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Zinc for Acne

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Zinc is a mineral supplement that can correct hormonal imbalance and kill off the bacteria responsible for acne. Using zinc for acne can boost skin health and reduce the number, size, and appearance of acne breakouts.

Zinc is a valuable trace mineral that is essential for our bodies to function properly. Zinc is found in a lot of foods naturally, like meat, fish, nuts, and grains, but poor soil quality and food processing removes zinc from foods that we eat, making zinc deficiencies common. Zinc and acne go hand in hand as low zinc levels are commonly reported in individuals with acne.

A person with acne typically either has a harder time absorbing zinc or simply isn’t getting enough in their diet. Increasing zinc levels has been shown to discourage the production of P. acnes bacteria on the skin, often linked to a hormonal imbalance. High levels of estrogen (in women and girls) and high levels of dihydrotestosterone (in men and boys) are linked with a higher likelihood of acne breakouts. Zinc helps regulate these hormones in the body and protects against the development of acne by killing bacteria on the skin.

Zinc is often used in topical treatments for acne, but research also suggests that zinc is beneficial for acne when taken in supplement form, too. Taking zinc supplements ensures you are getting enough of this vital mineral that is essential for the body to work properly, and as a side benefit, zinc supplements have been shown to help reduce acne in individuals with low zinc levels. 

Zinc and Acne

Zinc is effective in the treatment of acne for several reasons. However, the two most important benefits of zinc to acne patients are its antimicrobial properties and its ability to reduce the production of dihydrotestosterone.

A study published in the International Journal of Dermatology in 1982 established that zinc levels in acne patients were lower than in the general population.

In fact, the lower the amount of serum zinc, the more severe the acne in the study participants. In addition, women generally have lower zinc levels than men.

These findings are not surprising considering that zinc deficiency causes a number of skin conditions. These include stretch marks, varicose veins, boils, vitiligo, psoriasis, eczema and acne.

Teenage girls and women are most affected by this direct link between zinc levels and acne. This is because zinc and its balance with other mineral such as copper are lost during menstruation.

The Role of Zinc in Humans

Zinc is an essential but trace elements in all life forms. It is the second most important mineral in humans after iron and it is the only mineral found in all classes of enzymes.

A typical human normally holds 2 – 4 g of zinc in the body. This is mostly found in the prostate gland (in men), parts of the eyes, brains, bones, muscles, kidneys and liver. Zinc is also found bound to many proteins and it is transported and used bound in such forms.

Zinc transport in the body is mostly managed by the proteins, albumin and transferrin.

Transferrin also binds to and transports iron and copper. This means that zinc competes with these minerals. Therefore, it can affect their absorption and vice versa.

Zinc also competes with copper at the intestine. The absorption of both minerals is managed by a compound called metallothionein which is found in intestinal cells. Metallothionein can affect the absorption of zinc by 15 – 40%.

The recommended dietary intake of zinc is 8 mg/day for women and 11 mg/day for men.

What Zinc Does

The biological roles of zinc are extensively studied. The mineral is needed for gene expression, signal transduction and for the proper functioning of RNA and DNA.

It is also involved in neurotransmitter activity in the brain and can regulate excitability as well as promote adaptability of the synapses and so improve learning.

Zinc ions have antimicrobial properties even at low concentrations. They are sometimes included in topical antimicrobial preparations as zinc pyrithione which is an anti-dandruff preparation or taken orally to kill harmful microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract.


Sources of Zinc
Excellent animal sources of zinc are red meats, liver, oyster, and lobsters. 

Plants obtain their zinc from the soil, and the best zinc sources are wheat germ and bran, whole grain, nuts, beans, seeds, almonds and blackcurrant.

Zinc can also be obtained from fortified cereals and dietary supplements.

 

Zinc Supplements and Zinc Deficiency 

Different salts of zinc are used in supplements. Studies have shown that zinc glycinate and zinc picolinate are better absorbed than zinc oxide, zinc carbonate, zinc citrate and zinc gluconate.

Zinc deficiency can be caused by low dietary intake of the mineral and also by medical conditions such as malabsorption of zinc, renal and liver diseases, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, and cancers.

Since zinc is an extensively distributed mineral in the body which is involved in many essential reactions, symptoms of zinc deficiency are diverse. Some of these symptoms are delayed growth and sexual maturation, impotence, diarrhea, hair loss, cognitive problems, immune system impairment, abnormal carbohydrate metabolism and skin lesions such as acne.

While vegetarians can get their daily zinc requirements from nuts, seeds, beans and fortified cereals, some plant food sources also contain phytate which chelates zinc and reduces its absorption.

Therefore, zinc supplements are still recommended for vegetarians in order to prevent zinc deficiency and acne.

It is estimated that globally, almost 2 billion people have zinc deficiency. This is mostly caused by low levels of zinc intake and diets rich in plants grown in zinc-deficient soils. Zinc supplements are useful for increasing zinc levels in people who are deficient in the mineral.

Zinc Toxicity

While zinc deficiency is dangerous, zinc toxicity is just as harmful. Free zinc ions have been shown to be toxic to plants even in small amounts. Free zinc ions will dissolve in stomach acid to form zinc chloride which is a corrosive compound.

