Can Probiotics Help Reduce Symptoms of Rosacea?

Health Writer

By serving as a possible influence on the redness and skin thickening associated with rosacea, the recent, ‘gut-brain-skin axis’ theory may be beneficial to providing insight into future rosacea treatment. Researchers are currently looking into probiotics as a way to restore gut balance and reduce inflammation.

The ‘gut-brain-skin axis’ theory is based on the idea that foods without fiber (which slow digestion) along with stress, can change the bacteria balance in our gut; the good bacteria is thus replaced with unhealthy bacteria. When this happens, toxins have the opportunity to be released in the bloodstream, which can cause inflammation throughout the body, including on the skin.

Probiotics are live bacteria, sometimes called the “good” or “friendly” bacteria, that are beneficial to your health, particularly your digestive health. Taking probiotics, either through food or supplements, can help balance your “gut bacteria,” and decrease bad bacteria that can lead to infections and inflammations.

Oral probiotics and rosacea

When considering treatment or management options, Dr. Whitney Bowe from the American Academy of Dermatology recommends that patients with rosacea and acne talk to their doctor about adding probiotics to their diet – either through food or supplements. Research on this subject is still emerging, and though there haven’t yet been in-depth studies on how taking probiotics can improve rosacea, a small study in Italy showed promising results.

Due to these results, though isolated, Dr. Bowe believes there is great potential in studying probiotics as a possible addition to acne and rosacea treatment products in the future. Dr. Bowe notes that among further studies includes the research to, “determine whether topical or oral probiotics yield the best results.”

Topical probiotics

Although probiotics haven’t been a widely proven benefit to inflammatory skin conditions such as rosacea, it hasn't stopped a number of cosmetic and skin care manufacturers from adding probiotics to their products. Manufacturers believe probiotics might help skin conditions in that they may:

  • Interfere with the overactive immune system response by disguising the skin cells from seeing the bad bacteria on the skin.

  • Fight and kill the bad bacteria on the skin.

  • Stop skin cells from attacking bacteria that may contribute to rosacea flare-ups

In the coming months and years, the number of probiotic skin care products and cosmetics are likely to increase. There have even been anecdotal cases of people foregoing commercial products and applying unflavored Greek yogurt directly on their skin. Unlike cosmetics and skin care products - which go through safety testing - there have not been studies on the benefit of using yogurt as a skin mask.  However, anecdotal reports indicate some people have noticed less rosacea flares and less severe outbreaks.

Where to find probiotics

Yogurt is probably the most well known food containing probiotics (look on the label for “live and active cultures” or “probiotics”) but there are a number of other foods that have probiotics:

  • Unpasteurized sauerkraut

  • Miso

  • Soft cheeses, such as Gouda

  • Kefir

  • Sourdough bread

  • Ginger beer

  • Kimchi

Probiotic supplements are also available at your local pharmacy or grocery store. Obtaining general benefits from probiotics does not seem to matter whether you get probiotics from food or supplements. However, as with all supplements, it is best to talk to your doctor first.

For more information on rosacea:

Rosacea and the Summer Sun

How to Identify Your Rosacea Triggers

Rosy Cheeks or Rosacea? An Interview With Cynthia Nixon

Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Rosacea

_Frequently Asked Questions About Rosacea _


All About Rosacea: National Rosacea Society

Could probiotics be the next best thing in acne and rosacea treatments?: American Academy of Dermatologists

What is Rosacea?: National Institutes of Health