Move over, Benzoyl Peroxide. Zinc’s the new acne fighter on the block.
Riding the wave of natural skincare, this mineral’s recently found its way into all kinds of products for oily skin, from lightweight moisturisers to spot treatments.
I totally see why: it’s natural, gentle and said to help regulate oil production and kick acne in the butt. What’s not to love?
Here’s what: the jury’s still out there on whether zinc really helps treat acne or not. So should you give it a chance or is it just another fad to ignore? Let’s find out:
What The Heck Is Zinc?
Zinc is a metal ion naturally found in meat, nuts, whole grains and legumes. It’s an essential nutrient your body needs to work properly. For example, wounds can’t heal without it.
Problem is, zinc comes in many forms. The most common is zinc oxide, the UV filter found in mineral sunscreens. You’ve also probably heard of zinc PCA or zinc pyrithione, which are more common in anti-acne and anti-dandruff treatments.
So just because that moisturiser has zinc, it doesn’t mean it’s the right kind of zinc that can regulate oil production.
But I’m getting ahead now. Let’s take a look at what zinc can do for skin first, ok?
Related: Why Zinc Oxide Is My Fave UV Filter
What Are The Skincare Benefits Of Zinc?
Zinc has several skincare superpowers:
- Oil regulation: it reduces the production of hormones responsible for excessive oil production.
- Skin protectant: it protects damaged and injured skin from external stimuli that could wreak even more damage.
- Soothing: it has anti-inflammatory properties that reduce inflammation and help treat acne, eczema, rosacea, psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions.
- Sunscreen: it protects skin from the entire UV spectrum by absorbing UV rays and transforming them into a less damaging form of energy (heat).
- Wound healing: as I mentioned before, skin needs zinc to help wounds heal properly.
Related: How To Deal With Rosacea
Can Skincare Products With Zinc Help Treat Acne?
In theory, zinc can help treat acne in several ways: it regulates oil production so there’s no extra sebum that can clog pores, soothes the inflammation that triggers acnes and inhibits certain fatty acids acne bacteria feed on.
In practice? Well, studies show that zinc alone has NO effect on acne. But when you use zinc together with prescription topical antiobiotics, you get better results than when you use antibiotics alone.
If you’re not on prescription meds because your acne isn’t that severe yet, you’re better off with traditional acne treatments like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. If you want to go down the natural route, try sulfur instead.
P.S. That doesn’t mean zinc doesn’t have a place in your skincare routine. It just shouldn’t be your ONLY acne treatment.
P.P.S. Zinc oxide is often touted as an acne remedy on internet forums and social media. Truth is, there is NO proof whatsoever it works.
Related: Benzoyl Peroxide VS Salicylic Acid: Which One Is Right For You?
Can Zinc Supplement Help Treat Acne?
I have good and bad news for you.
Let’s start with the good news: studies show they may help treat acne. Zinc orotate, zinc methionine, and zinc acetate are the most effective forms. Zinc gluconate and zinc sulfate don’t really do much for acne.
The bad news? Even when zinc supplements work, they’re NOT as effective as prescription oral antibiotics. Bummer!
It goes without saying – but I’ll say it anyway – that before starting a supplement, you should always consult your doctor. Going over the recommended daily intake of zinc can have serious side effects.
FYI, before considering a supplement, make sure you’re getting enough zinc in your diet. Meat is high in zinc so if you love your steaks, you’re probably getting all the zinc you need from your food.
Fruits and vegs (with few exceptions) are very low in zinc, so if your acne has gotten worse after going vegetarian or vegan, you may want to see your doctor for a supplement recommendation.
I know what you’re going to say: “Oh, but I get my zinc fix from whole grains and legumes. I don’t need a supplement.”
Tough luck. Whole grains and legumes are great but they contain phytates, a family of ingredients that binds to zinc and get it eliminated from your body before it can do your skin much good.
So how do you know if you’re getting enough zinc from your diet? Here are the foods highest in zinc:
- Meat (red meat is higher in zinc than white meat)
- Shellfish (oysters are super high in zinc)
- Swiss cheese
How do you fare?
What Are The Best Products With Zinc?
Zinc can’t single-handedly heal your acne, but it can be an useful tool in your anti-acne arsenal. Plus, it’s a wonderful sunscreen. Here are my fave picks:
Credentials Clinical System Azu-Zinc Soothing Mask ($27.00): it has a little PCA + a lot of soothing ingredients to reduce inflammation and redness. Available at Dermstore.
EltaMD UV Pure Broad-Spectrum SPF 47 ($25.00): a lightweight sunscreen with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide even oily skin will love. Available at Dermstore and Walmart.
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% (£5.00): it uses zinc PCA to reduce inflammation + Niacinamide, another soothing agent with anti-acne properties. Available at Asos, Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty and Feel Unique.
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Related: What Are The Best Sunscreens For Oily Skin?
The Bottom Line
Zinc isn’t the most powerful acne remedy. Even when it works, it’s not as effective as more traditional acne remedies. Use it, but never alone.
Have you ever tried zinc to treat acne? Share your experience in the comments below.