How to choose your probiotics for skin and gut health
9 top brands for skin microbiome and gut health
Updated 17 February 2024
Probiotic supplements have burst onto the health and wellness scene, as science reveals the potential power of probiotics for skin microbiome and gut health.
But let’s take a quick step back! A microbiome – what’s that all about?!
Making up the human microbiome, an estimated 100 trillion microbes live in and on our bodies. And far from being the bad guys, science confirms these microbes play an central role in our physical and mental health.
First, the gut-skin axis
There’s a powerful link between gut health and our skin microbiome, and scientists refer to it as the gut-skin axis.
The ‘wholy grail’ is to identify which and how individual microbes – the probiotics – can influence specific aspects of our health.
Which are the best probiotics for skin and gut health?
A big question without just a single answer, because what is the most effective probiotic for one person, is not the same for another.
What’s more, there’s such a wide array of choice and quality available, that it can be downright confusing to choose. Therefore it’s worth investing a bit of time finding out which could be the best probiotics for skin and gut health, that address your needs.
Read on for the top 5 things to look for to help choose a probiotic supplement that’s right for you. Plus 9 probiotic brands that are backed by evidence!
What are probiotics for skin and gut health?
First things first, what is a probiotic?
Probiotics are defined as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host”, according to the Joint FAO/WHO Working Group.
Probiotics may be added to foods such as yoghurts, or taken as food supplements, and are often described as ‘good’ or ‘friendly’ bacteria. In addition, probiotics occur naturally in fermented foods such as kefir, kombucha, live yoghurts, sauerkraut, miso and kimchi.
It is worth noting that whilst viability (i.e. being a live microorganism) is an essential requirement for probiotics, some scientists suggest that viability is not needed to influence our gut microbiome.
So how to choose a probiotic?
A common question is that, with trillions of microbes in our gut and on our skin, which probiotic will be beneficial to me?
The truth is, it is unlikely that any one probiotic will transform your health. There are however some rules of thumb that will help you select the best probiotics for your skin and gut health needs.
What to look for when buying probiotics for skin microbiome and gut health
When I’m choosing probiotics, I use these 5 tips to choose a probiotic supplement that’s right for me.
1) Check for CFUs and probiotic viability
Probiotic supplement labels should state the number of colony-forming units (CFUs) per dose. CFUs indicate the number of alive and active microorganisms in one serving of a probiotic dietary supplement.
The recommended CFU varies. Nordic Naturals suggest “a daily dose of 10-20 billion CFU for immune and digestive support”. The Cleveland Clinic, on the other hand, recommend choosing probiotic products with at least 1 billion CFUs.
Based on the different recommendations I’ve come across, I look for a dose of at least 10 billion CFUs, when I choose my probiotics for skin and gut health.
It is worth noting, it has been speculated that non-viable probiotics could have some health benefits.
2) Choose the right strain
The bacteria Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are recurring winners in the more than 250 studies and scientific reviews I’ve covered. These, along with the yeast Saccharomyces boulardii, are some of the most researched probiotics.
Whilst not the most exciting nugget of knowledge, if you’re not familiar, it’s worth noting what ‘strain’ refers to, so you can choose the right probiotic for your needs.
Probiotic names are made up of 3 parts: genus, species and strain. E.g. for the powerful probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus Rosell-11:
- Lactobacillus – a genus or family of bacteria
- rhamnosus – a species within the Lactobacillus genus
- Rosell-11 – a specific strain within that species
For another powerful probiotic, L. rhamnosus GG, the strain is ‘GG’. So, you will see the probiotic strain is the ‘third denominator’.
See below for more insights into which probiotics affect skin and gut health.
3) Ensure the supplement is backed by evidence
As noted, it is essential to ingest live microorganisms (the very definition of probiotics). Manufacturing processes will affect the probiotic, so a quality brand will ensure the finished product does indeed include live probiotics and so, lives up to its promises.
As well as knowing whether the supplement includes proven strains of probiotics, ideally, the actual supplement itself should be studied. This is to ensure the probiotics remains viable when they reach your gut and have the desired effect in supplement form.
4) Include a mixture of strains
Multi-strain probiotics have been found to be more helpful than single-strain probiotics due to the combined and additive effects among the individual strains.
A high quality probiotic might include Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, two of the most effective probiotic species. Countless research shows the ability of these probiotics to boost immunity and gut health.
A high quality supplement should contain 8-10 strains of the above species, according to Clinical Reviews.
5) Include a prebiotic
The good microbes in our gut also need the right food to thrive. These so-called prebiotics are fibers that us humans cannot digest, and are found in foods such as whole grains, bananas, greens, onions, legumes / beans, artichokes and more.
Prebiotics can also be taken as supplements, such as inulin.
Without a prebiotic, many supplements are prone to not being effective, simply because there is not enough food for the good bacteria to survive. Therefore, consider a probiotic with a source of prebiotic.
Clinical Reviews recommend around 75 to 100mg of inulin.
Which brands sell evidence-based probiotics for skin and gut health?
These 9 probiotic supplement providers have science at their core and focus on probiotics backed by evidence.
They use proven ingredients and crucially, their supplements and / or ingredients themselves have been tested for efficacy.
Specifically, what are the best probiotics for skin health?
Several types of probiotic have been shown to affect the skin microbiome. In fact, our gut and skin health are firmly connected.
This so called ‘gut-skin axis’ is bidirectional, meaning that the gut microbiome can affect skin health, and vice versa.
Studies show Bifidobacterium may reduce skin sensitivity, while Lactobacillus may reduce skin inflammation and improve the skin’s barrier function, reducing acne and redness.
Lactobacillus acidophilus was one of the first probiotics for acne, and it has been shown to improve the severity of acne.
