Why Your Acne Creams Don’t Work (Hint: It’s Your Gut’s Fault)

The skin is a window into the body. And when you’re dealing with chronic breakouts that don’t go away no matter what acne cream or cleanser you try…it’s time to start looking a bit deeper.

For many women, it’s gut deep.

When Justine first started working with me in The Clear Skin Solution, she told me she had been dealing with acne for the majority of her life. She’d spend an entire year on antibiotics for her breakouts. And initially, they helped clear up her skin. By the end of the 12-months, however, her skin started getting worse (even worse than it had been before the antibiotics).

She also started to develop a lot of not-so-fun digestive symptoms and was dealing with big time anxiety.  Justine felt bloated all the time and intestinal cramping plagued her more often than not. When it came to her bowel movements, she was only going once every few days and it was always a struggle.

To top it all off, she was only 34.

Justine said she was so self-conscious about her breakouts she would never leave the house without makeup on — ever. She obsessed over her skin and said she thought about it all day long. And when it came to her gut, she was always so worried about eating anything because she never knew how her body would react.

I could sympathize with her because I had dealt with both acne and gut issues myself. It’s exhausting, frustrating and makes you feel awful all the way around.

Now, before I go any further on what we did for Justine, I should give you a little breakdown on how the gut and skin are connected.

The Gut-Brain-Skin Axis

Real quick (super simple) biology lesson: Your gut is home to a plethora of microorganisms that are referred to as microbiota or gut flora. This little ecosystem in your digestive tract has a number of functions, including (but not limited to):

  • Nutrient and mineral absorption 
  • Synthesis of vitamins, enzymes and amino acids
  • Maintaining structural integrity of the gut lining
  • Protecting against pathogens
  • Boosting epithelial cell integrity (including your skin)
  • Influence neural, endocrine (hormone) and immune pathways

All kind of important tasks in the body. When your gut health is impacted from things like poor diet, chemicals in the food supply, and medications (like antibiotics and the pill), the entire body is affected.

And that includes your skin.

A 2018 study states:

“Gut microbiota influence the pathophysiology of acne via cross talk between intestinal commensal bacteria and the mTOR pathway…The complex connection between acne and GI dysfunction may also be mediated by the brain, an idea first postulated by Stokes and Pillsbury (1930). Supporting this hypothesis is the frequent association of both psychological comorbidities – anxiety and depression – and GI distress with acne.”

Meaning, gut health affects acne which are both affected by the brain. These three areas of the body are interconnected and each one impacts the others.

If you’re a science junky, check out the gut-skin axis studies I linked to at the end of this article.

Beyond Probiotics

It’s important to note here, acne is a symptom of poor gut health — even if you don’t have any of the classic digestive woes. Justine was clearly dealing with poor gut health but for many of my clients digestive symptoms aren’t an issue for them. Their only symptom is the acne.

When it comes to healing the gut, it takes know-how. It’s not as easy as throwing a probiotic at it and calling it a day. You have to know what exactly is going on in the gut, first.

  • Are you dealing with intestinal permeability aka leaky gut?
  • Do you have a Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)?
  • Has candida set up shop in your gut?
  • Is your gut struggling with low stomach acid?

These are all questions that need to be answered and must be done so through an experienced practitioner. We do this for my clients inside The Clear Skin Solution. There are a number of tests that can be done to provide concrete answers.

If testing is out of the budget, I narrow down what’s causing their gut to be in a state of dis-ease through examining a multitude of symptoms. From there, we can build a correct protocol of dietary guidelines and tailored professional-grade supplementation.

Which is precisely what we did for Justine. We used a combination of probiotics, digestive enzymes and herbal antimicrobials. I also included stress reduction lifestyle practices for her like deep breathing and meditation.

The Healing Journey

When you’re working to get rid of acne with an inside out approach, the single most important thing to know: it takes time. My clients, including Justine, will tell you it was definitely not an overnight process but it was absolutely worth it.

And they will also tell you, having a support system in place, expert guidance and accountability was a huge key to their success. It’s vital that you find a practitioner that is able to address your body as a whole if you’ve been dealing with chronic acne.

In Justine’s case, she got her gut back on track and her skin cleared up within 5 months of making a commitment to healing. Now, she has a simple skin care routine and no longer spends thousands on creams, facials, and prescriptions.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6048199/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27554239/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29548696/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21281494/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23886975/

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