Zinc for acne: The Ultimate Guide to Erasing Acne With Zinc

Have you ever considered taking zinc for acne? Research over the past four decades have surprisingly shown clear benefits of this supplement.

In this post, we will go over the reasons why you should consider this inexpensive alternative to prescription antibiotics or steroids. Scroll down further for a comprehensive guide on the best forms of zinc, how much to take, and why zinc creams are not worth your time.

Background: Zinc And Acne

A study in Turkey compared zinc levels in 150 patients based on their acne severity. As you can see from the results (shown below), zinc levels trend downwards with increased acne. On average, people with acne have 24% lower zinc levels than those without acne.

Since people with acne have lower levels of zinc in their bodies, it makes sense that supplementing this element can reduce acne. This pattern is similarly seen with vitamin E levels, though not as clearly established with vitamin A levels.

 

Zinc Supplementation:

While modern day antibiotics (i.e. minocycline) are now the go-to products for effective acne treatment, considering their side effects, it’s wise to look into alternative solutions.  A handful of studies have shown zinc to be as effective as antibiotics that were available in the 70s and 80s. In fact, zinc supplementation has been reported to improve acne by up to 50%.

One of the largest studies included 332 acne patients who received either 100 mg of minocycline or 30 mg of elemental zinc (zinc gluconate) everyday for three months. The treatment success rate, defined by more than 2/3 decrease in inflammatory pimples, was 63.4% with minocycline and 31.2% with zinc.

The total pimple count dropped by 49.8% in the zinc group and 66.6% in the minocycline group. While the antibiotic was 17% more effective at reducing acne, results from the zinc group are nothing to sneeze at. Previous studies have even showed similar effectiveness between these doses.

Some scientists speculate that differences in the formulation of zinc can significantly affect the study results. The consensus is that forms of zinc with better bioavailability yield better results. The same authors published a study in 2010 showing 80% reduction in acne using a zinc methionine, a zinc supplement with high bioavailability.

While these results appear to be a bit too optimistic about zinc, there’s fairly good evidence to show that zinc supplementation can indeed reduce acne. While it may not be a miracle solution, it’s certainly worth a shot.

How Does it Work?

Zinc is one of the most studied natural treatments for acne. With a decent number of available studies, we can better understand how this element can reduce almost all the known causes of acne. Here are some favorable properties that make it useful for acne:

  1. Antibacterial: Test tube studies show that zinc can eradicate acne-causing bacteria. Though it is not as effective as antibiotics, zinc can be useful in that bacteria won’t develop resistance to it, thereby working on those with antibiotic-resistant bacteria on the skin.
  2. Anti-inflammatory: When bacteria invades a blocked pore, severe irritation can develop in the area and cause pimples to become red and painful. Studies have shown that acne-prone skin is far more sensitive to bacteria compared to normal skin. Zinc can temper this inflammatory response and reduce the potential effects of bacteria on the skin.
  3. Keratinocyte-reducing: Keratinocytes are cells that produce keratin, a tough protein that binds skin cells together. Too much keratin prevents cells from separating and leads to blocked pores, as in the case of acne. By reducing keratin, zinc helps to keep skin pores open.
  4. DHT-blocking: Zinc, like other DHT blockers, can reduce the amount of oil (sebum) produced by the skin. While not a very strong DHT blocker, zinc can still use this mechanism to regulate hormones that affect the skin.
  5. Antioxidant: Zinc is a powerful antioxidant. Inflammatory damage to the sebum is one of the root causes of acne, and studies have furthermore concluded that taking antioxidants can reduce acne for this reason.

Guide to Zinc Supplementation

In this next section, we’ll guide you on how to choose the best zinc supplementation for your skin. There are several factors to consider when looking for a zinc product.

Which Form of Zinc Should I Take?

Elemental zinc is usually attached to another molecule (called a chelating agent) to help it better absorb in the body. Most zinc supplements are sold as chelated zinc and available in many different forms, some of which have higher bioavailability than others. In general, higher bioavailability yields better absorption in the body so that you can get the most out of the product.

You should also consider the objective you want to achieve with your product. As mentioned above, zinc has many favorable properties and different formulations can yield unique advantages. While zinc oxide is the most widely used formulation and contains a variety of properties, it is known to have poor solubility in water and poor bioavailability. Below are some facts about other zinc forms you may come across:

  • Zinc gluconate: This is one of the most popular forms of zinc and is well-known to heal inflammatory acne. While studies have shown both zinc sulfate and zinc gluconate to be comparable to oral antibiotics for acne treatment, zinc gluconate is better absorbed than zinc sulfate. This form of zinc is also dose-dependent, so higher doses will yield increased side effects like nausea and abdominal pain.
  • Zinc picolinate: Picolinate (picolinic acid) is known to be stored in the pancreas and released into the intestines during digestion, which could explain why zinc picolinate is absorbed so well in the body. A study showed that zinc picolinate had a significantly higher bioavailability compared to zinc gluconate and zinc citrate.
  • Zinc sulfate: This form of zinc is known to have relatively lower bioavailability. The topical form of zinc sulfate has been observed to help diaper dermatitis and hand eczema. However, studies have shown mixed results whether topical zinc sulfate could be considered comparable to tea lotion.
  • Zinc citrate: While zinc citrate is known to be more bioavailable than zinc oxide, it is still considered to be among the formulations with the lowest bioavailability.
  • Zinc methionine: This form is known to have higher bioavailability and is best recognized for its anti-inflammatory effects. Studies have stated that zinc methionine can be an appropriate option to use in conjunction with other antioxidants due to this property.
  • Zinc pyrithione: Zinc pyrithione is particularly useful against dandruff due to its antifungal effects. A study concluded that a shampoo with zinc pyrithione and cyclopiroxolamine works as rapidly and effectively as that with ketoconazole for itchy and scaly scalp (seborrheic dermatitis).
  • Zinc glycinate: Often referred to as zinc glycine complex, this form is powerful in its antioxidant properties and UV/sun protection. In fact, zinc glycinate is known to have the greatest anti-pigmentation potential of all the zinc-containing compounds. This can also be beneficial for anti-aging and anti-odor effects.

