Zinc is a mineral that can help keep the skin healthy. It is one of 16 essential minerals in our body and is involved in more than 300 enzyme reactions to help our cells function.
Seeing as our bodies do not produce zinc naturally, it is important to understand its sources and benefits.
Benefits of zinc for skin
Zinc helps maintain and support the formation and health of collagen, a major component of our skin. It helps in healing minor body tissue injuries and wound healing, as well as supports skin repair, healing, or regeneration.
Here are the top benefits of zinc for skin:
Improves wrinkles and fine lines
As we age, our skin loses elasticity and begins to sag. Natural oils and fat deposits in the inner skin layers decrease, causing wrinkles and fine lines to form.
One of the most popular zinc skin benefits is based on its anti-ageing properties. Studies (1) show that eight weeks of topical zinc therapy resulted in elastic fibre regeneration in the top layer of the skin. This resulted in a marked improvement in wrinkles and fine lines. This is because zinc has photoprotective properties, which means it can help reduce skin damage caused by sunlight and ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Speeds up wound healing
Zinc supports skin repair and healing after an injury. If you are not consuming enough zinc from your diet, you could present with cracked skin (2).
Doctors may prescribe zinc supplements for those with wounds that develop between the knee and ankle. According to healthdirect.gov.au, around 1% of Australians suffer from this (3). Since these wounds are located far from the heart, they may take a longer time to heal as it is difficult for veins in the legs to carry deoxygenated blood back to the heart. There is evidence suggesting that these wounds may heal faster with the help of mineral and vitamin supplements, including zinc (3).
Helps with skin repair
If you have keloids, or noticeable scars from an injury or surgery, you may want to look into topical zinc-based options to complement other treatment modalities.
It is believed that topical zinc can stimulate collagenase. Collagenase is an enzyme that breaks down collagen in damaged tissue and supports tissue growth (1). It can support skin repair and regeneration, demonstrating the many benefits of zinc for skin.
Where can I get zinc?
Fortunately, several foods contain zinc. Oysters are a good source of this trace mineral, containing more zinc per serving than any other food (5). Red meat, fish, poultry, and even cereals and dairy are rich in zinc (5). There are also several forms of zinc supplements to choose from, including zinc gluconate, zinc acetate, and zinc sulphate.
How much zinc do I need?
It is recommended that male and female adults consume 14mg and 8mg of zinc per day (6).
Zinc intake for vegetarians
It can be difficult for vegetarians to meet the recommended daily zinc intake from food alone. It is estimated that vegetarians require approximately 50% more of the recommended daily zinc intake than non-vegetarians (6). This is because the amount of zinc absorbed by the body is affected by the amount of protein in our diet. In the case of vegetarians, usual protein sources like grains and beans contain phytates, a compound that blocks zinc absorption.
Zinc intake for those with pre-existing conditions
Those with pre-existing conditions can be more vulnerable to zinc deficiency (4). These health conditions also can decrease the amount of zinc absorbed by the body and increase the amount that passes through the kidneys (4).
What happens if I do not get enough zinc?
While zinc can be found naturally in several foods, it is not uncommon for people to suffer from zinc deficiency.
Zinc deficiency results in visible skin changes, demonstrating the importance of zinc for skin. Rashes and cracks can appear on the skin around the mouth and hands, resisting moisturisers, steroid creams (anti-inflammatory cream), and lotions.
If you are in any of the aforementioned at-risk groups, or believe that you may not be getting enough zinc from dietary intake, it may be worth considering supplements. Zinc supplements can plug gaps in your diet, maximise the effects of positive lifestyle choices, and provide targeted support.
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Learn more about other areas that zinc can help you with, plus other supplements that can benefit in different ways:
*Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin and/or mineral supplements should not replace a balanced diet.
1. National Institutes of Health. (2014). Zinc Therapy in Dermatology: A Review. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4120804/ Accessed August 01, 2021
2. Healthdirect. Zinc and your health. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/zinc Accessed August 01, 2021
3. Better Health. Leg ulcers. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/leg-ulcers Accessed August 01, 2021
4. Healthdirect. Zinc Deficiency. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/zinc-deficiency Accessed August 01, 2021
5. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Zinc. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/ Accessed August 01, 2021
6. Nutrient Reference Values. Zinc. https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/zinc Accessed August 01, 2021