2. Probiotics and Prevention of Atopic Disease: 4-Year Follow-Up of a Randomised Placebo-Controlled Trial
  3. Probiotic Supplement Reduces Atopic Dermatitis in Preschool Children: a Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Clinical Trial
  4. Probiotics: What You Need to Know
  5. Probiotics and Prebiotics Potential for the Care of Skin, Female Urogenital Tract, and Respiratory Tract
  6. Acne Vulgaris, Probiotics and the Gut-Brain-Skin Axis – Back to the Future?
  7. 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 Acne
  8. Supplementation With Lactobacillus Rhamnosus Sp1 Normalises Skin Expression of Genes Implicated in Insulin Signalling and Improves Adult Acne
  9. Antimicrobial Activity of Enterocins from Enterococcus Faecalis Sl-5 Against Propionibacterium Acnes, the Causative Agent in Acne Vulgaris, and Its Therapeutic Effect
  10. Chapter 22 – Probiotics for Skin Benefits
  11. “probiotics” in Skin Care Products- a Review
  12. Cosmetic Ingredients Fermented by Lactic Acid Bacteria
  13. Bioactives from Probiotics for Dermal Health: Functions and Benefits
  14. Topical Probiotics in Dermatological Therapy and Skincare: a Concise Review
  15. Health Effects of Probiotics on the Skin
  16. Skin and Gut Microbiome in Psoriasis: Gaining Insight Into the Pathophysiology of it and Finding Novel Therapeutic Strategies
  17. Probiotic Food Products Classes, Types, and Processing

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Anjali Sayee is a writer and an introvert. From studying Aeronautical Engineering and wanting to design her own airplane to writing articles on hairstyles, she has been on quite a journey. She believes that hair is one of the key factors that define a woman’s personality. To quote her, “What’s the first thing they do in the movies to show a personality change? Change the hair – because it has a life of its own.” She’s here to help you find the hairstyle you need. This bookworm is a self-professed Wholocker, a talented drummer, and an amateur photographer.