What About Zinc Creams?

The only study that compared zinc sulfate cream to placebo cream showed no difference in results. A handful of studies have also explored whether adding zinc to antibiotic creams improves results. While there is slight evidence that topical zinc may reduce sebum production, most of these studies have shown no benefit. In the light of these results, there is limited reason to use topical zinc for acne treatment at this time when plenty of other options are available.

What Dose Should I Take?

The optimal dosage of zinc for acne is yet to be established. However, several studies with good results have used 30 mg of elemental zinc daily.

Be sure to note that the amount of elemental zinc is NOT the same as the amount of bound zinc in the supplement. For example, a supplement containing 200mg of zinc gluconate does not contain 200 mg of elemental zinc.

Most labels will indicate the amount of elemental zinc, so you just have to be careful not to confuse the different amounts. Here is a table of common formulations to guide you on how much zinc you are actually taking:

Formulation Pill Size Elemental Zinc % Elemental Zinc
Zinc sulfate 220 mg 50 mg 22.7%
Zinc citrate 146 mg 50 mg 34.2%
Zinc gluconate 25 mg 3.5 mg 14%
Zinc oxide 100 mg 80 mg 80%
Zinc acetate 25 mg 7.5 mg 30%

How Much is Too Much?

Zinc supplements are overall safe and provide a much more favorable side effect profile compared to antibiotics or steroids used to treat acne. Most of the side effects reported in studies involve the digestive tract, most notably nausea. It is generally not recommended to take more than 50 mg elemental zinc per day, as higher doses may cause stomach cramps and irritate the gut.

Can I Get Adequate Zinc From My Diet?

There are quite a few food products that are rich in zinc. For example, a full serving of oysters may provide 74 mg of zinc, which is more than enough zinc for the day. However, most servings of everyday food (i.e. meat and daily) only provide a few milligrams of zinc. You can check out this fact sheet by the National Institutes of Health for more details regarding dietary zinc

Zinc For Acne In a Nutshell

Best Zinc Supplement for Acne:

As mentioned previously, different zinc forms may vary in certain characteristics, but as far as effectiveness against acne, it probably does not matter what form you take as long as you get enough elemental zinc.

Zinc formulations also differ in bioavailability, which increases the amount absorbed in the body and thus the effects on acne. We recommend choosing the formulations with the highest bioavailability such as zinc picolinate and zinc methionine. If those forms are not available, zinc gluconate is also a solid option.

Keep in mind that with higher bioavailability the higher potential to cause gastrointestinal problems, especially with dose-dependent formulations like zinc gluconate. Zinc oxide, zinc citrate, and zinc sulfate are known to have lower bioavailability. Avoid supplements that do not indicate or specify the form of zinc as they likely contain cheap, poorly bioavailable zinc.

Frequently asked questions:

Is zinc good for acne? What about hormonal acne or acne scars?

While zinc is not a miracle supplement, a significant amount of research can support its use for acne. Over thirty clinical studies have evaluated the effects of zinc, both alone and in combination with other products. While there were various methods to measure acne in these studies, most have shown at least some positive effects of zinc supplementation on pimple count and acne severity (including hormonal acne and acne scars). 

How much zinc should I take for acne?

The general consensus here is 30 mg of elemental zinc daily. We don’t recommend taking more than 50 mg a day because higher doses can cause stomach cramps and irritate the gut.

How long will it take for zinc to clear my acne?

It’s worth noting that most prescription drugs for acne take 2 months at minimum for an adequate response. Studies have evaluated the effects of zinc at various durations, but we generally recommend trying zinc supplements for at least 3 months for any noticeable improvement.

What are the side effects of taking zinc? Could zinc supplements cause acne?

The most common side effect you might come across is nausea. While most studies have not reported any serious side effects with zinc, a small number of people have experienced some form of digestive effects, including nausea and stomach cramps. There has yet to be any reports of zinc causing acne, if used appropriately.

What about zinc creams?

Studies evaluating zinc creams do not give much reason to support this formulation for acne. While some show positive results, the evidence is overall not as promising as the oral formulations.Our advice is to save your bucks for the supplements if you want to invest in zinc for acne.

Conclusion

There is clear evidence that zinc can help acne. Since acne puts more demand on zinc, people with acne have lower zinc levels than those with clear skin. Zinc improves most causes of acne, and consequently, studies have shown that zinc supplementation can reduce acne by 50%. While none of this can hold the assumption that zinc is a miracle pill, it certainly merits consideration, don’t you think?

 

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About Me

Jooyeon (Pharm.D.) is a registered pharmacist in the United States. Her main role is to edit and review the articles on Acne Einstein to ensure accurate medical information. She graduated with a Doctorate of Pharmacy from Texas Tech University and has been exposed to a variety of healthcare practice settings.

