Acne, that little red rash that almost possesses people and makes them do things. Its superficial nature and mundane appearance shouldn’t fool you, because as far as conditions go, it’s one of the more insidious phenomena - at least in terms of mental health. And before we talk about zinc and acne, let’s remind ourselves why combatting acne is so important.
The condition itself is a chimera, always coming in a slightly different form depending on the person’s health, lifestyle, and genetics. Like a many-headed dragon, acne inflammation comes in a dozen varieties, ranging from an unsuspecting pink rash to large, painful and disfiguring cysts. As you can probably already guess, visits to the bathrooms and close encounters with mirrors become intensely problematic.
People tormented by persistent acne start doubting their minds. There’s a new conversation that wasn’t there before - am I ugly? Am I still attractive enough? Am I… worthy. As a human being.
These doubts are corrosive and viral - if a person isn’t trained in observing their own mental content and selecting certain thoughts over others, a self-reinforcing cycle of negative inner talk quickly develops. If left unchallenged, such negative spirals lead to anxiety, depression, and in extreme cases, even suicide.
It is for this reason that people who suffer from acne will try almost anything. And our world is one where people actively abuse the desperation of other people looking for cures, medicines, salvation. There is a need for clarity and distinguishing what works, versus what doesn’t. What’s effective, as opposed to what is just a marketing scam preying on the people desperate enough to believe anything. That’s why we’re here - to cut through the smoke and mirrors and offer you real solutions. Effective solutions. In short, to offer you the truth and save you precious time and money.
So what’s on today’s menu? Well, one of the popular health supplements - zinc. Can Zinc help you with acne and how? More importantly, is it even worth bothering and how long until you’ll be able to see results? Read on.
In case you missed elementary school, don’t worry - zinc is a mineral. You will often find zinc being referred to as an "essential trace element," and for good reason. ‘Essential’ here means that zinc is absolutely necessary for maintaining human health. No zinc and a number of diseases and condition suddenly appear. No zinc while growing up, and you won’t grow, at all. What makes matters worse is that our bodies don’t keep any extra zinc around - they kick it out, making constant replenishment necessary.
But why is it also called a trace element? Well, because humans, thankfully, need very small amounts of this precious mineral to be healthy. But take heart, because zinc is also pretty widespread and readily available. Most commonly found in red meats, such as pork and beef, it is also found in fish, poultry, dairy, and eggs. Legumes, beans, nuts, and seeds contain zinc too, as well as a small number of vegetables. This means that as long as you’re following a diverse and rich diet, you’ll be getting plenty of zinc.
Zinc is something of a repairman of the human body. Wherever it’s found, it provides crucial support to the immune system, makes the central nervous system work properly, upholds the tiny structures of our skeletal system, cleans our digestive system, and keeps our reproductive system healthy. Regarding skin and acne inflammations, zinc works as an anti-inflammatory ingredient. It suppresses the immune reaction to the bacteria found in acne, and in doing so actually lessens the inflammation, swelling, and redness.
Since the 1970s, scientists have been trying to determine the roles of zinc in acne patients. Study after study, the results were being compared and the findings filtered in - there definitely seemed to be a connection between low levels of zinc and acne.
But in a very specific way. As time progressed and more research was done, two things became clear. One, that low levels of zinc did not cause acne, although one study confirmed that there was a slightly increased likelihood. And two, that levels of zinc affected the severity of the acne inflammation.
In other words, if you’re low on zinc, there’s a small chance it may play a role in having acne, but if you already have acne, not taking enough zinc will definitively make your acne inflammation much worse.
Conclusion? When it comes to acne, it is always the best to have your zinc tanks full.
Due to the nature of the inflammation, zinc is a bit specific when it comes to acne. While you can take zinc from food and supplements, modern science offers topical zinc solutions as well.
As the name tells you, topical here means local, meaning that these zinc solutions are applied directly to the skin over the affected area. However, scientists aren’t impressed by the effectiveness of these topical zinc formulas. They appear to be similarly effective to topical antibiotics solutions, which isn’t much. While it does reduce the inflammation to a certain degree, most often the results are not dramatic. For this reason, dermatologists recommend that topical zinc is best used in combination with other acne treatments.
