11 Ways Zinc and Zinc Oxide Help the Skin (And Which Foods To Get it From)
Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is general in nature and for informational purposes. It is not meant to substitute for the advice... read more
Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is general in nature and for informational purposes. It is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. None of the statements on this site are a recommendation as to how to treat any particular disease or health-related condition. If you suspect you have a disease or health-related condition of any kind, you should contact your health care professional immediately. Please read all product packaging carefully and consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise, supplementation or medication program. Cosmetic products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease. read less
You probably already know that zinc oxide is the safest option when it comes to sunscreen. We talked about it in a previous post—in case you’d like a refresher.
But did you know that zinc is good for skin for a number of other reasons, too? According to a 2014 study, zinc has been used for centuries to treat skin conditions ranging from rosacea to warts to infections and even hyperpigmentation. In fact, certain skin conditions may be your body’s way of telling you you’re not getting enough zinc.
Do you need to get more zinc in your diet? Read on to find out. After all, what could be easier than adding some more seafood, lean beef and lamb, and pumpkin and squash seeds to your diet—or a zinc supplement—as a way to clearer, smoother, and more even-toned skin?
What are the Benefits of Zinc Oxide for the Skin
Overall, zinc’s major role in skin care is that of a handy man. It’s there when skin needs to fix something. Which is most all of the time.
The sun’s UV rays, pollution, harsh weather, dry air, bacteria, viruses, chemicals in personal care products, poor diet, stress, and lack of exercise can all damage skin on a daily basis (Holy moly, I know! Stay with us, the news gets better.) Fortunately, the skin has natural regenerative powers that it uses to repair minor wounds, injuries, free radical damage, and more, but these processes require zinc to operate optimally. Without it, repair can fall behind.
Imagine what happens to a house over time. Things break, age, and require repair. Home owners who don’t keep up with these repairs end up with a house that soon appears old and broken down.
The same thing can happen if your skin doesn’t get the nutrients it needs to keep up. Aging makes it more difficult—after the age of 30, repair processes naturally slow down. We have to be even more vigilant to avoid the appearance of premature aging.
Whether you use it directly on your skin or ingest it in food, there are many benefits of zinc oxide for the skin!
11 Skin Conditions that Can Be Improved by Adding Zinc in Your Diet or Skin Care
- Sunburn and sun damage: As we noted in this post, zinc oxide offers broad-spectrum protection against damaging UVA and UVB rays, and is approved by the FDA for infants under six months.
- Ulcers and wounds: Zinc has long been used orally and topically to treat ulcers and other wounds. It has natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help speed wound healing to help skin recover.
- Warts: Warts are actually the result of an infection. If you have them, you may want to try zinc supplementation for a week or so to see if it helps. Studies have shown that topical zinc, as well, was effective in treating viral warts in 80 percent of participants.
- Acne: Acne breakout? Reach for more shrimp (rich in zinc). A number of studies have shown that zinc—both topically and when taken internally—can help clear up acneic skin. Other studies have found that patients with acne are more likely to have zinc deficiencies.
- Large pores: As well as all it’s other talents, zinc is also a natural astringent. That means it tightens tissues and absorbs excess oil—another reason zinc is so good as an anti-acne treatment. It helps tighten pores and prevent the buildup of sebum, reducing the formation of blackheads and pimples.
- Rosacea: Zinc is a natural anti-inflammatory, which means that it can help tame inflammation. Since rosacea is mostly an inflammatory disease, it makes sense that zinc might help reduce flare-ups. That’s what scientists have found.
- Psoriasis: Similar to rosacea, psoriasis is also an inflammatory skin condition. Scientists tried treating it with creams that contained zinc, and found that it was effective. Taking zinc orally also helped improve symptoms of psoriatic arthritis.
- Eczema: Again, because of its anti-inflammatory properties as well as its ability to act as an antioxidant, zinc has been used to treat eczema. Topical applications were found to improve symptoms of eczema in study participants, easing severity and itching.