References

  • Cervantes J, Eber AE, Perper M, Nascimento VM, Nouri K, Keri JE. The role of zinc in the treatment of acne: A review of the literature. Dermatol Ther. 2018;31(1). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29193602
  • Ozuguz P, Dogruk kacar S, Ekiz O, Takci Z, Balta I, Kalkan G. Evaluation of serum vitamins A and E and zinc levels according to the severity of acne vulgaris. Cutan Ocul Toxicol. 2014;33(2):99-102.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23826827
  • Dreno B, Moyse D, Alirezai M, et al. Multicenter randomized comparative double-blind controlled clinical trial of the safety and efficacy of zinc gluconate versus minocycline hydrochloride in the treatment of inflammatory acne vulgaris. Dermatology (Basel). 2001;203(2):135-40. https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/51728
  • Prasad AS. Zinc: role in immunity, oxidative stress and chronic inflammation. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2009;12(6):646-52. DOI: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e3283312956
  • Sardana K, Chugh S, Garg VK. The role of zinc in acne and prevention of resistance: have we missed the “base” effect?. Int J Dermatol. 2014;53(1):125-7. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ijd.12264
  • Abendrot M, Kalinowska-lis U. Zinc-containing compounds for personal care applications. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29734525
  • Iinuma K, Noguchi N, Nakaminami H, Sasatsu M, Nishijima S, Tsuboi I. Susceptibility of Propionibacterium acnes isolated from patients with acne vulgaris to zinc ascorbate and antibiotics. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2011;4:161-5. https://doi.org/10.2147/CCID.S23840
  • Dreno B, Foulc P, Reynaud A, Moyse D, Habert H, Richet H. Effect of zinc gluconate on propionibacterium acnes resistance to erythromycin in patients with inflammatory acne: in vitro and in vivo study. Eur J Dermatol. 2005;15(3):152-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15908296
  • Brocard A, Dréno B. Innate immunity: a crucial target for zinc in the treatment of inflammatory dermatosis. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2011;25(10):1146-52. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-3083.2010.03934.x
  • Barrie SA, Wright JV, Pizzorno JE, Kutter E, Barron PC. Comparative absorption of zinc picolinate, zinc citrate and zinc gluconate in humans. Agents Actions. 1987;21(1-2):223-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3630857
  • Bagherani N. Comparing efficacy of topical tea and zinc sulfate in the treatment of acne rosacea. Dermatol Ther. 2016;29(5):302. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26626442
  • Lorette G, Ermosilla V. Clinical efficacy of a new ciclopiroxolamine/zinc pyrithione shampoo in scalp seborrheic dermatitis treatment. Eur J Dermatol. 2006;16(5):558-64. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17101479
  • Sardana K, Garg VK. An observational study of methionine-bound zinc with antioxidants for mild to moderate acne vulgaris. Dermatol Ther. 2010;23(4):411-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20666829
  • Brandt S. The clinical effects of zinc as a topical or oral agent on the clinical response and pathophysiologic mechanisms of acne: a systematic review of the literature. J Drugs Dermatol. 2013;12(5):542-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23652948
  • National Institutes of Health – Office of Dietary Supplements. Zinc Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Available online: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/. Updated March 2, 2018. Accessed August 29, 2018.

 

73 thoughts on “Zinc for acne: The Ultimate Guide to Erasing Acne With Zinc

  1. hi Seppo! its been a while since i’ve been here bugging you with all my questions.. well thats cause my face is doing pretty well 🙂 I had a few questions i’ve been meaning to ask you…
    I am still taking NAC that you reccemonded in your book but it bothers me that I dont exactly understand what it is good for and the reason for taking it.. when people ask me why do you take this I dont really know what to say. I would appreciate if you can explain to me why NAC is good in helping for acne. I’m almost done with my ‘ Now’ bottle of nac and debating weather or not I should order more.. just because i take so many supplments not sure if this had a major effect on my acne getting better. kind of afraid to stop anything just cause my skin has thank g-d been good.

    As far as Zinc.. the one I am taking is called Zinc fo acne by good n natural its, zinc gluconate.. do you think I should switch to one of the ones you’ve recommended?

    • I think this post should answer your question: https://www.acneeinstein.com/studies-reveal-almost-irrefutable-evidence-for-the-root-cause-of-acne/

      The short answer is that acne-prone skin produces too much oil that’s prone to oxidative damage (from sun light, air pollution, bacteria, etc.). The antioxidant system has difficulties in coping with the load and acne patients show higher levels of oxidative damage and lower levels of antioxidants. Taking antioxidants supplies your body with antioxidant that can be used to protect sebum.

      Anyway, really glad to hear your skin is doing better.

      Re switching zinc supplements. There’s no definitive answer to which form of zinc is the best. As I mentioned in this post, there is evidence to show that picolinate and methionine forms are absorbed better. Does this make a difference in acne? I can’t say. A group of Indian researchers speculates that it does, but they don’t have solid data to back it up. And I remain skeptical of their study that showed 80% reduction in acne with zinc methionine supplement (that’s why I didn’t show a graph of the results or emphasize it more).

      Long story short, we are guessing, but the next zinc supplement I will buy is either picolinate and methionine. Probably one of the 3 I linked to, since they have the right dosage and are good value for money. Take it for what it’s worth 🙂

    • You have to Google this one. Meat and animal foods should be high on zinc. I wouldn’t rely on grains or legumes for zinc as the phytate found in those foods reduces mineral absorption. Though this shouldn’t be a problem unless such foods constitute a huge part of your diet.

