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Zinc supplements for acne and other skin disorders

Zinc supplements for acne and other skin disordersZinc supplements have been given to patients with acne for years because of the anti-inflammatory properties of the nutrient. Still, it remains unclear whether zinc also helps treat other inflammatory skin diseases. Therefore, a group of scientists wanted to look closer at this and they discovered that zinc supplementation may be useful in the treatment of atopic dermatitis and diaper rash. Local treatment with zinc salve may also help.

Our skin is one of the organs that contains the most zinc, and this trace element is of vital importance to the formation of skin cells. Zinc is also a powerful antioxidant that protects the skin against oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. Although zinc deficiencies are somewhat rare in our part of the world, subclinical zinc deficiencies are rather common. Vegetarians, pregnant women, and older people are particularly vulnerable. A large intake of sugar, calcium and alcohol, birth control pills, and many types of medicine can increase the risk of becoming zinc-deficient, just like it is the case with certain diseases and other factors. This may lead to different skin disorders.

  • Acne vulgaris (blemishes), a problem that is very common among teenagers, is caused by chronic inflammation in the skin’s sebaceous glands
  • Various types of dermatitis accounts for around 50% of all skin disorders, and the common denominator is lymphocytic inflammation in the dermis and subcutis.
  • Diaper rash is a collective term for toxic, inflammatory and possibly infected rash in the diaper region
  • Hidradenitis suppurativa is characterized by recurrent abscesses and painful bumps in the armpit, groin, and under the breasts, where skin surfaces rub against each other in a moist atmosphere

Zinc supplements help against acne vulgaris, dermatitis and other inflammatory skin diseases

The purpose of the new study, which is published in Clinical Nutrition, was to study the effect of zinc supplementation used to treat different inflammatory skin disorders. The scientists collected data from different studies and registers and ended up with 229 articles about zinc supplementation and inflammatory skin diseases such as acne vulgaris, atopic dermatitis, diaper rash, psoriasis, rosacea, and hidradenitis suppurativa.
It turned out that zinc supplements had a positive effect on acne vulgaris in ten out of 14 studies. Other studies showed that zinc supplementation had a positive effect on atopic dermatitis, diaper rash, and hidradenitis suppurastiva. One article about zinc and psoriasis and one about zinc and rosacea failed to demonstrated a significant effect.
The scientists therefore concluded that zinc supplementation may be helpful in the treatment of acne vulgaris, atopic dermatitis, and hidradenitis suppurativa. With regard to psoriasis and rosacea, the study only provided limited data and more research is needed.

Irritated skin areas and diaper rash can be treated topically with zinc salve

Zinc sources, widespread deficiency, and supplementation

Zinc is mainly found in meat, shellfish, dairy products, nuts, kernels, and beans. Zinc from animal sources are most bioavailable. Zinc deficiency is primarily caused by unhealthy eating habits and lack of animal protein. Large intake of iron and calcium, and alcohol also contribute to deficiencies. The same goes for ageing processes, celiac disease, diarrhea, poorly managed diabetes, and other diseases. Furthermore, diuretics, ACE-inhibitors, antacids, and birth control pills deplete zinc levels. People who lack zinc should include more of the good zinc sources in their diet. Supplements contain different forms of zinc and in many cases, they contain inorganic zinc forms such as zinc sulfate and zinc oxide that are not absorbed very well. Organic sources like zinc gluconate and zinc acetate, on the other hand, are better choices because the body can easily absorb and utilize these forms. Look at label before you make your purchase.
The official recommendation for zinc (in Denmark) is 10 mg daily. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has set the safe upper intake level for adult zinc intake at 25 mg daily.

  • An estimated 25% of the world population has minor, medium, or severe zinc deficiency
  • Zinc deficiency is detectible through a blood test
  • A diagnosed zinc deficiency can be treated safely with a high-dosed zinc supplement over a period of time


Dhaliwai S et al. Effects of Zinc Supplementation on Inflammatory Skin Diseases: A Systematic Review of the Clinical Evidence. Am J Clin Dermatol 2020 Feb. 21

Youichi Ogawa et al. Zinc and Skin Disorders. Nutrients 2018

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