Zinc Deficiency and Acne
A link between zinc and skin health has been known for some time, but did you know that researchers actually caused acne in young men by feeding them diets deficient in zinc? The symptoms of acne appeared in the group after only 12 days of being on the diet, suggesting that low zinc levels can have a significant and rapid impact upon skin health. Acne is not the only unpleasant skin issue that can result from a drop in blood zinc levels. Researchers have also found links between zinc deficiency and the appearance of mouth ulcers, facial rashes and foot fungus. In all of these studies symptoms disappeared as soon as zinc was reintroduced into the diet.
Zinc has a Direct Role in Maintaining Healthy Skin
The skin’s upper layers – the epidermis – naturally contain high levels of zinc. The importance of it’s presence in the skin has been underlined by a multiple research studies. In particular zinc has been shown to treat acne when taken as a nutritional supplement. In 2007 researchers found that zinc blood levels in a group of acne patients were significantly lower than in people without acne. 54.1 percent of the acne patients in the study had low zinc levels, while only 10 percent of the group without acne were deficient.
Correcting a Zinc Deficiency Can Help Treat Acne
Studies show that supplementing 30mg zinc a day can improve acne symptoms. 30mg is the standard dosage supported by most studies, and is a well tolerated dose.
The research suggests that zinc can help in 3 ways:
- Zinc helps to kill acne causing bacteria (P. acnes)
- Zinc helps to reduce sebum production
- Zinc reduces inflammation
30mg a day is consider a safe level of daily supplementation or acne treatment. It is below the Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) set for zinc by the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences of 40 milligrams per day. It is considered safe for pregnant and breast feeding women, however if you are pregnant or breast feeding it is wise to check with your doctor before starting a supplementation program.
Do Not Over Supplement
Excessive zinc consumption can be harmful. At high levels it can also block the absorption of copper and other minerals. Reduced copper absorption, in turn, can lead to anaemia and a resulting fatigue. Zinc can also interact with some prescription medication such as the tetracycline family of antibiotics.
Boosting Zinc Levels Through a Wholefood Diet
Whilst it is sometimes necessary – even essential – to correct underlying deficiencies with supplements, for long term health the best plan is to look to building a healthy and nutritious diet.
The most concentrated source of dietary zinc is grass fed beef, closely followed by lamb. Seafood is also a good source of zinc, particularly oysters and shrimp.
To increase zinc levels naturally from plant sources eat lentils, beans, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds (Quick tip: use tahini in place of butter on bread). It is best not overdo grains because, whilst they contain some zinc, they also contain something that can bind to minerals such as zinc and prevent their absorption.
If you suffer from acne, it is worthwhile checking your diet and increasing the quantity of zinc rich foods that you eat. If your diet has been low in zinc then it is worth considering a course of supplementation.
Even if you already consume a varied, wholefood diet it is worth remembering that infections, stress and/or a heavy exercise regime will all deplete zinc from the body and will increase your daily requirements for this mineral. Zinc can also be lost through excessive sweating in hot weather.
Don’t forget that a good skin routine is essential to great skin health, and is an essential component of acne treatment. For topical treatments look no further than our mandelic acid and vitamin c treatments, designed to naturally restore the skin to optimum condition.
- King JC. Zinc: an essential but elusive nutrient. Am J Clin Nutr 2011;94:679S-84S.
- Maserejian NN, Hall SA, McKinlay JB. Low dietary or supplemental zinc is associated with depression symptoms among women, but not men, in a population-based epidemiological survey. J Affect Disord 2012;136:781-8.
- Taylor CM, Goode HF, Aggett PJ, et al. Symptomatic zinc deficiency in experimental zinc deprivation. J Clin Pathol 1992;45:83-4.