  2. Hi Seppo,

    Just one question. Is there any reason why you would choose to take a zinc supplement instead of the antioxidant pills you recommend in your book? They also have zinc although I think is only 20 mg.

    I’m just wondering, I have a very good diet so I do not want to take too much of certain vitamin/minerals. I might be having too much selenium and vitamin A.

    Thanks!

    • I don’t think it matters where you get zinc. If the antioxidant supplement already contains zinc, then I don’t think there’s any need for another zinc supplement. Since writing the book I’ve changed my antioxidant recommendation to NAC or sillymarin as they have better evidence to support them.

  3. Thanks for your reply Seppo.

    Are there any NAC or sillymarin products/dosage you recommend specifically? I know you have a post about NAC/sillymarin and other antioxidants, but I do not recall products/dosage are mentioned there.

    Thanks!!!

    • I’m taking these ones: Now Foods, NAC, 600 mg. I don’t know if those are better than competing NAC supplements, with such lax regulation there’s really no way to tell. I chose these because they seem to offer good value for money.

      The study that showed NAC supplementation helps acne used dose of 1200 mg per day. Since I have only minimal acne anymore I take 600 mg maybe 2 to 3 times a week.

  4. Zinc always made my acne way worse! It usually seemed to help only the first few days to a week and then BAM suddenly its like my system would go into overdrive and I would start to develop lots of cysts and pustules–and it didn’t stop! I would know, as I suffered through about a month and a half of painful acne before I finally came to the conclusion that zinc did not help me. I tried it more than once and as soon as I stopped taking it my acne would get better. I used to theorize that it was because it was making my immune system work too well (inflammation and pus are, after all, an immune system response) but I know from blood tests that it was definitely not helping my immune system as my wbc was really really low (like 2.4) while I was taking it at one point.

    Zinc usually comes with mega doses of b6–and b6 is known to acne in excess amounts! I think supplementing is usually a bad idea because it causes even more imbalances in the body. Alls you need is a multi and a good diet rich in vitamins and antioxidants. I admit though, that I do like to supplement with magnesium and sometimes vitamin D (I think vitamin d could totally kick zinc’s ass in the acne department btw).

    • Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience. I don’t think any of the papers I read mentioned anything about this. So I don’t think yours is a common experience.

      • I can vouch for what Ronnie has experienced because I have experienced it too. I have heard and read so many stories about how Zinc is supposed to be helpful for treatment of acne and that simply was not my experience. When I began taking Zinc my face broke out into cyst like bumps that I have never had before. It takes a very long time for them to go away and for my skin to heal. On top of that I suffer from hyper pigmentation so each pimple I get leaves a dark spot as a reminder. I have decided that Zinc is not for me. This is one of those cases where every person’s body does not work the same and what works for some may not work for all. You have to find what triggers your breakouts. Some of my triggers are refined sugars and chocolate. For this reason I stay away from products containing any forms of processed sugars, liquor and chocolate. I am continuing to eat a healthy diet, exercise to keep my hormones balanced and use other methods to help end this cycle of hormonal acne that I struggle with. BTW I tried the Now Vitamins 50 mg of Zinc Picolinate and I have also tried the Puritan’s Pride Zinc for Acne which contains Zinc Gluconate. I can say that I had much better results with the Puritan’s Pride Zinc for Acne. This could be due to the different form of Zinc (Gluconate) as well as the other vitamins and nutrients that are added. Maybe different forms of Zinc work better for some people.

        • Thanks for sharing your experience! This is one of the frustrating things with acne. No matter what a study shows there are always some people who react differently.

  5. Thanks for the infos, I might start supplementing Zinc again.
    I’m a bit scared about interferences though, seems like it might be problematic for Copper, Iron and Manganese. (for example: “Supplemental zinc caused decreased levels of iron, manganese and copper in the liver.”).
    About copper: from what I’ve read, you should try to keep a ratio Zn:Cu < 16. So one should be careful about having enough Copper when adding Zinc. However, Zinc seems to be problematic for Copper absorption, so you should maybe not eat them together (and it's weird that some supplements offer both Zinc and Copper together).

    • Thanks for posting this. I did some reading on PubMed and seems what you’ve read is correct. Excess zinc intake can indeed lead to copper deficiency. Here’s a good paper that touched on the topic:

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2872358/

      That paper also referred to another study that recommended dietary Zn : Cu of 16 or less. So it might be a good idea to combine with zinc with a copper supplement.

      Let’s assume one gets 50mg of zinc a day; 30mg from a supplement and 20mg from diet. That means you would beed 3mg or more of copper per day to maintain ratio of 16 or less. 3mg is actually quite a bit since the RDA for adult men is 0.9mg. So you probably can’t get so much from diet alone.

  6. Hi Seppo,

    I bought your book over a year ago and have been reaping the great results of it ever since I bought it. After reading it I started dosing with Zinc Picolinate (30mg everyday) and after about 3 months I started noticing my acne diminishing (mainly the cystic ones). This was great! for the first time my acne was controlled. Unfortunately, after time I noticed that my strength in the gym and libido were declining. I constantly felt weak and had no motivation to exercise.