Furthermore, excess zinc affects the absorption of iron and copper. Therefore, it can induce deficiencies of these minerals. This is the main reason why zinc supplements are supplied in combination with other minerals.

The FDA specifically bans zinc-based intranasal preparations following reports that zinc damages the nerve receptors in the nose.

Zinc and Acne

Zinc is effective in the treatment of acne for a number of reasons. However, the two most important benefits of zinc to acne patients are its antimicrobial properties and its ability to reduce the production of dihydrotestosterone.

A study published in the International Journal of Dermatology in 1982 established that zinc levels in acne patients were lower than in the general population.

In fact, the lower the amount of serum zinc, the more severe the acne in the study participants. In addition, women generally have lower zinc levels than men.

These findings are not surprising considering that zinc deficiency causes a number of skin conditions. These include stretch marks, varicose veins, boils, vitiligo, psoriasis, eczema and acne.

Teenage girls and women are most affected by this direct link between zinc levels and acne. This is because zinc and its balance with other mineral such as copper are lost during menstruation.

Zinc and The Hormonal Cause of Acne

Because zinc is involved in the metabolism of different hormones including testosterone, low levels of zinc create the condition needed for increased conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone or DHT.

DHT is one of the androgens that contribute to the hormonal cause of acne.

The first acne breakouts usually occur during the teenage years when there is an increased production of male sex hormones in the body. The male sex hormones that promote acne breakout are testosterone and its metabolites such as DHT.

DHT causes the enlargement of the sebaceous gland which increases the production of sebum. It also promotes hyperkeratinization which leads to an increased formation of dead skin cells.


These two actions contribute to the colonization of the skin by acne-causing bacteria such as Propionibacterium acnes.

The net effects of DHT and P. acnes include the clogging of the skin pores (which leads to the appearance of whiteheads and blackheads) and an abnormal cycle of inflammation (which leads to the appearance of papules, pimples, nodules and cysts).

Therefore, zinc can help reduce acne breakout by reducing the amount of DHT produced. This effectively stops the root cause of acne breakouts.

Other Benefits of Zinc in Acne Treatment

Furthermore, zinc is an effective antimicrobial agent. In a study published in Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics in 1992, zinc ions were found to be potent antimicrobial agents even in low concentrations.

Therefore, it is possible that topical zinc preparations can effectively kill off the population of acne-causing bacteria such as P. acnes on the skin.

Yet another positive effect zinc has on acne is its anti-inflammatory effects. In a study published in Acta Dermato-Venereologica by French researchers, low doses of zinc gluconate (the zinc salt contained in the anti-acne formulation, Actimine) were given to study participants suffering from inflammatory acne.

Even at 200 mg/day of zinc gluconate (30 mg/day of elemental zinc), the symptoms of acne inflammation such as pimples, nodules and cysts were much improved compared to the placebo group.

The anti-inflammatory effect of zinc is attributed to its actions on granulocytes which are immune cells involved in inflammation. Zinc is absorbed by and secreted from all granulocytes. 

Zinc is required for the absorption of vitamins A and E. These are essential vitamins in acne treatment. They help reduce sebum production and the breakdown of keratin while also providing an antioxidant cover that protects the skin.

Zinc also can reduce keratinocyte activation. Basically, these are cells that produce karatin, which is a protein the binds skin cells together. When you have elevated levels of keratin, this blocks pores on the skin. Zinc can reduce keratin and make pores remain open longer.

 

Signs You Might Need a Zinc Supplement

Even if you have acne, you might not need a zinc supplement. However, there are clear signs that a zinc supplement might be necessary. If you have several of the following signs, you might benefit from the use of a zinc supplement. If you notice these symptoms, ask your doctor for a blood test to check zinc levels. You don’t want to start taking massive amounts of zinc without confirmation from your doctor, because it is possible to over-dose on zinc, which can lead to complications including stomach cramps and worse symptoms. But the following symptoms can be a sign of zinc deficiency:

Signs of a Zinc Deficiency

Impaired sense of smell and taste: IF you can’t taste or smell food properly, you could be low in zinc. One of the first symptoms of a zinc deficiency is a reduced sense of taste and smell.

 

Hair loss: Lack of zinc can trigger hair fall and make you lose hair rapidly. Hair loss can be triggered from other causes, but combined with other symptoms, zinc deficiency could be the cause.

 

Slow wound healing: If your wounds take forever to heal, a zinc deficiency could be to blame.

 

A diet high in grains: Although grains do contain zinc, processed grains also contain phyctic acid, which can make it harder for the body to absorb nutrients. Eating a lot of processed grains could mean that you are eating too much phyctic acid, which could be interfering with how much zinc your body can actually use. 


Choosing A Zinc Supplement In Acne Treatment

Zinc supplements should be combined with other anti-acne supplements in acne treatment. Zinc can help improve the effect of other supplements such as vitamins A, B and E.

While topical zinc preparations can provide immediate antibacterial effects on the skin, zinc is recommended to be taken orally for acne treatment. This is because most of its positive effects are provided internally.