- Photo-Induced Aging: A 2009 study tested a cream that contained both zinc and copper on 21 women with photoaged skin. After 8 weeks, researchers saw a significant improvement in elastic fiber regeneration leading to a reduced appearance of wrinkles.
- Diaper rash: Check out your diaper rash cream. Does it have zinc oxide? If it does, it’s because manufacturers know that it helps skin heal—not only because of its wound healing and anti-inflammatory properties, but because it helps seal out wetness to keep skin dry.
- Dandruff: Also called “seborrhoeic dermatitis,” dandruff can cause an itchy, irritated and flaking scalp. We’ve known for years that zinc can help. Most dandruff shampoos available today contain zinc, because it’s a proven treatment for the condition.
Could You be Zinc Deficient?
The National Institutes of Health notes that in North America, zinc deficiency is uncommon. Some people are at a higher risk of not getting enough than others, however. These include:
- Vegetarians: Meat offers us the best source of highly bioavailable zinc, so if you don’t eat meat, it’s going to be harder for you to get the zinc you need. A high intake of legumes and whole grains, as well, can interfere with the zinc you do get, as these foods contain phytates that bind with zinc and inhibit its absorption. Soaking beans, grains, and seeds in water before cooking them can help reduce this binding process, but vegetarians should have their blood tested to determine zinc levels, and may need to consider taking a zinc supplement.
- Pregnant and lactating women: During pregnancy, the fetus requires a lot of zinc for development. Mothers may become depleted of the mineral. Doctors typically advise these women to supplement with zinc.
- Those with digestive disorders: People who suffer from ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and other digestive disorders will have a harder time absorbing zinc than people without these disorders.
- Those with other diseases: Kidney disease, liver disease, sickle cell disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases can lead to excessive losses of zinc.
- Alcoholics: Alcohol decreases the body’s ability to absorb zinc, and also increases zinc excretion.
I Need More Zinc!
If you suspect you may not be getting enough zinc (or if you found out you weren’t through a blood test), here are a few ways to boost your intake.
- Seafood, including oysters and shrimp and other shellfish
- Meats, including beef, pork, lamb, and liver
- Sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds
- Dairy products (but be careful—dairy can exacerbate acne in some people)
- Nuts, including cashews
- Dark chocolate
Did you know that zinc was crucial to healthy skin? Please share your thoughts.
Mrinal Gupta, et al., “Zinc Therapy in Dermatology: A Review,” Dermatology Research and Practice, July 10, 2014; http://www.hindawi.com/journals/drp/2014/709152/.
“Zinc: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals,” National Institutes of Health, http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/#h5.
A. S. Prasad, “Discovery of human zinc deficiency and studies in an experimental human model,” Am J Clin Nutr., February 1991; 53(2):403-412, http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/53/2/403.abstract.
Michael Hambidge, “Human Zinc Deficiency,” J Nutr., May 1, 2000; 130(5):1344S-1349S, http://jn.nutrition.org/content/130/5/1344S.full.
K. E. Sharquie, A. A. Khorsheed, and A. A. Al-Nuaimy, “Topical zinc sulphate solution for treatment of viral warts,” Saudi Medical Journal, 2007; 28(9): 1418–1421, http://www.scopus.com/record/display.url?eid=2-s2.0-38849136741&origin=inward&txGid=C204348B4B2384969766450ED544B386.WeLimyRvBMk2ky9SFKc8Q%3a2.
M. G. Mahoney, D. Brennan, B. Starcher et al., “Extracellular matrix in cutaneous ageing: the effects of 0.1% copper-zinc malonate-containing cream on elastin biosynthesis,” Experimental Dermatology, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 205–211, 2009, http://www.scopus.com/record/display.url?eid=2-s2.0-64549119605&origin=inward&txGid=C204348B4B2384969766450ED544B386.WeLimyRvBMk2ky9SFKc8Q%3a5.