The Good, The Bad and The Acne — The Skin Microbiota

Ericca Steele

Acne is the most common skin disease among Americans affecting 80%-85% of the population, largely being adolescents. It’s safe to say that there is no magic cure that works for everyone — I’ve spent a fortune on beauty products and medications over the years looking for the answer myself (Sorry, I don’t have it yet).

But, let’s get to the nitty gritty. Just as the gut is made up of good and bad bacteria, research suggests that the population of these bacteria is also different among people that suffer from skin diseases such as acne, rosacea and eczema[1]. However, acne is a complex skin disease with bacteria being only one of several factors (e.g. environment, diet, hormonal status) involved.

Previous research has shown that, in general, there are 4 main phyla of bacteria present on the skin (Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria, Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes)[2]. A recent investigation conducted metagenomic shotgun sequencing to discover the role of the skin microbiome in skin health using acne as a model disease. The sampling of these individuals revealed that these 4 main phyla of bacteria were present with the addition of Cyanobacteria. The testing showed that these bacteria differed in abundance for individuals who had healthy skin and those affected by acne. These comparisons included testing the bacteria present on adults over the age of 55 (rarely known to have acne) as a control, and groups of young adults that had healthy skin compared to those that suffered from acne.

In this case, the composition of the skin microbiota varied between individuals (just like other areas of the microbiome). However, there were significant differences in presence of certain species and strains among individuals with healthy skin and those with acne. Individuals with healthy skin were found to have greater abundances of P.acnes and P.granulosum, suggesting these strains may contribute to maintaining healthy skin[3]. Research of the microbiome is increasing and although cannot be used as a diagnosis for skin disease, it points to potential for further discovery of the role the microbiome plays and use of probiotics to maintain healthy skin. This study analyzed several other elements beyond the role of bacteria and you can access the research in its entirety here.

As the study of the microbiome is steadily increasing, more companies are looking into developing products for balancing bacteria throughout the body. Specifically, companies such as AOBiome, TULA and NERD skincare (just to name a few) are researching the skin microbiome and developing topical products to increase levels of “good bacteria” in order to maintain healthy skin.

We are excited about these new developments in the industry — at Thryve we envision a future in developing a variety of custom made products focused on all areas of the microbiome.


[1] Grice, E. A. (2014, June). The skin microbiome: potential for novel diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to cutaneous disease. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from https://

[2] Hannigan, G., & Grice, E. (2013, December 1). Microbial ecology of the skin in the era of metagenomics and molecular microbiology. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from https://

[3] Barnard, E., Shi, B., Kang, D., Craft, N., & Li, H. (2016, December 21). The balance of metagenomic elements shapes the skin microbiome in acne and health. Retrieved February 22, 2017, from



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