How Gut Microbiome Can Affect Skin

Mother Dirt

You probably hear a lot about ecosystems, microbiomes and good bacteria. 

The body contains trillions of bacteria, viruses, and fungi -- collectively known as the microbiome

The study of our gut flora has sprung from the pages of science books right into mainstream health culture. While we’re definitely excited that pop culture is catching on to the important role that gut health plays in our overall wellness, we absolutely consider it a lifestyle more than a trend.

Once you really start paying attention to your gut health, you’ll notice how it affects virtually every aspect of your wellness, including the health of your skin. 

More and more research points to a direct link between the gut microbiome and skin health, making it important to ensure the health of not just our gut but our skin microbiome as well. 

The Gut Microbiome

If you’re new to the party, here’s what you need to know about the gut microbiome. Your “gut” refers to your digestive tract. All organs and parts involved in digestion from mouth to rectum are considered part of your gut. 

The functional interactions between the host and its microbiome provide new insight into new opportunities for diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. Your gut plays host to a very important ecosystem of good, healthy bacteria that helps you digest your food, protects you from illnesses, and even communicates with your brain and skin. 

This ecosystem is referred to as the gut microbiome

Some bacteria are associated with disease, such as the following:

  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBD) 
  • Obesity
  • Cardiovascular disease 
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Colon cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Clostridium difficile infection (CDI)
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Diabetes

Other forms of bacteria are actually important for your immune system and other aspects of health. For example, the bacteria in your gut microbes, or microorganisms, are normally healthy and balanced. They’re able to do this on their own, provided you are taking care of your health and eating a balanced diet that consists of vegetables and red meat rich in nutrients and dietary fiber. 

However, sugars like lactose and table sugar are quickly absorbed in the upper part of the small intestine, while complex carbohydrates like starches are not easily digested and may travel to the large intestine.

The human gut microbiota also plays an important role in the synthesis of enzymes, mineral absorption, vitamins, and amino acids. However, foods and disorders, such as depression and anxiety, can cause the gut microbiome diversity to become unbalanced, allowing overgrowth of bad bacteria that can make us sick and impact our overall health. 

Luckily, there’s a simple solution for taking care of your gut health. 

Taking probiotics can help restore the balance to your gut microbiome. Probiotics are living, healthy, good bacteria you can consume to add to the population of good bacteria already existing in your gut. 

The gut microbiome benefits brain health and produces chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. For example, serotonin is mostly made in the gut, which is connected to the brain through millions of nerves. 

In addition to probiotics, prebiotics can help strengthen your gut microbiome. Prebiotics are non-living carbohydrates, fibers, and proteins that feed the good bacteria in your gut and keep them healthy. 

Understanding the relationship between the gut microbiome and your skin starts by understanding the gut microbiome and the skin microbiome. 

The Skin Microbiome

Just like your gut, your skin has an entire ecosystem living on its surface. Trillions of bacteria live inside your intestines and on your skin, protecting you from pathogens and strengthening your skin’s protective barrier. These bacteria make up your skin’s microbiome

The skin microbiome is essential in helping keep your skin radiant, balanced and free from skin conditions like dryness, oiliness, and even blemishes. It also plays a major role in immunity, which links microbes to metabolism, much like your gut microbiome. 

Your skin microbiome helps protect you from oxidative free radical damage, which can harm your cells and even change their DNA

The skin microbiome can become unbalanced, just like your gut microbiome. When this happens, your skin experiences issues that can become worse the longer your microbiome remains in an unbalanced state. 

The skin microbiome is connected to your gut health and understanding how gut health affects the skin can help you restore balance to your skin’s microbiome.

The Gut-Skin Axis

Experts refer to the relationship between the gut and skin as the gut-skin axis. 

Research shows that the gut microbiota composition (the bacteria living in your gut) and the skin microbiota (the bacteria living on your skin) communicate with one another.

One of the main ways that your gut and skin microbiota communicate with one another is via inflammation

Inflammation is the human body’s response to something it perceives as an intrusion. 

When your body encounters an irritant, it sends an immediate rush of white blood cells to protect and heal the area. 

While we still don’t know everything about the relationship between the gut microbiota and the skin microbiota, here are a few facts we do know.

  • The gut microbiome heavily influences inflammation on the skin. When the gut experiences damage, such as a break in the gut barrier, bacteria from the gut can leak into the bloodstream and collect in the skin.

This condition, wherein microscopic holes and tears are present in the intestinal barrier, is known as a leaky gut syndrome. Another key example is the bacterium A muciniphila, the most abundant single species in the intestinal microbiota. 

