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Zinc (Acne)

Zinc is a mineral that has been used therapeutically for many years. When applied to the skin, zinc acts like a barrier, stimulates wound healing and is thought to possess anti-inflammatory and soothing properties, which is beneficial when living with inflammatory skin diseases such as acne. Zinc performs multiple important biological functions. While about 50% of our body’s zinc is in the bones, approximately 6% is contained in the skin.

What does the science say?

Level of evidence: A

Zinc as monotherapy (treatment not combined with any other treatment) is only investigated in a few studies with no convincing results1. However, studies suggest that zinc as additional therapy may play a role in acne treatment. For instance, in a randomized double-blinded study showed, that zinc and 4% erythromycin (antibiotics typically used as acne treatment) topically applied for 12 weeks was reported to be more effective in reducing acne severity than a 2% erythromycin solution standing alone2.

In acne, the bacteria Propionibacterium Acnes is able to induce the formation of blackheads by stimulating certain growth factors in the skin cells (IGF-1/IGF-1R). Zinc is thought to downregulate this3, which might be an enticement for using zinc as an acne treatment.

The concentration of an ingredient is important for its efficacy, and therefore products containing the same ingredient may not necessarily have the same effect as in the studies mentioned above.

Updated: July 2017


1 Dermatol Res Pract. 2014
2 Br J Dermatol. 1989
3 J Invest Dermatol. 2011

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