A daily probiotic supplement may help improve skin health by optimizing gut health.
What are top probiotic brands for skin health?
Not surprisingly, the probiotic skin care market has exploded in recent years, with the rapid growing trend of microbiome skincare. These days you can even take and at-home skin microbiome test to check the best skincare routine for your skin microbiome.
The list of probiotic skin care products backed by solid science, however, is still relatively short, although I predict not for long. Meanwhile, watch where you’re spending your hard earned pennies!
Four supplement brands worth noting, with probiotics for skin microbiome health, are:
- Microbiome Labs Serene Skin
- Garden of Life Dr. Formulated Platinum Skin
- Codeage Skin Probiotic+
- Gallinee Skin & Microbiome Supplement
Microbiome Labs Serene Skin contains Bacillus coagulans SC208, alongside 3 other probiotics, which may help improve skin health by optimizing gut health.
Garden of Life Platinum Skin includes Lactobacillus paracasei ST11 (also known as Lactobacillus paracasei NCC 2461) plus Lactobacillus johnsonii NCC 533 (La1), which may have a positive impact on skin health. It also contains another 9 probiotic strains, Vitamin A and lycopene for skin health.
Garden of Life is a recurring brand in the ‘Top 10 probiotics’. They use proven ingredients in high doses, and claim backing by third party certification. I’ve had Garden of Life independently recommended by people I know to be discerning customers.
Codeage Skin Probiotic+ contains a blend of 19 probiotics at 50 billion CFU, including Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus acidophilus. Their products are third-party tested but no further details are given.
Gallinee Skin & Microbiome Supplement contains four probiotics plus a selenium-enriched yeast for skin health, including: Lactobacillus rhamnosus R0011 45%, Lactobacillus casei R0215 40%, Lactobacillus paracasei R0422 10%, Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 5%.
Specifically, what are the best probiotics for gut health?
There are a whole range of different probiotic strains suitable for gut health. As noted, be mindful that different strains do different things. This will help select a supplement with the right strains for you.
Based on evidence, consider the following probiotics for gut health:
- Biotic+ by Heights contains Lactobacillus rhamnosus Rosell-11 which may strengthen gut health, together with 6 other highly researched strains of beneficial bacteria
- Microbiome Lab RestorFlora contains Saccharomyces cerevisiae boulardii, which may soothe the symptoms of diarrhea. In addition, Bacillus subtilis HU58 and Bacillus clausii SC109 can help support your gut microbiome
- Optibac Everyday EXTRA includes Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM® which may relieve bloating
- BioGaia Gastrus contains Lactobacillus reuteri DSM 17938 which may help reduce the growth of less beneficial bacteria
- OMNi-BiOTiC® Microbiome Restoration Probiotic contains ten scientifically tested bacterial strains, including Lactobacillus acidophilus W55 and Bifidobacterium lactis W18
- Pendulum Akkermansia contains Akermansia muciniphila which may strengthen the gut lining
What is the best time to take probiotics?
I would always check the label, as it may vary.
Consistency is key so aim to take your probiotic at more or less the same time every day.
Holistic approach to microbiome health
It’s worth noting that experts recommend a holistic approach that first of all focuses on diet and lifestyle.
Dr Gail Cresci at the Cleveland Clinic reminds us that:
“What bacteria like is fermentable fiber,” Dr. Cresci explains. “I don’t know that you need a probiotic if you’re eating a healthy diet, one that is rich in fresh fruits, vegetables and fiber and low in saturated fats, sugar and processed foods.”
What we eat is probably the biggest influence on our gut microbiome.
Whilst the quality of probiotics varies greatly, there are some very good and reputable brands that are backed by science and worth considering.
I’d stay away from generic and store brands and go for name brands that have been studied in depth.
Dr Cresci advises us:
“Ideally, look for a product that’s been tested for whatever you’re looking to address. It might say it helps with IBS, but you wouldn’t take that same product if you were taking antibiotics and trying to prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea. For this, you would want a probiotic that helps with immunity, not bowel irregularity.”
Summary: Choosing the best probiotics for skin and gut health
- Check for CFUs and probiotic viability
- Include a mixture of strains
- Choose the right strain for your needs
- Ensure the supplement is backed by evidence
- Include a prebiotic
Super low price coupled with excessive promises should make you suspicious … The age old adage applies – if it seems to good to be true, then it likely is!
It is important to note that individual responses to probiotics can vary, and it is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.
This does not constitute medical advice; seek advice from a healthcare professional, as needed
If you have an existing health condition or a weakened immune system, you should talk to a doctor before taking any probiotic supplements. This should not constitute of replace medical advice from a healthcare professional
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Sources & further reading
Probiotics – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
Probiotics may help boost mood and cognitive function – Harvard Health
Lactobacillus paracasei CCFM1229 and Lactobacillus rhamnosus CCFM1228 Alleviated Depression- and Anxiety-Related Symptoms of Chronic Stress-Induced Depression in Mice by Regulating Xanthine Oxidase Activity in the Brain – PMC (nih.gov)
How do gut microbes influence mental health? – Dinan – 2022 – Trends in Urology & Men’s Health – Wiley Online Library
Probiotic viability – does it matter? – PMC (nih.gov)
Best Probiotics for Gut Health | Probiotics Learning Lab (optibacprobiotics.com)
The Best Probiotic Supplements of 2023 and How to Choose (healthline.com)
12 best probiotics of 2023: Benefits, uses, and FAQ (medicalnewstoday.com)
7 Best Probiotic Supplements: Expert Reviews In 2023 – Forbes Health
10 Best Probiotic Supplements for Gut Health, According to Experts (prevention.com)
Best prebiotics and probiotics supplements 2023 | The Independent
Top 5 Probiotic Supplements (clinical-reviews.com)