Oral zinc supplements commonly come in the form of gluconic zinc, which is the zinc salt of gluconic acid. Zinc gluconate is the most popular form for the oral delivery of zinc as a dietary supplement, and the designation ‘zincum gluconicum’ is often found on some products described as homeopathic.
There are several other formulas of oral zinc supplementation, and all of these are easy to find in over-the-counter drugstores. There is a difference in the absorption rate, however, and some formulas are not as effective as others. This is why the most popular formula is the aforementioned zinc gluconate, which typically comes in 30mg tablets. Other common zinc supplement formulas include:
Remember what we said about the ineffectiveness of topical antibiotic and zinc formulas above, though? Well, according to an informative article in Dermatology Research and Practice, taking oral supplements in the form of zinc acetate or zinc octoate while using topical antibiotics may increase the antibiotics' effectiveness. So in case you want to boost your topical antibiotics, go with those two.
Otherwise, stick to zinc gluconate as your main zinc supplementation, which is the safest formula. But keep it moderate, since high levels of zinc can become toxic. If taken in moderation there are only temporary and minor side effects, and it also doesn’t increase sensitivity to the sun.
The RDA (‘Recommended Dietary Allowance’) of zinc in adults (meaning 19 years of age and above) is 11mg per day.
However, there’s a catch. When we talk about taking zinc as a supplement, only a portion of that supplement is actual zinc - and this portion varies. This clean percentage of zinc is what scientists, doctors, and dermatologists refer to as ‘elemental zinc.’ For example, the most popular formula of zinc supplementation, the zinc gluconate contains only 14% of elemental zinc. So, you’re only getting 4.2mg of elemental zinc in a single 30mg tablet of zinc gluconate. (Remember, the recommended daily dose is 11mg.)
Another formula, the zinc acetate, contains 30% of elemental zinc, which roughly translates to 9mg of elemental zinc in a 30mg zinc acetate tablet.
As we mentioned above, however, the effects of zinc when it comes to acne are not dramatic. Zinc may reduce inflammation, but it also aids the effectiveness of other treatments, most notably antibiotics. For this reason, doctors recommend that you take zinc not as your main ‘weapon’ against acne, but as a supplement to more powerful treatments.
If this disappoints you though, it shouldn’t - because there’s another catch. We take zinc every day through our food and diet, most of which is fairly rich in zinc. So, it’s not necessary to take the entire recommended dietary allowance for zinc through our supplements. One 30mg tablet of zinc gluconate per day is just about right, provided that we also eat. Which, I sure hope that you do.
Impatience is a very common trait of people suffering from acne. And I totally understand you - I’ve been there myself. But as with any supplement, mineral or vitamin or otherwise, the results take time. This has to do with the way our bodies work and the speed of each person’s individual metabolism.
Any supplement you will ever take will… Take a while. Usually, you won’t see results until at least 2 weeks pass. That’s why doctors often peg these time periods anywhere around 2 to 4 weeks because that’s the bare minimum until these ingredients actually achieve critical mass and start affecting our bodies. Minerals, which zinc is, are exceptionally slow, however. Give it at least 3 months (or, around 90 days, or 16 weeks) until any long-term deficiencies are ironed out. It is only then and only then that you will begin to see its effects. In essence, it takes so slow because zinc is a mineral, and minerals are rocks. It takes time until your body stores all of that material in its proper place and begins to move it. As the saying goes, patience is a virtue.
It has to be said - zinc does not cure acne. Anyone who is telling you so is either uninformed or trying to scam you. However, zinc can be beneficial in reducing the inflammation of acne and making you feel better overall. As an essential trace element, zinc is very important in maintaining our immunity strong, our brains fresh, our fertility potent and our skin healthy. When it comes to acne, zinc can help, and oral supplements in the form of zinc gluconate, zinc acetate, and zinc octoate can even boost the effectiveness of antibiotics. This is especially important for people suffering from severe cases of cystic acne, but overall, zinc alleviates all types of acne inflammation. Finally, make sure that you eat healthy, rich food and eat plenty. Zinc is commonly found in red meats, legumes, nuts, and some vegetables - so your recommended, natural, daily dose of zinc is always within reach. Carpe diem and use that zinc - it’s there for the taking.
This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances, and its goal is to offer a general view of the subject. In case you are suffering from a severe case of acne, you should consult with a dermatologist or a certified medical professional.