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Zinc for Acne: Complete Guide (Updated 2022)

  • Post category:Skincare

A face full of acne and no solution in sight: A lot of us are all too familiar with this feeling, which is why we’re finally bringing the healing prospect of zinc to the table. For decades, zinc has been a self-medicated solution for raging acne, but what is this dynamic vitamin actually doing to the skin?

In this article we discuss the following:

What does Zinc do for Skin?

flat lay of black scoop on white powder

With the correct dose, zinc and acne can go hand in hand down a slow, yet sure, journey toward healing. Using zinc oxide for acne is something that both teens and adults have been doing for years, and it’s only now that big pharma is starting to take this natural treatment seriously. 

Celebrity esthetician, Kristin Gunn, is a big fan of zinc for the skin and has repeatedly recommended it to her acne patients, be it topical or oral. “Zinc is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory, which is huge for your skin! Zinc will no doubt reduce the inflammation, redness and swelling when it comes to acne,” says Gunn. 

An important point to note is that the human body doesn’t naturally produce nor store zinc, so it’s one of those things that a person needs to be proactive about. “Your body doesn’t store zinc like it does other minerals, so you must consume it daily to avoid a zinc deficiency,” explains Gunn. In her experience, products that contain zinc along with colloidal silver and salicylic acid tend to knock out acne overnight!

Is Zinc Good for Acne?

There is a resounding “yes” across all platforms when one starts asking does zinc help acne. But is it inherently good for acne? To answer this burning question, we spoke with clinical nutritionist, Liat Nadler

When it comes to considering zinc’s benefit to acne, one should first consider zinc’s benefit to the overall human body. “Zinc is a cationic mineral that acts as a co-factor of over 300 different enzymes and is involved in many biochemical pathways, including DNA and protein synthesis. Zinc is essential for many body functions including hearing, taste sensation, spermatogenesis, sexual development, immune function, and wound healing,” says Nadler, essentially singing zinc’s praises in terms of general health and wellness. 

That said, is a zinc deficiency acne the only time a person may need to turn to this kind of supplement? “A severe zinc deficiency is rare for those who consume a western diet, however, it appears that zinc status is low among people who have acne compared to healthy people who consume the same diet,” explains Nadler. 

Zinc for Hormonal Acne

Hormonal acne is directly linked to breakouts due to excess production of sebum during hormonal dips or spikes. In these cases, it’s usually vitamins A, D and E that are recommended to patients, as they have shown to have the most significant effect on these kinds of pimples. 

In addition to the vitamin range, zinc sebum is also recommended as a topical extra to boost the overall fight against acne. Together, these natural supplements prove a force to be reckoned with when hormonal acne tries to steal the show.

a person holding white medication
Zinc for Cystic Acne

Cystic acne is a very different kind of battle, as those who suffer from it will tell you. This is the most serious type of acne there is, and it occurs when cysts develop deep below the upper layers of the skin, making this not only an incredibly difficult plight visually, but painful too! 

These instances are where zinc in skin care can be combined with oral zinc supplements in order to tackle this kind of acne from both the outside-in, and inside-out. Travel blogger, Tracy Hollinshead, shared her struggle with acne with us, and explains how zinc was the key ingredient that turned everything around:

“I used to struggle with acne. None of the high-end products recommended by estheticians and dermatologists worked for me. And when I would sweat while hiking or working out, the chemicals in topical products often burned me. Fortunately, a dermatologist suggested I try 100% pure zinc sunscreen. Now it serves as my only moisturizer and sunblock. A daily spritzing of witch hazel astringent and applying pure zinc sunscreen is all it takes to keep my acne under control.”

Zinc for Teenage Acne

We’re big fans of zinc acne treatments for teenagers who are struggling to get their breakouts under control. Medicating developing bodies with harsh pharmaceuticals has shown time and time again to cause health problems later in life, so wherever there are natural alternatives is where we should be shifting our focus. 

Teenage acne tends to be a direct result of excess oil in the skin during puberty, as well as general lazy hygiene or lack of skin care flow. This kind of acne can be easily improved with a targeted zinc-filled sunscreen that is applied daily and maintaining a zinc-heavy diet. 

How does Zinc Help Acne?

As we know, zinc works on acne due to its high anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial nature. Since acne is a form of both inflammation and bacteria, the one naturally cancels out the other!

That said, can zinc make acne worse? According to Liat Nadler, current clinical trials suggest that zinc supplementation helps reduce acne symptoms and severity, but the optimal dosage of zinc treatment changes from one person to another, so consulting with a nutritionist or a doctor is always recommended for best results. “It is also beneficial to maintain an anti-inflammatory diet that eliminates any additional irritations and inflammatory response in the body and skin,” she adds. 

What are the Benefits of Taking Zinc?

