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Sometimes it seems like there are as many treatments for acne as there are pimples on people’s faces. Everyone is trying to sell their miracle cure and even the scientific literature is often biased or unclear. This is a shame because about 80% of adolescents suffer from acne at some point and a surprising number of adults continue to suffer from the condition.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year on acne treatments alone. Many of these treatments do not have a scrap of evidence for their efficacy. Meaning you do not know if you are putting something effective on your skin or not. This is frustrating, expensive, and can be very serious, especially when treatments can even damage your skin.
If someone does not get effective treatment for their acne, they could develop acne that causes scarring that could last the rest of their lives. Acne scarring can also be very expensive to treat. Zinc for acne is a commonly suggested treatment but it is important that you understand the risks and benefits of zinc for acne. The body has delicate systems that it is important not to disrupt, so please proceed with caution.
Most people will have used zinc products on their skin but many wouldn’t beware. This is because zinc is great for our skin. Zinc oxide is (usually) the active ingredient in sunblock as it absorbs ultraviolet radiation of the right spectrum to stop our poor skin cells from being blasted. Using sunblock is almost ubiquitous and there has been dozens of studies concentrating on its safety and efficacy. So people looking into using it for their acne are in a good position in that regard.
Zinc is an important metabolite (we would die without it). It plays a crucial role in:
Zinc looks like it could at least be a beneficial part of an acne treatment regime. It is certainly something that our bodies need. Most people get enough but zinc deficiency could be a factor in your acne.
Some small scale studies have found a strong correlation between people who lack the proper zinc concentrations in their blood and the severity and type of acne, with lower serum levels being related to more severe acne.
Other studies have indicated that zinc deficiencies are related to many different types of diseases and conditions, including infections and inflammatory dermatoses like acne. If the immune system is suppressed it is not able to fight off acne bacteria successfully. Scientists are fairly sure that zinc supplements are good ideas if you have acne because of zinc’s essential role in:
The very best way to get more zinc is by eating foods that contain it. Unless you have a disorder that affects the way zinc is absorbed (you would probably know about it by now but it could be worth checking out), you can get everything you need from foods. Here are some examples of foods containing a lot of zinc.
Some people do not tolerate zinc supplements very well. Their side effects can include:
Applying zinc treatments to broken skin is not advised as it can cause burning and irritation. Excess zinc can affect how copper is absorbed in the body. This can be very dangerous as it can cause anaemia. Always talk to your doctor about your zinc supplements.
The current advice on zinc doses is that 40 mg taken orally per day is likely safe. This means that side effects from this dose are rare. Above 40 mg orally per day is not recommended (you will probably not absorb any more anyway) but it is possibly safe.
Perhaps predictably, inhaling zinc is not good for you. It can cause permanent loss of smell. There are zinc containing nasal sprays but they are strongly recommended against.
High doses of zinc can cause:
You would have to eat a lot of chickpeas or spinach to overdose on zinc but it is possible to have too much when you take it orally or topically. Because zinc is involved in so many metabolic processes and the overuse of the drug can be serious, it is not recommended that you take zinc supplements without a consultation with your doctor first. There might be underlying conditions at play that could make it dangerous to take it. The body is much better at absorbing nutrients from food than from supplements. Most of a supplement will be excreted without being absorbed and high concentrations of metals like zinc are not good for the body, it will not absorb them properly. Keeping all of these things in mind, it’s far better to be safe than sorry and talk to your doctor before adding zinc supplements to your diet.