Are Zinc Effective in Treating Acne?

Zinc is a mineral that is necessary for growth and development at all stages of life.  Symptoms of zinc deficiency include loss of appetite, growth retardation, hair loss, impaired wound healing, diarrhea, delayed sexual maturation, impotence, hypogonadism in males, eye and skin lesions. Zinc helps heal the skin and plays an important role in preventing the scarring that acne can cause. While topical zinc preparations can provide immediate antibacterial benefits on the skin, zinc is recommended to be taken orally for acne therapy.

Zinc Acne Treatment and Studies

Diverse studies have identified a positive correlation between serum zinc levels and severity of acne. Research findings show that people with acne usually have lower levels of zinc in their blood and skin cells. A study reported in the “International Journal of Dermatology” in 1982 established that zinc levels in acne people were lower than in the general population. The zinc deficiency in acne people has been associated with nutritional deficiency,  decreased absorption, dieting patients, and increased excretion with sweat or feces. The  inflammatory reaction in acne people is another factor decreasing serum zinc levels.

AcneZinc is a trace element necessary for the growing and developing organism and is found in quite high levels in the epidermis of the skin. Some researches demonstrate that the zinc may reduce the effects of acne. Acne vulgaris is a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by typical inflammatory events, including the overproduction of sebum, abnormal desquamation of the sebaceous follicle epithelium, and Propionibacterium acnes proliferation. P. acnes is an anaerobic, Gram-positive skin microbe that colonizes sebaceous glands and pilosebaceous follicles.  This organism is considered to play a important role in the development of acne vulgaris.  Zinc salts have showed their efficacy in inflammatory acne therapy as well as their bacteriostatic effect against P. acnes.

In a study reported in the “British Journal of Dermatology” in 1977 revealed that zinc were equally beneficial as oxytetracycline. In a the study, 20 participants were given 200 mg a day of zinc gluconate for 2 months. At the end of the working period, researchers noted a important reduction in inflammation of the skin. Another study published in the journal “Acta Dermato-Venereologica” in 1989 found that taking zinc sulfate reduced the symptoms of acne. In a study reported in “Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics” in 1992, zinc ions were found to be effective antimicrobial agents even in low concentrations. For this reason, it is possible that topical zinc preparations can effectively kill off the population of acne-causing bacteria such as Propionibacterium acnes on the skin.

A 2-month study of the efficacy of zinc gluconate (30 mg once daily) in 30 people with inflammatory acne demonstrated a decrease in the number of inflammatory lesions after the therapy period, and improved effectiveness of the antibiotic erythromycin among patients with antibiotic-resistant organisms. APC is a novel methionine-based zinc complex with antioxidants that has been used in acne as a supplement. In this study, 48 participants were treated with oral APC thrice a day for three months followed by a four-week therapy-free period. At the end of therapy (week 12), there was a statistically important improvement in the global acne count, which began after 8 weeks. Nearly 79%  of the patients had 80-100% healing.

A double-blind study has been performed to investigate the effect of topical 4% erythromycin/1.2% zinc acetate solution and its vehicle on quantitative bacterial counts of P. acnes and the free fatty acids of the skin surface. The logarithmic counts for propionibacterium acnes in the zinc/erythromycin group demonstrated a important reduction (98%) following 10 weeks of treatment. A important decrease (69%) in the percentage of free fatty acids in the surface lipids was seen at week 4 in the zinc/erythromycin group as compared to 23% in the vehicle control group. There was also a important reduction (69%) in inflammatory lesions shown for the zinc/erythromycin group at week 8 as compared to a 9% decrease in the control group. The latest edition of the “Journal of Drugs in Dermatology” reported the findings of a survey that looked back at all the past  studies of zinc therapy for acne. The conclusion is that there is good evidence that mineral zinc helps acne.  (Zinc has been known to interfere with copper absorption. Therefore 2 mg/day of copper is recommended for individuals supplementing their diet with zinc).

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