    After experimenting by removing different items, I had found that Zinc was in fact the cause of this. I researched further and found that Zinc is a 5-alpha-reductase II inhibitor which reduces DHT levels. DHT is also 100x more potent than testosterone and responsible for much of the male secondary characteristics.

    After removing Zinc, my libido had returned and I had gained my strength again in the gym. While my acne did come a bit worse I felt that It was not worth the side effects. I also am taking NAC, and upped my dosage to 2g a day and it seems to be controlled again. It seems, for males, reducing DHT (systemically) doesn’t seem to be the best option. It seems to me that targeting either the bacterial aspect or the inflammation aspect of acne seems to have less side-effects.

    Do you have any thoughts on this?

    P.S. Keep up the great work!

    • Thanks for posting this!

      None of the papers mentioned anything about this. I knew that zinc indeed inhibits DHT, but it seemed very weak compared to EGCG or other inhibitors.

      I agree that systemic inhibition of DHT is not a good way to control acne. The inhibition has to happen in the skin because that’s where the excess conversion of T to DHT happens. Most people with acne don’t have abnormal T or DHT levels. My assumption was that zinc worked for acne because it’s 1) antioxidant, 2) reduces the immune system response to bacteria in the skin, 3) inhibits bacterial growth in the skin.

      I don’t know how common it is to react to zinc like you did. This is the first time I’ve heard of this, but thanks for posting the warning.

      Just out of curiosity I typed ‘zinc libido’ into PubMed to see what comes up. Unfortunately very little. One study in rats showed dose-dependent response. At 5mg zinc increased libido, at 10mg it decreased, and 1mg had no effect. But you have to keep in mind that 5mg and 10mg are massive doses when compared to body weight. The dose per kg of body weight is orders of magnitude higher than anything humans could safely ingest.

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19881149

  7. I have never gotten far with taking zinc because I have found that it makes me nauseous. Is that a common side effect? Is it something you think I should just push through in hopes that my body gets used to it? It was never extreme nausea, but any thoughts or similar experiences would be appreciated. Thanks 🙂

    • Nausea and GI problems are common side effects of taking too much zinc. Most people can tolerate about 30mg a day and start getting some side effects if they take more than that. I don’t think it’s something your body gets used to.

    • I took zinc yesterday on an empty stomach – big mistake. That was a one way ticket to nausea city!

      Within half an hour I was sick in the toilet.

      I’ve noticed that, for me, I have to take it with food.

  8. “On average people with acne have 24% lower zinc levels than those without acne. Vitamin E levels follow a similar pattern whereas acne has no effect on vitamin A levels.”

    Hi Seppo, does this mean people with acne should supplement with vitamin E also?

    Thanks.

    • Not necessarily. I think any antioxidant supplement with do, I usually recommend N-acetylcysteine (NAC) for that. Other studies show that there are no real differences in antioxidant levels between people with mild acne and no acne. So if you have very mild or occasional acne then there’s probably no need to supplement. Unfortunately the zinc study I talked in this post lumped mild and moderate acne patients to the same group, so I can’t say how much difference there is in zinc levels between mild acne patients and those with no acne.

  9. Hey seppo, I’m really glad that i found your website. Altough I’m usually a person who believes in science, I’ve tried and believed a lot of nonsense when it comes to acne. But now i have decided that i will only try things with scientific proof. I take zinc (30 mg elemental) for 1 month now and my supply will last for another month. I also use topical antioxidants and started to drink green tea. On my zinc supplement it says that you should not use it longer than 2 month. How long have you taken zinc and what do recommend? Going on a lower dose after sometime or stopping after a certain amount of time?
    Best wishes and a big thanks!

    • Yep, acne can do that for you. I know I tried many weird things in desperate attempts to get over it.

      I don’t know why the supplement says you shouldn’t take it for longer than 2 months. As far as I understand, zinc is fairly safe. That said, it’s generally a good idea not to take supplements you don’t need. In your shoes I would try it for 2 months to see what happens. If you don’t get any results then by all means stop taking it. If it helps, then I would keep taking it.

      I don’t take zinc anymore since I didn’t notice any effect from taking it.

      • you said “u don’t take zinc anymore since u didn’t notice any effect from taking it.”
        you mean after you’ve been better ????
        or you take it to fight acne but it was not that effective ?????

  10. I am 28 year old female and still used to get weekly ance. I do get deep cystic acne every once in a while. I started a new regiment 4 weeks (Listed Below) ago and by the looks of it I finally have clear skin with no signs of new pimples or cysts emerging:

    Took me years to find the right products for me – I have very sensitive skin

    My Skin Regiment:
    Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (AM/PM)
    Citrus Clear Sensitive Moisturizer
    Citrus Clear Grapefruit Spot Treatment
    Fish Oil – pills (AM only)

    Other Things to Consider when trying to achieve great skin – Probably the most important too
    64 – 128 oz of Water Daily
    6 – 8 Hrs of Sleep a Night
    1 Hr of Exercise per day (5 per/week)

  11. Thanks Seppo for the article. It answered a lot of curious doubts about zinc and acne. I have tried zinc supplement to help me with acne. It has certainly helped me.

    Thanks again for the article.

