Topical Probiotic May Improve Acne Lesions

A topical probiotic ointment containing lactobacilli may be an effective treatment for acne and may reduce the need for topical antibiotics, according to the results of a recent study.

The researchers began by examining the skin microbiome of 30 participants who did not have acne-related lesions. They found that there was a 10-fold higher relative abundance of lactobacilli-related taxa on the skin of women compared with men. Of the total participants examined, 38% had at least 1 species of lactobacilli present on their skin.

The researchers then created a topical ointment to be used twice daily for 8 weeks in 10 patients with mild to moderate acne. The researchers selected 3 strains of lactobacilli to include as microcapsules in the cream: Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus GG, Lacticaseibacillus plantarum WCFS1, and Lactiplantibacillus pentosus KCA1. 

The results indicated that the lactobacilli had reduced inflammatory lesions in the participants, which had continued for 4 weeks after discontinuing the topical application of the lactobacilli. After 14 days of use, skin hydration increased by 37.3%. After 28 days of use, skin hydration increased by 45.6%. Of the 20 participants tested for skin irritation, no cases of erythema, dryness, or edema were reported.

Further, in-vivo temporary modulation of the microbiome was associated with daily application of the topical formulation for 8 weeks. A reduction in the relative abundance of staphylococci and Cutibacterium acnes and an increase in lactobacilli were also associated with daily application.

“In this study, we show that live lactobacilli have probiotic potential for the skin and especially to reduce inflammatory lesions in acne,” the researchers concluded. “As compliance is key in acne management, the relatively fast reduction of the inflammatory lesions is an added value. The randomized placebo-controlled study demonstrated that the live lactobacilli are the key active pharmaceutical (or better pharmabiotic) ingredient responsible for the reduction in acne symptoms.”

—Leigh Precopio


Lebeer S, Oerlemans EFM, Claes I, et al. Selective targeting of skin pathobionts and inflammation with topically applied lactobacilli. Cell Rep Med. Published online February 15, 2022. doi:10.1016/j.xcrm.2022.100521