Zinc – you find it in your daily vitamin supplement, as well as your sunscreen, anti-dandruff treatment, clarifying mask, sensitive skin lotion, and even your baby’s nappy rash cream. We know that micronutrients are vital for overall health, but what is it about zinc that makes it so important for supporting your skin’s health?
Our skin is the body’s largest organ – adults carry about 3.6 kg and 2 m² of skin! Each 2.54cm (one inch) of skin has about 19 million skin cells and 60,000 melanocytes (cells that make melanin). It also contains 1,000 nerve endings and 20 blood vessels. Amazingly, we shed about 40,000 old skin cells every day, which means that we have new skin every 30 days. Our skin is part of the body’s immune system, acting as a protective barrier against damaging UV light, microbes and other elements, it maintains body temperature, grows hair, helps the blood vessels and nerves, and gives us our skin colour.
How zinc benefits the skin
• It helps protect against harmful UV rays. It protects the skin against photodamage by absorbing UV radiation, which limits the penetration of radiation into the body. Therefore, it’s often found in sunscreens, as it can reflect the sun and it creates a barrier between the skin and any damaging UV rays.
• It serves as an antioxidant, protecting skin from damage caused by a UV light-induced increase in free radical levels.
• It has anti-inflammatory properties. Zinc has been used for inflammatory skin conditions, including acne, rosacea, eczemas, ulcers and various types of wounds. When used topically (i.e. products containing zinc oxide), it protects the skin and aids in wound healing and regeneration. It may help relieve some of the redness and irritation associated with moderate-to-severe acne.
• It has antimicrobial properties. As a co-treatment with vitamin C, it exhibits antimicrobial activity that helps to clear bacteria in acne, and when taken orally, it can decrease the severity of acne. It also works with other vitamins and minerals to help treat skin lesions.
• It assists in collagen synthesis. Because zinc acts as an enzyme cofactor, it assists in collagen synthesis and DNA repair, keeping skin looking younger and healthier.
Zinc, elemental or in its various forms, can be used, both topically and orally for a large number of skin disorders. A 2014 review titled ‘Zinc Therapy in Dermatology: A Review’ suggests that zinc taken orally may be useful for:
• cutaneous leishmaniasis (a parasitic infection that causes sores)
• Hansen’s disease
• aphthous ulcers
• Behçet’s disease (which causes inflammation in blood vessels)
To keep your skin healthy looking, ensure that you get your recommended daily amount of zinc (8 mg for women and 11 mg for men) by eating zinc-rich foods or using zinc supplements.
When choosing your supplement, always check if there is a full list of ingredients on the product, a package insert, a valid company address with contact details and compliance to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), which is a prerequisite for health product manufacturing. Click here for further info.