  12. Hi Seppo!

    Thanks for such an informative article on zinc supplementation. Lately, I have been doing my own research on zinc. I am 39 and plagued with acne and hair fall for the last seven years. Benzoyl peroxide seems to keep my acne in control but I was looking for an option that would give me better skin as well as hair. Some of the studies that I have read seem to suggest that zinc could actually increase the amount of testosterone….wouldn’t this cause more acne then…I am very confused about whether to give zinc a try or not…

    • Can you point me to those studies? It’s hard to comment without seeing the papers. I saw some papers that show zinc deficiency could reduce testosterone levels, and for people who are low in zinc taking zinc supplements could increase testosterone. But this doesn’t mean that zinc would increase T in people who are NOT deficient.

  13. It’s worth noting that while other forms of zinc have higher bioavailability, they also contain higher levels of cadmium which is toxic. Zinc gluconate has the lowest levels of cadmium, so may end up being a better choice.

  14. Hi, Seppo!

    Wondering if you’ve come across anything in your research about zinc causing weight gain. Both times that I’ve tried implementing zinc (first about a year ago via zinc pills, second in the last couple months via Michael’s Skin Solutions), I put on about ten pounds.

    Looking online, I see many articles touting zinc as a weight loss supplement and equally as many saying it will cause weight gain. Have you found anything scientific supporting either one of those claims?

    Thanks!
    Alma

    • Hi Alma,

      I seriously doubt zinc supplements would have any effect on weight. It usually takes serious effort to change body weight. Perhaps zinc caused water retention to you?

  15. What is NAC ?
    And what is the best Zinc product to take and how much, sorry im asking these questions as im sure the answers are on this site, but I really dont have time to read it all, i just came across it but in a major rush, and can i buy from this site and if so what is the best 1 to buy and do you ship to the UK, i have acne on my face quite servere, on my back very very servere, on my chest quite servere, on my head servere (but my long hair covers it up but i hate it) and it hurts when washing my hair, and on my neck servere, I know there is no miricle cure anti biotics dont do nothing Roaccutane made me so ill as in mental health ill, I now suffer with bad depression anxiety and panic attacks because of that, even if zinc helps a little thats positive right, hope you can get back to me with my questions, Regards Ricky.

  16. Thanks Seppo for this wonderful information… After reading this article I searched for acne products which contains zinc in its ingredients.. Recently I have started using Solvaderm product Zeroblem for treating acne because it contains zinc oxide which is an ideal skincare ingredient.. It helped me to clear up acne quickly..

  17. Hi Seppo,

    I have just bought Now Foods Zinc Picolinate 50mg. However the bottle does not specify the amount of elemental zinc per 50mg. Does this mean that each capsule contains around 50mg of elemental zinc? Or is it less? In other words, how many capsules should I take to get around 30mg of elemental zinc?

    Thanks!

  18. I’ve been taking any old zinc supplement I find on sale, daily for probably twenty years. When I forget to take it for a few days, I pay for it. When I’m consistent, I rarely have breakouts. The correlation is no coincidence. Zinc absolutely helps.

  19. Hi Seppo,

    I’ve found your blog very informative and honest.

    I am thinking of trying a few different supplements and am wondering if it is okay to take multiple supplements or if this will cancel out or have adverse effects on the supplements combative properties.

    I am wanting to try zinc, NAC, and milk thistle. Have you come across any research that suggests that certain supplements should not be taken together?

    And on the flip side, are there any supplements I should be taking with these specific supplements to make them work more efficiently or also that I need to be taking to compensate for a deficiency due to supplementation?

    Thanks in advance!
    Kelly

    • I would assume (but don’t know for sure) that it’s ok to take many supplements at one time. I have never read anything to suggest otherwise, but I haven’t specifically looked into this either.

      There are other supplements that can help but they are more case specific. I’m just updating my Clear for Life course and the updated version will have specific supplementation recommendations for different acne types. As an example, I’m taking several supplements to fix my gut issues (and to prevent them from recurring again). These are different than a woman who is struggling with hormonal-type acne needs to take.

  20. I’m new here but I love what I’m reading. I have taken doxycycline and monocycline and it’s too harsh on my body but temporarily does the job and I can’t use too much on my face of anything like creams and lotions because of sensitivity but I am now taking zinc and hopefully besides that and washing my face, this will be it but another thing drinking more water and away with the soda, I found to be extremely successful.

  21. First, I want to share this link
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3630857
    It’s an abstract on the absorption of the different types of zinc.
    Second, I would like to share my story:
    It started with a really bad breakout that just kept getting worse and worse. It was the kind that you couldn’t even hide with makeup. It hurt so bad! My entire face was covered, but mostly it was my cheeks and my jawline that had the cystic acne we all hate! I tried everything… green tea, milk thistle, omega 3s, selenium, vitamins, zinc gluconate, prescription and otc medications, oil cleansing, you name it and I’ve tried it. Finally I did some more extensive research and found that as a vegetarian I’m more prone to a zinc deficiency that a non-vegetarian. Major acne can be caused by a zinc deficiency. Well, I knew that but what I didn’t know is that the zinc gluconate that was so harsh on my stomach that it would make me vomit (even if taken with a meal) didn’t actually do anything for me (see link above)! There are forms of zinc that are better absorbed. I started taking high dosages of zinc picolinate. I can take this form of zinc on an empty stomach and not have any tummy turning issues. I was taking about 150 elemental mg a day. Once it disappeared completely, I only took 50mg every three days, then I stopped taking it completely because hey, my acne was gone, right? WRONG! I have a zinc deficiency because of my diet. I can’t stop taking it. My face started breaking out again and I had no idea why, then my boyfriend asked me if I was taking my zinc. I started taking it again and it disappeared.
    For those of you that have tried zinc, make sure you weren’t taking zinc gluconate.
    Also, when zinc levels rise, your copper levels lower. See if you can find a zinc supplement that has some copper in it as well.
    Also, please see your doctor. Do not self supplement. It can be dangerous.