  • The human gut microbiome is instrumental in many inflammatory skin issues, which means that the key to healing the skin could be in healing the gut and ensuring that the skin microbiome is balanced. 
  • Acne may be exacerbated by impaired levels of specific gut bacteria. Lower levels of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium, along with high levels of stress, can release neurotransmitters that cause acne swelling.
  • Dermatitis may be a direct result of imbalances in the gut microbiome, and people with atopic dermatitis have quantifiable differences in their gut flora than people who do not suffer from dermatitis. 

A healthy gut microbiome controls gut health, including the digestion of food, immune system, central nervous system, and how it affects our skin. We can be proactive in keeping our gut healthy with probiotics, but we can also take steps to ensure our skin’s microbiome thrives. 

How Does the Skin Microbiome Become Unbalanced?

Your skin’s microbiome is crucial to keeping your skin healthy and avoiding skin conditions like: 

  • Irritation
  • Dryness 
  • Redness 
  • Itchiness
  • Oiliness
  • Blemishes
  • Uneven skin tone and texture

The skin does an amazing job of keeping its microbiome balanced, but certain factors can cause the microbiome to become unbalanced. 

Excess sun exposure, extreme climates like high-level humidity or extreme cold and even pollution can attack your skin microbiome and cause it to become imbalanced. An imbalance of healthy and unhealthy microbes is called gut dysbiosis, which can contribute to weight gain. In fact, one study revealed that when the microbiome from an obese twin was transferred to mice, they gained even more weight than those that had received the microbiome from the lean twin. 

One of the biggest stressors to our skin’s microbiome is traditional skincare. Skincare science has come a long way, but somewhere along the course of developing newer, more potent products, we ended up stripping, peeling and washing away the skin microbiome. 

Thankfully, you can balance your skin microbiome relatively easily, but it requires taking an all-new approach to skincare. 

Balancing the Skin Microbiome With Probiotics

We can all do a better job of protecting our skin from external stressors. Whether it’s being more intentional with wearing our sunscreen every day or making sure we aren’t actively participating in lifestyle habits, such as smoking, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth it.

However, there’s more we can do. Just like we can take antibiotics and probiotic supplements to promote and support our gut health, we can use probiotic skincare to boost the health of our skin’s microbiome. 

Probiotic skincare helps replenish what modern hygiene has taken away. Restorative and balancing, probiotic skincare approaches skin health differently by making sure your microbiome is balanced. 

Probiotic Skincare: How To

It’s one thing to create probiotic skincare, it’s another to discover a strain of healthy bacteria that once lived on our skin and biohack it back into our skin microbiome. At Mother Dirt, that’s just what we’ve done. 


Our AO+ Restorative Mist is a groundbreaking product that contains live, active probiotics of Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria (AOB). 

AOB used to live on our skin and helped keep it healthy and balanced. In fact, it can still be found on the skin of indigenous Amazonian tribal populations. 

AOB mixes with ingredients in your sweat to produce two important skin balancing compounds: nitrite and nitric oxide.  The result is skin that is balanced, healthy and able to protect itself from bad bacteria. 


We’ve cleansed away too much. Our modern methods of cleansing have left our skin stripped of natural moisture, resulting in dryness and/or oiliness. Our Probiotic Foaming Cleanser doses your skin with healthy probiotic extracts and a blend of mild surfactants to remove impurities without removing good bacteria. 

Our cleanser also includes prebiotics, which helps nourish healthy bacteria and promote healthy bacteria growth. 


Every skin type deserves moisture, even if it is oily, but it can be hard to find a moisturizer that fits the bill. Some moisturizers leave skin feeling greasy and oily, while others don’t hydrate deeply enough. 

Our Probiotic Moisturizing Serum helps balance your skin’s natural moisture levels by fixing the underlying problem; the imbalance with the skin microbiome. 

Our serum contains ingredients like squalane and linoleic acid, along with a blend of probiotic extracts to help balance and nourish skin without clogging your pores. 

The Takeaway

The healthy bacteria in your gut and on your skin are in constant communication with each other. While we don’t yet know the depth of their relationship, we do know that keeping them both healthy is important to your skin health. 

Using probiotics to keep your skin healthy and balance your skin’s microbiome and the mechanisms of underlying interactions will provide a better understanding and help you enjoy healthier, more radiant skin. 


The Gut Microbiome as a Major Regulator of the Gut-Skin Axis | NCBI 

Free Radical-Induced Damage to DNA: Mechanisms and Measurement | NCBI 

The Gut-Skin Axis | The Secret Life of Skin 

Impacts of Gut Bacteria on Human Health and Diseases | NCBI 

How does the immune system work? | NCBI 

Inflammatory responses and inflammation-associated diseases in organs | NCBI 

intact human gut: Topics | 

Microbiome in the Gut-Skin Axis in Atopic Dermatitis | NCBI 

Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis | NCBI 

Extrinsic Factors Shaping the Skin Microbiome | NCBI 

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