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Is Oily Skin a Sign of Poor Gut Health?

January 14, 2022

Gut health and skin health go hand-in-hand. So, did you know probiotics can actually clear oily skin, as well as helping your gut?

Author: Megan Kerr & Sam Pennington

Reading time: 8 minutes

Is Oily Skin a Sign of Poor Gut Health?

Many people are unaware of the importance of gut health to the body, and it’s not widely known that your lifestyle can easily damage the natural balance of the gut. A damaged gut means your body is not working in its correct balance and can lead to painful digestive issues, unintentional weight fluctuations, stress, poor sleep and skin problems, like oily skin. While it’s of course essential to lead a healthy balanced lifestyle and eat a nutritious diet, this is not always enough to heal your gut.

Probiotics are an excellent way to restore the gut back to optimal health and in turn, will help to clear the skin. Furthermore, oily skin indicates an internal imbalance and often requires you to heal your insides before healing your outside!

Can Gut Health Affect Your Skin?

The gut refers to the entire gastrointestinal tract - that includes the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, pancreas, liver, gallbladder, small intestine, colon, and rectum. The primary functions of the gut are digestion, absorbing all the nutrients we consume and excreting waste. When the gut is not working properly, it has a huge impact on our overall health, which includes our skin.

Poor diet, stress, certain antibiotics and alcohol consumption all lead to gut inflammation. This causes the microbe levels in the gut to become imbalanced, resulting in a state called dysbiosis. When the gut is healthy, ‘good’ bacteria aid digestion, stimulate the immune system, break down toxic food compounds, and synthesise vitamins and minerals. However, dysbiosis means that there are not enough ‘good’ bacteria to counteract the ‘bad’ bacteria, and the microbiome functions become impaired. Digestive issues, poor concentration, mood swings and skin conditions like excessive oiliness or eczema and psoriasis all link to Dysbiosis.

The skin is the body’s largest organ and provides the first line of defence against external agents. The skin functions as both a physical and immunological barrier, performing a wide range of innate and adaptive immune functions. Resident skin microbes stabilise the host’s barrier by fighting off pathogens, interacting with immune cells in the skin, and modifying host immunity.

Dermatologist Dr Young Bok Lee

Research shows that inflammation in the gut from dysbiosis releases pro-inflammatory cytokines (‘bad’ bacteria) throughout the body, which results in different forms of skin inflammation.

If you are suffering from persistent skin issues including oiliness and acne, then it may be linked to your gut health.

Can Poor Gut Health Cause Acne?

Acne has close connections with the gut, as the gut microbiota are involved in the pathogenic processes of acne.

Dysbiosis can also lead to hormonal imbalances, especially with regards to the regulation of estrogen levels. The gut contains microbes that are responsible for metabolising and processing estrogen. Estrogen is the most important hormone in maintaining healthy skin; it activates estrogen receptors in skin cells to produce elastin and collagen, and to increase cell turnover.

What Are 3 Characteristics of Oily Skin?

Most dermatologists classify the skin into 5 different types: oily, normal, dry, combination and sensitive. If you have oily skin, you will usually feel:

  1. shiny throughout the day around the T zone (oily forehead, oily nose or oily chin)
  2. have visibly large pores
  3. be prone to breakouts.

Sometimes your ‘skin type’ will change according to the time of the year, for example many people experience oilier skin during the summer months and drier skin during the winter months. If so, it’s best to adjust your skincare routine accordingly (top up on moisturising products during the winter etc.)

What Causes Oily Skin?

Excess oil on the face produces a greasy appearance, leading to oily skin. Everyone has sebaceous glands under the pores in the skin. However, for people with oily skin, the sebaceous glands produce too much oil, which is called sebum. When sebum builds up under the skin it clumps together with dead skin cells and clogs pores, which then swell up and push out the contents from under the skin, forming a spot on the surface. This is why people with oily skin are more prone to acne.

Oily skin is the product of many factors. These include genetics, your diet, stress levels, exercise, environmental factors, hormones, gut health and the skincare products you use.

What Hormone Causes Oily Skin?

Oily skin can also be caused by hormonal imbalances. This is why acne is particularly common during periods of hormonal change, such as puberty and pregnancy. Excess sex hormones trigger sebum production. As well as this, hormonal fluctuations, such as during menstruation also trigger an overproduction of sebum.

Is It Good to Have Oily Skin?

Although an excess of oil can clog pores and even lead to acne, all skin types do actually need oil! Oil helps to preserve the skin, helps with skin barrier function and also has antibacterial properties.

