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Acne & our skins microbiome

Inflammation of the sebaceous glands accompanied by pimples is called acne or acne vulgaris. It is very common and affects 85% of adolescents and many adults. Males experience it more frequently than females. It mainly occurs on the face but can also occur on the upper arms, back and trunk. There are similar conditions that may appear as acne, such as rosacea, folliculitis and many more. Gut health can also play a role.

Acne can contribute to low self-esteem, anxiety, depression and socially withdrawn behaviour. If you have acne, you are not alone! Many people have it! Hormones, genetics and stress are proven to be related to acne. Diet and cleanliness is hotly debated, however there are suggestions that diets high in carbohydrates (sugars) and/or low in vitamins and minerals are a factor.

So what happens...?

From the skins perspective, normally sebum (oil) gets produced within a pore. Pores sometimes get plugged or blocked by shedding skin cells or oil, trapping oil within. This then triggers the pore to rupture, stimulating inflammation that you can often see as a pimple. Bacteria (like C. acnes) found on the surface of the skin cause inflammation in the pores and also contribute to the blocking of the pores.

And...what can we do...?

Topically, we can focus on keeping pores free from excess skin build up, support normal oil production and reduce inflammation. We can also support a healthy skin microbiota (bacteria, fungi and viruses on our skin). Literally, our largest organ (our skin) lives in harmony with TRILLIONS of micro-organisms.

The microbiome of our skin (just like our gut) is important and studies are showing how much we don't know about this incredible feature of our skin. Studies show that a compromised stratum corneum (surface of your skin) impacts the diversity of our skins microbiome.

This dysfunction with the surface of the skin may be associated with conditions like eczema and (of course) acne. Did you know that the bacteria C. acnes (mentioned above!) is one of the most abundant organisms in a healthy adults skin microbiota? So why isn't everyone constantly walking around with acne?

While you may have inherited a natural tendancy to suffer from acne, here are some tips that may reduce it:

  • Nourish a healthy skin barrier. From both the inside and the outside. Drink plenty of water and eat a well balanced diet (including zinc). If you have dry skin, sensitive or reactive skin, use skincare products that focus on restoring skin barrier function.

  • Support your natural microbiome. Use gentle products on your face. Harsh or strong cosmetic products may destroy healthy and essential bacteria. Think of all those preservatives we need to have in cosmetic formulas. If we are washing our faces all day, what is that doing to our natural bateria?

  • Moderate your oil production. Don't cleanse away all that oil to achieve that tight, smooth feeling you associate with cleanliness. Use gentle cleansers and put (just enough) healthy clean oil back on your face afterwards.

  • Use products that will remove dead skin cells without harsh scratching. Things like face masks, or formulas containing salicylic acid can encourage those dead skin cells to jump ship without physically rubbing and damaging your struggling skin.

Phew, that is a lot of information. Hopefully if you are battling acne, you have found this useful. Feel free to reach out to Formula101 at if you are struggling with acne and are looking for something new to try.



Byrd, A., Belkaid, Y. & Segre, J. The human skin microbiome. Nat Rev Microbiol16, 143–155 (2018).

Cerman, A. A., Aktas, E., Altunay, I. K., Arici, J. E., Tulunay, A., & Ozturk, F. Y. (2016). Dietary glycemic factors, insulin resistance, and adiponectin levels in acne vulgaris. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 75(1), 155-162.

Craft, J. A., & Gordon, C. J., Huether, S. E., McCance, K. L., Brashers, V. L., & Rote, N. S. (2019) Understanding Pathophysiology (3e Australia and New Zealand ed.). Elsevier

Marieb, E. N., & Hoehn, K. (2019). Human Anatomy & Physiology (11th ed.). Pearson Education.

Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., & Pizzorno, L. (2005). The Encylcopaedia of healing foods. Piatkus.

Sutaria AH, Masood S, Schlessinger J. Acne Vulgaris. [Updated 2023 Feb 16]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from:

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