To correct hormonal imbalances, reduce inflammation, boost immunity, increase the absorption of vitamin A and produce its antioxidant effects, zinc must be orally ingested.

There are many zinc supplements to choose from. However, the form of zinc found to be effective in acne treatment in most studies is zinc gluconate.

Actimine, an effective anti-acne supplement contains this form of zinc and in a concentration (10 mg/capsule or 30 mg/day) that provides the most therapeutic benefits without causing zinc toxicity.

Types of Zinc

There is not one form of zinc only. In fact, there are several types of zinc available, but some are harder for the body to use than others. Research suggests that zinc picolinate and zinc methionine are easier for the body to absorb than other kinds of zinc. Look for supplements that contain these forms of zinc. If neither of these are available, look for zinc gluconate.

If that is not available either, zinc citrate and zinc sulphate can be taken, but they are the least beneficial forms for the body. Avoid supplements that don’t list the type of zinc inside the supplements, as these are likely to be of lower quality than zinc supplements that list the type of zinc.

Types of Zinc Supplements

  • Zinc oxide: Commonly used in low-budget supplements. It is difficult for the body to use.
  • Zinc gluconate: Harder for the body to use, but not impossible. Several studies support the use of zinc gluoconate for skin health.
  • Zinc sulphate: Studies on zinc sulphate suggest that this version of zinc has positive effects on the skin and overall health.
  • Zinc glycinate: This form of zinc is credited to be 16 perfect more effective and usable by the body than zinc sulphate.
  • Zinc citrate: Well absorbed, but not as effective as some other forms of zinc.
  • Zinc orotate: Report suggest that zinc orotate is one of the most effective forms of zinc.
  • Zinc l-methionine: Another form of zinc that is usable by the body and shown to improve the appearance of skin.
  • Zinc piliconate: Studies suggest that zinc piliconate is one of the best forms of zinc available and is significantly better than most other forms of zinc.  

What About Topical Zinc?

Zinc can be taken internally for a host of benefits, but topical zinc creams are also available. However, studies on topical zinc don’t show much promise for its effectiveness in reducing acne bacteria. In one study, topical zinc was no better for skin than a placebo cream.

Studies evaluating zinc creams on acne don’t give much reason to celebrate. While some show positive results, the evidence overall is not promising. The only study where zinc sulfate cream was compared to placebo cream showed no difference in results.

Dosage

According to the USDA recommended daily intake guidelines, an adult male should take no more than 11 milligrams and an adult female should take no more than 8 milligrams of bound zinc per day. However, there is another form of zinc supplement available, called elemental zinc.

Elemental zinc has been show in some studies to be more effective than bound zinc, and safer to take at higher levels. The recommended daily intake of elemental zinc is no more than 50 milligrams per day. Higher doses of bound and elemental zinc can cause irritating side effects, most commonly, and upset stomach and cramps.

A few studies have examined higher does of bound zinc for acne. In these studies, study participants consumed between 40 and 300 milligrams of elemental zinc. This is not recommended unless you are under the direct supervision of a health professional. It can be dangerous to take too much zinc, particularly as it can interfere with copper absorption, which is dangerous for health. If you take zinc supplements, you must also take copper supplements to balance the minerals in the body and prevent overdosing and side effets.

How to Use Zinc for Acne

Many acne supplements contain a blend of zinc and other skin-healing vitamins, including copper, vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin C. These vitamins and minerals work together to boost skin health and clear the skin from the inside out. Vitamin A and E have long been used to improve skin health and fight acne, and vitamin C helps regenerate the skin and boost collagen production, fighting the signs of aging.

Some research suggests that mixing zinc in with other supplements is more beneficial than taking stand-alone supplements. You can also try mixing topical acne treatments along with zinc and other vitamin supplements for maximum acne-fighting properties.

Take your zinc supplements in the morning along with any other medications and supplememts you take in a day. Don’t consume zinc supplements without food, or you might have stomach cramps or irritation. Add your zinc supplements to a meal for maximum benefit and the least amount of side effects. 

A Word of Caution

The upper tolerable intake limit of zinc is 40 mg/day.

Zinc supplements should not be taken along with tetracycline antibiotics (including minocycline and doxycycline) or quinolone antibiotics such as ciprofloxacin. This is because the drug-drug interactions will affect the absorption of zinc and the antibiotics.

Where zinc supplements are recommended along with antibiotics for acne treatment, the zinc supplements should be taken 6 hours before or 2 hours after the antibiotics. 

You Can Use Zinc for Acne

Zinc is a promising remedy for acne. Many individuals with acne also have low zinc levels, and research has show that often, adding zinc supplements and topical zinc treatments (combined with other skin-boosting supplements) can improve the appearance of skin by discouraging the spread of acne bacteria, reducing inflammation, and keeping the pores open and clean. Some studies have shown that taking zinc supplements alone can have as much as a 50 percent improvement in number of acne breakouts within just a few weeks.

If you have always struggled with acne and have breakouts even as an adult, adding more zinc to your diet just might be the extra advantage that your body needs to keep your skin clear and healthy. Combined with effective topical care and a healthy diet, your acne could start to fade in just a few weeks. 

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