The key to having healthy oil levels in the skin is to find the right balance. Too little oil in the skin will lead to dry and dehydrated skin. Too much and pores can become clogged, leading to breakouts.

Washing the face twice daily with a trusted cleanser for oily skin is a great way to balance oil levels, if your skin produces too much sebum. On the other hand, if your skin doesn't have enough oil, trial adding a facial oil into your skincare routine.

How Do I Stop My Face From Being So Oily?

In order to get rid of oily skin, lean towards products that are specially targeted towards your needs. These products should remove excess oil, minimise inflammation, balance sebum production and hydrate.

This is the best skincare routine for oily skin with products that actually work:

  1. 1. Use a daily cleanser specifically for oily skin. We recommend the Facial Wash Oily/Problem Skin from PCA Skin.
  2. 2. Use an exfoliator for oily skin. The PCA Skin Pore Refining Treatment is a great option for greasy skin types.
  3. 3. Try a toner for oily skin. Again, PCA Skin has a dedicated PCA Skin Hydrating Toner that's great for greasy skin.
  4. 4. Always follow any face washing by using a face cream or moisturiser for oily skin.
  5. 5. Believe it or not, oils are also great for oily skin. People suffering from acne and oily skin often lack an essential fatty acid. You can supplement this with many facial oils, such as the  Indeed Labs Clearify Facial Oil.
  6. 6. Finally, apply sunscreen daily. We recommend any Heliocare sun protector.

How Do You Reset Your Gut?

Healing yourself on the inside will yield a healthy, glowing exterior (both mentally and physically). Therefore, this is the best way to get rid of oily skin and will help the products listed above work properly!

In order to heal your gut and restore its natural microbiome levels, follow these steps below.

1. Eat a Healthy Balanced Diet

Nutrition is of course the most important way we can influence our health. The best diet to reduce the overproduction of oil in the skin is one rich in nutritious, unprocessed foods that focuses on key vitamins and minerals. Therefore, dermatologists recommend staying away from foods like dairy, refined sugar, saturated fats and fizzy drinks for optimum skin health, because they are classed as ‘allergens’ commonly linked to skin issues like acne and inflammation.

The best foods for improving skin complexion are those high in vitamins A, C and E (fruits, vegetables, eggs and plant-oils), omega-3 essential fatty acids (fish, nuts, seeds), vitamins B2 and B3 (whole wheat products like brown bread and pasta, wholegrains (rice), breakfast cereals, avocados, peanuts, mushrooms and potatoes).

What's more, dysbiosis is caused by a poor diet high in artificial sweeteners, too much sugar, saturated fats and excess alcohol. These ingredients interfere with the gut bacteria and disrupt the microbial balance. Think of it as a cycle: bad diet – unhealthy gut – unhealthy body – unhealthy skin. All the vitamins and minerals you are eating will not be effectively absorbed by the gut if it’s not working properly.

2. Consume Probiotics (‘Good’ Bacteria)

These are either available in supplement form, or in fermented foods like sourdough bread, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, miso and yogurt.

This will also help with other gut issues including digestive issues, poor concentration, mood swings, skin conditions and a proneness to getting ill.

3. Move Your Body

This does not have to be super rigorous exercise; any form of movement is good! Exercise is great for reducing stress and has been linked to increased microbial diversity in the gut. It also supports a healthy metabolism.

4. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is when our body carries out most of its restorative functions. Try to get at least 7 hours of quality sleep and let your body wake up naturally according to its circadian rhythm. This will ensure the natural cycle of the gut is not disrupted.

Can Probiotics Help Oily Skin?

Probiotics are microorganisms made up of ‘good’ bacteria that fight off ‘bad’ bacteria in the body. What's more, as part of our microbiome, they influence the body’s immune response to diseases, help to digest food and produce essential vitamins.

Furthermore, research shows that taking probiotics in supplement form or in fermented foods can heal dysbiosis and restore the natural microbiome levels in the gut. In turn, probiotics therefore contribute to better skin health, with proven benefits like the reduction of oiliness and acne.

The easiest way to incorporate probiotics into your diet is through supplements. Effective probiotic supplements will flush out the ‘bad’ bacteria from your microbiome and restore its natural balance. This will build immunity to oxidative free radicals in the environment and restore natural hormone levels, which is the key to regulating oil production.

What Probiotic Is Best for Oily Skin?

The best strains of probiotic for oleaginous or oily skin contain the genus Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus or Saccharomyces. These are the most scientifically studied bacterial strains with the most evidence of skincare improvement.


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