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acne and zinc

Introduction and background

Acne, a common skin condition, affects both adolescents and adults. Considered safe and effective in recommended amounts, zinc supplementation is prescribed by some doctors as an adjunct to other treatments to reduce the severity of acne. Acne has a variety of causes. While blocked pores, bacteria, dead skin and excessive oil are all contributing factors, other causes may be changes in hormonal levels or diet. Acne affects people in different ways. Some have occasional breakouts while others have severe cystic acne. There are many products available that treat acne, but some research indicates vitamin or mineral deficiencies may be a cause. The Mayo Clinic reports that some research shows zinc is beneficial in treating acne. Many remedies claim to cure acne. Some acne sufferers use home remedies such as ice cubes. Others go for science and reach for over-the-counter products containing benzoyl peroxide. But some holistic and alternative health practitioners are increasingly interested in the mineral supplement zinc as a treatment to help reduce signs of acne.


Acne and Zinc Relation

Some medical practitioners consider acne a symptom of zinc deficiency. While the exact mechanism of zinc’s action on acne is unknown, it is speculated that it reins in hormones that stimulate acne flare-ups.

Zinc and Hormones

β€’ Zinc helps regulate production of about 200 hormones in your body, including androgens. Androgens are male hormones, such as testosterone, that contribute to overproduction of oil in the sebaceous glands. This leads to acne. Getting the right amount of zinc regularly helps balance hormones and control oil production.


Zinc and Bacteria

According to, a number of studies show that zinc works as well at killing bacteria-causing acne as do tetracyclines such as doxycycline. Because of this, some alternative health physicians say that regular daily intake of zinc supplements helps treat and reduce acne as well as heal minor acne scars.


How Zinc Works on Acne

β€’ Some forms of acne are related to hormonal imbalances and the overproduction of testosterone. Zinc supplements control the production of 200 hormones in the body. A deficiency in zinc can result in hormonal imbalances that will result in acne.
Zinc is also beneficial in the production of tissue and the regeneration of tissues on the body, including skin. Acne heals through tissue regeneration. Zinc also helps control the production of oils on the skin, which control the formation of acne.


Considerations When Taking Zinc Supplements

Zinc supplements are used to treat zinc deficiencies, which may be a cause of acne in some patients. The treatment of acne with zinc can also help restore hormonal balances, which may also be a cause of some outbreaks of acne. To effectively use zinc to treat acne, it is important that the correct form of the supplement be used.

It is possible to overdose on zinc. A person should take no more than 50 mg per day, combined with 5 mg of copper. Copper is a mineral that can become deficient in the body when a person takes zinc. Supplements may come in tablets, capsules or in a liquid form that can be taken with water. Typically, zinc should be taken in the middle of a meal. Taking zinc on an empty stomach can make a person nauseous. Dr. Emily Kane, a practicing naturopath and columnist for Better Nutrition magazine, recommends supplementing with 50 mg of zinc twice a day for adult acne. She recommends continuing the treatment until zinc starts tasting metallic in the mouth.


Cleansing the Body with Zinc

β€’ Eastern practices such as Chinese or Indian Ayurvedic, herbal medicine and some other alternative schools of thought maintain that acne can signal a buildup of toxic substances in the body. These toxic substances can come from consuming caffeine or alcohol, or from eating overprocessed foods such as refined sugars, simple starches, and fatty or oily sweets. In this situation, a healthy cleanse of the liver using teas that have been made from zinc-rich organic substances such as chamomile, marigold or dandelion root can help flush the liver and provide long-term relief for acne. The zinc in the tea will also help flush toxic substances and balance the body’s hormones.



Several studies report that zinc may reduce the severity of acne. While recent studies are lacking, a 1977 study published in the British Journal of Dermatology reported that zinc was as effective as oral tetracycline in treating acne. While zinc may reduce the severity of the condition, it may not work as a stand-alone treatment for acne. Acne herbal treatment kits work best as parts of a comprehensive acne-treatment plan, which includes topical treatments and diet modifications.

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