The Gut-Skin Connection: How The Gut Microbiome Affects Acne

by | Nov 12, 2023 | gut health and digestion, skin health

Acne affects most people at some time in their lives, causing a lack of confidence and low self-esteem. With an almost desperate need to get clearer skin, it is common to use many skincare products and antibiotic treatments. But, looking at what is happening in your body that causes your acne can be a better way. There are multiple causes of acne, from hormones to inflammation, but eating the right sort of diet and taking some supplements can help to control breakouts. This article explains why the gut microbiome affects acne and how the foods we eat can affect our skin.

What is acne?

Acne is a skin condition that occurs in almost all people at some time in their lives. Acne often creates spots and pimples typically on the face, neck and back. When acne is severe, there can also be cysts deep in the skin as well as scarring.

There are both inflammatory and non-inflammatory aspects to acne. Many factors can lead to acne, like overproduction of sebum, abnormal keratinisation, and inflammation.

Acne most often occurs during puberty. Thanks to the Western diet and lifestyle, acne has become a normal part of puberty for many adolescents. But not all! Studies show that acne isn’t a normal part of puberty. In parts of the world where people have a different diet and lifestyle.

This suggests that something in the diet and lifestyle in industrialised societies could be a cause of acne. So, although you may suffer from acne right now, there is most likely a way to change that.

Acne is not just a skin problem

Researchers believe that acne is not just a skin condition, but has important implications for the health of your gut! What’s going on inside your body is just as important as what you put on your skin.

The gut microbiome and acne

The skin’s main functions are providing protection, temperature regulation and retention of water. It manages this by maintaining a healthy barrier that constantly renews, from the base up. As skin cells move up through several layers to the skin surface, they undergo a transformation controlled by our genes, which is called differentiation. The result is an effective skin barrier that limits evaporation, preserves moisture and protects our body from invasion by bacteria and other substances.

We now know that the bacteria that live in our gut can influence how our genes control this skin formation process and therefore have a role in skin health. Scientists say this is how our gut microbiome can affect acne and skin health.

The gut microbiome

Your body has over 100 trillion microorganisms residing in the gut, known as the gut microbiome. These microorganisms have a lot of influence on our health in general. For instance, some of them can cause disease, while other species can be very beneficial. Nutritionists have now found that your gut microbiota is affected by your diet, leading to a healthy or unhealthy gut microbe composition.

How the gut microbiome affects acne

Though there is still work to do on understanding how the gut microbiome affects our health, researchers are finding out more all the time. The microbiome appears to affect acne and skin health by affecting the immune system, promoting inflammatory responses or anti-inflammatory responses. These inflammatory signals can affect how well skin cells differentiate as they move through the skin layers and ultimately affecting overall skin health and function.

Also, we have a skin microbiome. Every part of the skin is covered in bacteria and other microorganisms, which can be beneficial or harmful. The gut microbiome appears to influence the skin microbiome and may even affect its composition. So, good gut health can have a huge impact on the health of your skin.

The diet-skin connection

The gut microbiome is greatly affected by what someone eats. The typical westernised diet is low in fibre, high in fat and high in carbohydrates, especially the processed carbs. This type of diet produces changes that might have negative consequences for gut bacteria and production of short-chain fatty acids like butyrate.

The short-chain fatty acids help to maintain the gut barrier and a healthy gut environment. They also help to balance the immune system, reducing inflammation.

Plus, a high glycemic diet high in processed carbohydrates promotes an increase in insulin and insulin-like growth factors that affect skin cell production, sebum production and keratinisation, contributing to acne.

What we eat influences the gut microbiome

We all have a unique gut microbiome, made up of hundreds of different species of bacteria and other organisms. The composition of our microbiome is usually set by the age of three. Still, it is often influenced by what we eat, the medicines we take and other factors in our environment, such as the water we drink.

The gut microbiome can also be altered by eating fermented foods and by taking probiotic supplements. However, these supplements tend to have only a limited effect on the microbiome’s long-term composition.

What can we do to change the microbiome?

Now that we know that the gut microbiome affects acne, we can take steps to make the necessary changes. To alter the makeup of your gut bacteria, it is important to change what you eat and drink. It may seem like a lot of work, and you may not want to give up eating certain foods, but it is worthwhile as it can significantly improve your health and skin. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet consisting of fish and poultry, lots of vegetables, some fruits, and minimal or no dairy products. This way of eating is thought to offer the best dietary guidelines to improve gut microbiome and skin health.

Tips for eating a healthy diet

Firstly, create a healthy eating pattern. An array of colourful foods in every meal will support a healthy microbiome. Colourful vegetables and fruits provide a wide range of important nutrients essential for health.

For clearer skin, you need to reduce the overall glycemic index of your diet. Try eliminating processed carbohydrates. Wholegrain forms are better because they provide more fibre, but these can still push the overall carbohydrate content too high.

Eating wholegrain carbohydrates also encourages different gut bacteria to colonise your gut. For the best gut health, choose highly fermentable foodstuffs such as sauerkraut, miso, tempeh and kimchi. These fermented foods will help the friendly microbes in your gut grow.


If you have skin problems, particularly acne, you are not alone. However, it is important to look beyond symptoms and see the bigger picture to identify what is contributing to your acne. In your search for likely causes, you should consider your gut health, and how your gut microbiome affects acne.

Focussing on an anti-inflammatory, high fibre, low glycemic index diet is the best way to improve your gut health, your skin health and clear your acne for good.

My Smooth and Soothe program was created with this in mind. It provides a four-week eating plan, with recipes and shopping lists to make this new eating style very easy.

Not only that, but when you join this program, you will receive over a hundred more low glycemic index recipes that also eliminate dairy products and include lots of vegetarian and vegan options.

Furthermore, you will receive instant access to informative videos and other resources to help you understand what is perpetuating your acne. You will also receive resources that show you how small lifestyle changes can help you achieve your goal of beautiful skin.



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