  22. Hello Seppo. I’d like to listen to your thought on Zinc Oxide as acne and general skin treatment.
    When I fell asleep with my mineral sunscreens on, whose major active ingredient is Zinc Oxide, I found my skin quite good and soothed the next morning.
    Later I found there are products like Zinc cream and Zinc ample. All of them contain Zinc in the form of Zinc Oxide.

    Thanks for all the efforts you put on this site and books. I’ve only been on this site for a day, but it is such a rare and good experience in this skin care scene, to get information from the one who tries to stay critical and science based. It was also quite inspiring because I could finally understand why there are always green tea lines in all cosmetic brands here in South Korea. (Literally, green tea cream, cleanser, cleansing oil… it is everywhere.) I thought it was just marketing.

    • Glad to hear you find the information useful.

      There have been a handful of studies on topical zinc. For the most part they show topically applied zinc doesn’t really help acne.

  23. I will be short but whant to tell that zinc is cure for acne!
    I just whanted to tell all acne suffers that i had bad acne from 12 years now i am 18 and tryed roacutane and so much of creams that cures acne and nothing didn’t help me.Last decber i started taking 150mg zinc gluconate 3 times a day and it started working 2 months just from taking zink and after six months taking so big dose i could lower to 25 mg and had clear face and body because i had body acne. But you need to take every dose of zinc every day for first 6 months if whant to see results but after that 25mg with 2 mg of copper keep my face clear with 0 acne. Sry for bad english but i remember now that i where angry on people why they don’t share cure for acne and because od that i wrote this. Ps. O started zinc terapy because of this site about zinc and whanted to give a feedback.again sry for bad english

  24. Hi Seppo.
    Quick question. Can I take a zinc supplement (30mg) while still taking a daily multivitamin that already has 15mg along with 22 other vitamins/nutrients? I would really appreciate your opinion on the matter.
    Warm regards,
    Wesley.

  25. Seppo,

    I have KP on my arms and I’ve always wondered if the over-production of keratin in my skin was the real culprit causing my acne.

    Do you think that zinc would be my best solution for reducing the over-production of keratin in my skin? I’ve tried Vitamin A and D and neither one helped. I’ve also heard magnesium helps regulate keratin production as well. What do you think I should do?

    • I’m sorry but I really don’t know. There are many things that can increase keratin production, including inflammation, immune response, zinc deficiency, linoleic acid deficiency, stress, etc. I can’t really say what’s the best thing to do in your situation as I’m not at all familiar with KP.

  26. I also saw the effects of zinc in a good way but worth mentioning:
    – dont take zinc while on antibiotics or keep at least 2 hours between
    – make sure you take (if not enough from food) enough copper as zinc prevents copper absorption

  27. I have been taking 50mg of zinc picolinate for a couple years now. I swear by it. My skin is so much better when I’m taking it. Nothing else has worked this well. I have to buy it at the health food store as most grocers don’t carry it in the picolinate form.

  28. You need to use Vitamin A with aloe vera. In one 2014 study, researchers grabbed 60 people with mild to moderate acne and split them into two groups:

    * Group A was given a topical Vitamin A cream
    * Group B was given a topical Vitamin A cream plus topical aloe vera

    Guess which group’s acne healed faster?

    Group B, Turns out that aloe vera combined with the Vitamin A was “significantly more effective” at reducing acne lesions than the Vitamin A alone. Two good aloe vera choices are the Palmers Aloe Vera & the Made from Earth Aloe Vera. The Parlmers is priced better, but the Made from Earth Aloe Vera is better quality.

  29. Hi! Thanks for this article. When I was younger, my doctor asked if I liked fish as fish contains zinc which can help with acne. While I like tuna, I don’t eat it enough to reap any benefits and I don’t think a pediatrician wanted to tell a young girl to take zinc supplements. Recently, I got a sample of a “fancy” sunscreen and have been using it for a few days – I noticed my skin was a lot clearer than before, so I looked up the ingredients. The first is titanium dioxide (of course) and the second is zinc oxide. After reading this article and other information of zinc, I’m sure that’s what helped. I thought maybe I should just try a zinc oxide cream, but they’re actually pretty expensive and I don’t really want to put diaper rash cream over my face, so zinc supplements sound best. Hopefully it works, as nothing worked for me. My skin is dry, but I still manage to break out a lot. Any medicines or cleansers with salicylic acid never worked for me. I even tried ProActive! Anyway, thanks again for this article.

  30. hello nice post . i have a question do u know which type of zinc is better?? in my town they only have chelated and picolinate form . thank you

    • I’m not sure that it matters. Some people speculate that forms with better bioavailability could work better, but there’s no objective data to show that. Most studies on acne have used picolinate – so that at least works.

  31. Really enjoyed reading this post! It answered a lot of my questions about zinc and acne but i was wondering if it’s possible that the people whose acne got worse from taking zinc supplements could benefit from topical zinc creams?

    I’ve seen incredible improvements to my own skin from using Desitin (its actually a diaper rash cream) and i can only assume its from the zinc in it. But I’ve also noticed over the years that any time i try and take some form of pill or supplement to help with my acne (probiotics, antibiotics, herbal stuff such as evening primrose oil etc.) my skin gets much worse very quickly!