Getting into the nitty gritty, what is zinc good for? For another professional evaluation, we spent some time with Purvisha Patel, a dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare. 

“Zinc is a high performance ingredient that helps to address redness and irritation, and inflammation caused by conditions like acne, rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis. The ingredient, in combination with mild alpha and beta acids, helps decrease inflammation, exfoliate the skin that clogs the pores and helps kill the bacteria/fungus that causes acne. Zinc is necessary for collagen synthesis and when deficient, the keratin in the skin can be more sticky- resulting in more clogged pores.” 

Based on this in depth analysis, one can deduce that major benefits of taking zinc as a regular supplement include ease of metabolism, better digestion and improved nerve function. It is also suggested that zinc plays a crucial role in blood clotting and thyroid function. 

Benefits of Zinc for Skin

Using zinc for skin healing comes with a myriad of benefits. Dr. Patel advocates for this mineral, noting its fast-acting nature as a major benefit to people with severe acne. “With topical products (such as the Visha Skincare Advanced Purifying Cleanser), when used twice a day there should be a decrease in acne within 2 weeks. When taken orally there should be a difference in 4 weeks.” 

Best Form of Zinc for Acne

What it really comes down to is if you’re taking the right zinc for your current situation. The best form of zinc is going to be person-dependent, as some people simply respond better to oral treatments, while others thrive under topical care. 

Zinc Supplement for Acne

There is never-ending debate surrounding whether zinc works best when applied directly onto the skin versus ingested into the body. Dr. Patel had some words to share on this, too: “The data with zinc supplementation and acne is with oral supplementation. The effective dose is usually 30mg of elemental zinc/day or 200mg zinc gluconate. Topical products containing zinc have results when they contain other ingredients to help with the absorption of the element.”

Zinc Pills for Acne

Call them supplements, call them pills, at the end of the day these are interchangeable terms for oral zinc for acne. Zinc supplements come in easy-to-swallow pill form, and the mineral itself doesn’t have any flavor so there is no palate disturbance, either. 

It’s important that zinc not be substituted for antibiotics in any context. Dr. Patel explains that though zinc is an important mineral in immune health, supplementation would not substitute for an antibiotic as antibiotics are generally used in moderate to severe acne, and their efficacy seems to be due to anti-inflammatory effects as well as anti-bacterial properties. “They are not as utilized in the treatment of acne in my clinic, as they should not be used for long periods of time, and the underlying causes of acne can be treated in other ways,” states Patel. 

According to her, 4 things cause acne:

  1. Follicular occlusion
  2. Oil production
  3. Growth of organism in clogged oily pore
  4. Inflammation

Patel explains that when we get rid of 2 of these 4 factors, we can not make acne any more. “Zinc addresses all 4 factors above, antibiotics only help with 2!”

Topical Zinc for Acne

One of the best ways to get the zinc vitamin into your acne-ridden skin is to simply lather it right onto the problem area directly. This works best on acne variations that are closer to the surface of the skin, whereas cystic acne is better treated from the inside. 

Topical options of zinc treatments include zinc-rich face wash, overnight masks, topical creams, moisturizes and sunblock. 

Zinc Lotion for Acne

Zinc lotions are fast becoming a new savior to the acne battle, as they make treating acne on other parts of the body more accessible. Acne is rarely locational, and can actually form anywhere on the surface of the skin where sebum and oils are produced. 

Some people suffer from back-acne, while others battle it across the chest area, shoulders and upper arms. Acne of the buttocks is also common. 

In these instances, a body lotion containing the precious mineral can be a saving grace that allows the healing benefits of the zinc to reach all affected areas. 

Zinc Vitamins for Acne

Yes, taking zinc vitamins can be avoided should one maintain a diet that is naturally rich in this mineral. However, this is getting harder and harder in the western world, as more and more people are waking up to the negative impacts of animal protein on both the body, and the environment. Zinc rich vegetables are easy to come by, but ingesting enough for your daily fix can be a tiresome endeavor.

Zinc Mask for Cystic Acne

While cystic acne may be better treated from the inside-out, there are many who are reporting positive results using zinc oxide on face overnight. These overnight masks contain high quantities of the zinc mineral, and when combined with the right ingredients, the zinc can actually penetrate the upper layers of the skin when left for long durations. 

By leaving a zinc mask on overnight, the mineral will seep into the lower layers of the skin and deliver the healing benefits to the cystic tissue. 

Zinc Oxide Powder for Acne

For years, there has been use of zinc oxide for eczema by those that suffer from this skin condition, in that they simply add the powder to their existing eczema moisturizers and treatments. That’s what zinc powder is: an added ingredient that you can combine with your existing skincare products. 

