Usually, we don’t link the mineral zinc to skin care. It sounds more like something you’d use in the alloys of your car or as an ingredient to make paint. So it gets overshadowed by the more glamorous ingredients such as Q10, centella asiatica, or propolis. But zinc could be the secret to getting clear and healthy skin.
You may have come across zinc oxide as an active ingredient in diaper rash or minor burn relief products. You may have also seen it when you were shopping for sunscreen.
Although flying under the radar, it’s a common ingredient in health and skin care products helping spots as well as speeding up wound healing. It’s non-comedogenic and astringent so that it can help shrink large pores and regulate the oil production in your skin. And lastly, it’s a major ingredient in SPF.
The raw material
Zinc is a metal, ain’t it? Correct, it’s an elemental metal. In skin care though, it’s not the pure metal itself that’s used but zinc oxide (ZnO). Zinc oxide comes about when the element zinc is heated along with oxygen. In a chemical reaction, zinc oxidises. After both elements, oxygen and zinc have evaporated, you get zinc oxide: It looks like a fine, white powder.
Zinc oxide, just like the original source material can carry an electrical charge. So, it plays a major role in transmitting information within cells and in communication between cells.
Zinc is critical for your body inside and out. It’s needed for wound healing and your sense of taste and smell. It helps your immune system and metabolism function.
It’s one of the essential nutrients your body needs. Essential means it’s a nutrient your body can’t make itself. So, you have to take it with your diet, supplements, or skin care products. But your body can’t store it for a long time, so you need to take it regularly.
Zinc oxide can occur naturally, that’s when zinc that exists in the air, water, and the soil gets heated together with oxygen. But for many products such as batteries, ceramics, glass, and paints, or in skin care, zinc oxide is made in the lab.
How does Zinc work?
When it comes to skin care, it has been shown that zinc can help fight viruses and bacteria. OK, it’s true, it sounds like it helps with the immune system of your body. But combine it with its anti-inflammatory properties, then you have an option to the classical acne fighting ingredients such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.
Zinc can potentially help regulate how much sebum your skin produces, and so prevent excess oil. There are some data that show that spots go hand in hand with lower levels of zinc in your body.
Speaking of spots, it’s best also to mention inflammation and irritation. You can get sensitive skin from skin ulcers, scrapes, or burns. Since zinc is anti-inflammatory, it’s an often-used ingredient to treat rashes.
Although with age comes wisdom, it also takes away some good things. As we age, our bodies slow down the production of collagen and elastin. These two proteins are what make your skin plump and bouncy.
Zinc is known to stimulate the production of both and so help support the underlying structure of the skin, which in turn reduces the appearance of wrinkles and other signs of ageing. Zinc is known to speed up wound healing and regeneration. It has been linked to reduction of scar tissue.
Last but not least, when it’s applied to your skin, zinc sits on the surface. It forms a film, a protective barrier. This is why it’s so beneficial in rash relief products.
This property also makes it a wonderful ingredient in SPF. It physically blocks UVA and UVB rays. In contrast to chemical sunscreen, they work as soon as you apply the SPF, you don’t need to wait until it has sunk into your skin.
The drawbacks of physical sunscreen are that it has a thick consistency and it can make your complexion get chalky. On the other hand, it’s a very safe and stable ingredient. It was never been linked to any direct health hazard to humans or the environment.
Another boon is that it’s resistant and photostable to water. It means, your SPF with zinc oxide won’t degrade or break down when exposed to the sun. It’ll also hold longer when you swim and sweat and won’t wipe off (easily) from your skin once you’ve applied it. It’s ideal for athletes and children who swim and sweat.
To sum up, zinc helps your skin
- By encouraging collagen and elastin production
- Is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial so that it can help all kinds of flare-ups
- It regulates the activity of the oil glands in your skin
- It also acts as an antioxidant and helps ward off formation of free radicals
- It forms a barrier to prevent moisture loss or protected wounded skin from external moisture and bacteria
- It can help regenerate cells
- It protects against UV rays
Who can or should use zinc?
No matter what your skin type is, you’d get results from adding zinc. It’s particularly recommended if you’ve got sensitive skin, if you want firmer, more bouncy skin, or those who are deficient in zinc. Acne could be sign of deficiency.
Although it’s not as effective as traditional acne treatments, zinc can still help reduce inflammation and redness, if you got zits (mild acne). But you can opt for products that contain zinc oxide combined with other blemish fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic and glycolic acid.
What foods contain zinc?
For your body, a healthy diet is the optimal way to reach the required levels. Still, some people may find taking supplements temporarily beneficial, for example as a way to prevent colds.
It’s likely you get enough from your diet, as your body only needs trace amounts, Moreover, just like with other nutrients, your body can absorb zinc more easily from the foods you eat than from a supplement.
In general, if you eat meat and seafood, you’re most likely getting enough of the trace mineral. Fill your shopping cart with
- Red Meat
- Dairy Products
But with the popularity of restricted diets such as vegetarian or vegan, you may not get enough. Also know that zinc isn’t stored in your body. This means, for optimal health, it’s best consumed daily.
Before zinc was used in skin care products, it was used in Ancient Greek and Indian medicine to treat open wounds and damaged skin. Still, zinc oxide has been used for decades in a host of beauty and personal care products such as makeup, baby lotions, bath soaps, foot powders, and of course sunscreens.
One of its many upsides is that it remains on your skin’s surface once applied. This means it forms a protective barrier against the harmful effects of UV radiation and environmental irritants. It also makes it less likely to cause any reactions be it zits or an allergic reaction.
In closing, I leave you with a tip for your hair and scalp: If you find you suffer from dandruff or get dry and itchy scalp from time to time, zinc oxide can also provide relief.