    I’ve only been using Desitin for a couple weeks and i went from ‘severe, cystic, cry-about-it-every-morning, call-my doctor-way-too-much-about-it’ acne that i would cover with makeup daily, to not even wearing any makeup because aside from 1 or 2 pimples my skin is just a bit red in the cheeks/jawline.

    I may be getting overly excited but would it be worth it to try taking zinc supplements to try and heal my acne further or should i just stick with what seems to be working for me? i greatly appreciate any advice/suggestions! 🙂

    • Some decades ago there were quite a few studies that looked at topical zinc in acne. By and large those studies showed topical zinc doesn’t have much effect on acne. It’s possible there are individuals for whom it works, but in general it doesn’t seem to be effective.

      I can’t really answer that question to you. Nobody knows how your in particular react to the supplements. But, in general, zinc supplements are one of the few things that work for many with acne.

  32. My skin has been great this year, and I wanted to share the products I have been using and my routine (which includes Zinc!)

    – Morning: wash my face with sulfur soap (great for acne) froth it up, slather on face and only leave it on a few seconds before rinsing it off. I follow with an oil-free SPF. I often use different SPF but they are always oil-free.

    – Supplements: Rainbow Light Teen Complex (amazing) plus zinc 30mg once per day with food (have to take with food otherwise you’ll feel sick. I learned this the hard way!)

    – Nighttime: wash face with sulfur soap or use a sensitive cleansing wipe, then use either grapeseed oil or rosehip oil (couple of squirts all over face and neck – I know what you’re thinking, OIL?!?! But yes, do you research and you’ll find they are dry oils and perfect for healing active acne and fading scars, as well as keep skin it’s best) I apply tea tree oil to breakouts by using a Qtip / cotton pad.

    Additional tips: This year I stopped eating dairy, limit my gluten, always go for the whole wheat choice, limit sugar, drink plenty of water, limit sodium intake, have a smoothie every morning with green tea.

    I HOPE THIS HELPS YOU GUYS 🙂 ANY QUESTIONS, ASK AWAY!

    • I wanted to comment on the oils. Don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but research quite clearly shows that oils applied on the skin don’t penetrate the skin. They just sit on the surface of the skin. So it’s doubtful that anything in those oils makes it deep enough to have a positive effect. They may, but I remain skeptical.

  33. I have had great success using Zinc Picolinate. It really dries up the sebum. If I go a day or two without taking 40mg a day, my skin starts to get oily again. I also take Estroblock Pro which has been a lifesaver, but I do continue to get mild acne breakouts if I forgot to take the zinc.

    I also do a modified caveman, where I only wash my face with water. I have also started using 100% natural/organic products to lessen my exposure to zenoestrogens and improve my overall health. This alone cleared my skin about 50%

    I have started experimenting with making my own products. Right now I make my own face cream. It’s Shea butter, pomegranate oil, and a few drops of frankincense and myrrh. It’s a bit think, but I have super dry skin and it works wonders. Doesn’t clog pores at all.

    I have also found that dairy does cause breakouts, so I try to limit it, but I haven’t cut it out completely.

  34. Hello All,

    I been dealing with acne for almost 30 years. And have taking accutane….antibiotics… All types of cream that my dermatologist have recommended…now it has help clear the acne on my face but not my backside.. I have so many blemishes here and there. Tried everything to home remedies..tired of spending money to the dermatologist and over the counter..and i need result..solution..help!!!

  35. Why not eat foods high in zinc instead? You get more bioavailability from it and without harming yourself with the risk of too much pure zinc in your system rather than in its chemical nature of food it should be consumed as.

  36. Hi, I wanted to ask your opinion on the role of/(if any) zinc or copper has on preventing acne scarring?

    I’d taken a 15mg zinc supplement (without copper) on and off for 2.5 years and it definitely helped control my acne. 3-4 months ago i stopped taking zinc regularly because it was making me a bit foggy headed. Anyway about a month ago (2 months after stopping zinc) all of a sudden I was noticing new acne scarring (I’ve had regular acne for 10+ years that hardly scarred), I mean every single pimple was leaving indents in my skin!

    I started doing some research and I found out copper is needed by the skin to make Collagen and elastin (give strength to the skin) and I thought maybe all those years of taking a low dose (RDA) zinc supplement might of caused a copper deficiency, hence to lack of skin healing and the appearance of new scarring. I did a blood test to check my copper levels and it was low, but in range (14 out of 11-22). So the past few weeks I started taking 2mg copper aday, but unfortunately I’m still seeing new scarring after most breakouts.

    Now though I’m racking my brain to understand the situation; was the new scarring by acne caused by the 3 month break I had from the zinc supplements? (Scars appeared when I was off zinc) Or simply zinc induced low copper levels (inhibiting collagen production)?

    I’m now uncertain if I should be supplementing with either zinc or copper alone to prevent more scarring!?….I brought a zinc copper combo supplement I was planning on taking (15mg zinc Bisglycinate and 0.75mg copper Bisglycinate) but I’m concerned if I do have low copper levels that ratio will only bring levels done further?

    I read zinc is beneficial for wound healing/acne/minimising acne scarring but on the other hand I’ve heard copper is essential for collagen production…..i’m started to figure out why would my acne suddenly start scarring so easily now?

  37. You should mention it’s a.good idea to supplement copper when taking zinc, since zinc toxicity can cause copper deficiency

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