Essentially, one can make their own zinc oxide ointment for acne by mixing the powder into a lotion of their choosing. Zinc oxide powder won’t dissolve in water or oil, so it needs to be added to something more substantial that can carry it onto the skin effectively. 

What Kind of Zinc is Best for Acne

Yes, there are different types of zinc. No, it’s not essential that you know the difference, but if you’re experiencing persistent acne it could be of benefit to read through your different options. 

Zinc Picolinate for Acne

Zinc picolinate is rumored to be the type of zinc that the human body is able to absorb most effectively. This type of zinc is easy to find in drugstores and wellness shops, worldwide. 

Zinc Acetate for Acne

This is known as the remedy zinc, as it comes in handy most during cold and flu season. This type of zinc is added to throat lozenges, as oral consumption of it quickly affects internal symptoms associated to illness, and speeds up recovery. 

Zinc Gluconate Acne

Another easy-to-find form of zinc that is widely available over the counter, zinc gluconate is also popular during cold and flu season, and is the key ingredient in many cold remedies and nasal sprays. 

Zinc Sulphate for Acne

Zinc sulphate is the zinc that is most widely used in skincare treatments. It is also the form of zinc that is most effective in cases of severe zinc-deficiency. This is the most recommended form of zinc for the treatment of acne, and is easily accessible within a myriad of products. 

Zinc Citrate for Acne

Zinc citrate is used in the making of supplements and oral treatments, as it has the least bitter taste out of all the zinc minerals. One typically won’t encounter this form for zinc repair skin, but more so for long-term mineral maintenance. 

Zinc for Acne Before and After

As always, the proof is in the pudding, and visual progress speaks far louder than any verbal recount. The following are some before and after images from satisfied customers who found relief from their incessant acne through targeted zinc treatment:

Zinc for Acne Reviews

A quick look on the public feeds, and you’ll read post after post stating that “zinc cleared my acne in days”. Even a short scroll on zinc acne Reddit reveals similar hype, with positive results sitting in the 90% range, and only 10% left to either negative or simply no change in condition. 

As far as skincare goes, this is an excellent feedback ratio, and says a lot about the mineral and its potential in this field. 

Best Zinc for Acne

Best Zinc Supplement for Acne 

Thorne Zinc Picolinate 15mg

Thorne Zinc Picolinate 15mg

This essential nutrient is found in a dynamic supplement made by wellness brand, Thorne. The product isn’t targeted at acne, per se, but the quality and formulation of the zinc ends up working on those pesky pimples whether the user likes it or not. 

This is because the Thorne formula is focused on healthy skin and eyes. Users report a decrease in breakouts after a short period of use, and sustainable skin healing over longer terms. More than this, the product is also immune-boosting focused, so one can enjoy the benefits of not getting sick as often, too!

Best Zinc Tablets for Acne

Murad Pure Skin Clarifying

Murad Pure Skin Clarifying 

When it comes to the war on acne, Murad has been ahead of the pack for quite some time. They’ve dedicated research to coming up with only the best and most effective zinc-based acne treatments, but this product is their first tablet-form. 

Murad’s approach is to nourish the body from inside out, and in the process, acne can heal for good. They mix their zinc with vitamin A and burdock root, which are two potent supporting elements that further enhance the zinc’s ability to get to work. 

Murad’s loyal customers report healthier and younger looking skin, likely due to the anti-aging nature of vitamin A. For anyone looking to get off of birth control that is currently managing their acne, this is a great way to make the shift. 

Best Zinc Vitamins for Acne

Vitamin Me Skin Clarity and Glow

Vitamin Me Skin Clarity and Glow

Here’s a product that arrived just in the knick of time. A vitamin supplement targeted at both glowing skin and banishing imperfections? Vitamin Me is a South African brand who are taking the anti-acne movement by storm. 

They’ve taken pure zinc citrate and combined it with all of the other natural ingredients known to fight acne from the inside out. Bamboo, burdock, turmeric and vitamin A are but a few of the potent additions to this complex formula. 

We particularly love that they have a monthly subscription option where your dose will be delivered fresh and new. Vitamin Me has received praises from Glamour magazine and other prominent media houses. This is a name to look out for. 

Best Topical Zinc for Acne

Pai All Becomes Clear Topical Zinc Serum

Pai All Becomes Clear Topical Zinc Serum

Renowned skincare brand, Pai, found their bestseller when they released their zinc serum to the world. Ideal for sensitive and blemish prone skin, the Pai serum is said to be incredibly tough on breakouts, but gentle and kind to the skin itself. 

We love the idea of separating the two, and remaining people that you are not your breakouts! The formula is a combination of zinc with copaiba, and together they work to carefully rebalance the ecosystem of the skin to eliminate persistent and daily irritation. 

Pai doesn’t come cheap, but it does do the work. If you have the means to splurge on this one, we say go for it!

Zinc for Acne Brands

Puritan’s Pride Zinc for Acne

Puritan's Pride Zinc for Acne

Puritan’s Pride is a well known brand that has specifically created a zinc for acne supplement that makes it easy for consumers to get the right dose, at the right time. 

We like that Puritan’s Pride went to the next level with their formulation of their acne product, taking added vitamins into account in its production. Their acne treatment is not only zinc, but a combination of nutrients including Vitamins C, B-6, A, and E. 

Puritan’s Pride Zinc for Acne Review

One happy customer exclaims “30 days and I have noticed a huge difference in my daughter’s skin!”, which is testament that this product is gentle enough on teens and can be used by people of all ages. 

Another customer leaves a short, yet potent review saying, “I am so happy I ordered this product. I will definitely order it again.” 

Nature Made Zinc for Acne

Nature Made Zinc for Acne

Nature Made is a competitive brand who have worked to impress the market with their own take on the zinc compound. We feel it’s safe to say that their goal was to make an effective zinc for acne treatment that would still be both affordable and accessible to people from all walks of life. 

If the reviews are anything to go by, this product is doing the job. It seems that people with hormonal acne respond particularly well to this brand. 

Nature’s Bounty Zinc for Acne

Nature's Bounty Zinc for Acne

Now here’s a brand who saw a gap in the market and took action. Zinc doesn’t have much of a flavor, but it does have a sort of bitter aftertaste that can get tiresome when taking it long term. 

Nature’s Bounty decided they would remedy this by formulating their acne treatment into gummy form, accompanied by a rich berry flavor to mask the bitterness. They call the formula “clear complexion”, because it targets problem skin that is highly inflamed. 

A gummy a day keeps the acne away? We’re here for it!

Garden Of Life Raw Zinc for Acne

Garden Of Life Raw Zinc for Acne

The Garden of Life brand is loved and trusted around the world in everyday drugstores. They tend to deliver on their product promises, offering simple blends of high quality vitamins and minerals. 

Their raw zinc formula will target active acne effectively, but the supplement also does wonders in boosting the immune system as well. The caps are vegan friendly, and we love that they added a gentle probiotic for gut support. 

These capsules can be swallowed as is, or opened and mixed into water or flavored juice for easier consumption (not everyone is partial to pill swallowing, you know?). 

How Much Zinc per Day for Acne

The correct zinc dosage for acne is essential, as taking too much of any vitamin or mineral can be detrimental to one’s health. CEO and founder of Amber Moon, Erum N. Ilyas (MD), walks us through the correct way to does a zinc supplement:

“The dosage of zinc for the treatment of acne has been found to be zinc sulfate in a dosage range of 400 to 600 mg by mouth daily or 90 to 150 mg of ionized zinc (Zn2+) daily. Please note this is well in excess of the daily recommended dosage of 8 to 11 mg of zinc. Zinc for Acne by Puritans Pride is a supplement that I tend to recommend because it contains zinc along with other vitamins that have been shown to benefit acne. Please note that this supplement contains 50 mg of Zinc gluconate which is better absorbed than zinc sulfate.”

Can You Take Too Much Zinc?

Indeed, one can consume too much of this good thing and start to experience some adverse effects. Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite and headaches can be a sign of excess zinc. Stomach cramps and eventual diarrhea are also common. 

Should you start to experience any of the above when taking zinc, consider reducing your dosage or stopping altogether until your symptoms clear up. You can then start again at a more mild dose, and build it up to learn your tolerance. 

How Long Does Zinc Take to Clear Acne

As Dr. Patel explained to us earlier, using a topical zinc twice a day should show a decrease in acne within 2 weeks. When taken orally there should be a visible difference in about 4 weeks.

Remember, a zinc acne purge is circumstantial and works on a case-by-case basis. Not everyone will react exactly the same to a product, both topical and oral. Not even a zinc acne study can accurately predict the length of time it will take an individual so see results from this mineral — we are all learning as we go! 

Zinc for Acne Near Me

Zinc for Acne on Amazon

Amazon is a fantastic wholesaler to look at when it comes time to invest in your zinc products or supplements. The benefit is that, being an e-commerce platform, Amazon is able to offer all of the different types of zinc under one roof (screen). Physical stores rarely do this, as there simply isn’t enough space or interest in the full spectrum. 

Zinc for Acne at Walmart

If you do want to shop in store, we always recommend a friendly trip to your nearest Walmart (or a visit to their online store). Walmart is ahead of the pack when it comes to zinc varieties and a broad range of product options. Whether you want something topical or something you can supplement into your diet, they’ll have the pick of the lot. 

Did You Enjoy This Article?

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like our articles discussing acne and skincare such as Fungal Acne (Malassezia Folliculitis), Top 5 Vitamins for Acne, and Best Face Wash for Acne.

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