Zinc and the Skin

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Zinc is by far the most important mineral when it comes to skin health. In Australia, it is also the mineral that we are most deficient of.

Diet often contributes to zinc deficiency. A national random dietary survey in Australia found that  85% of women and 65% of men do not receive the RDA for zinc in their diets. (12) Sub-optimal levels of zinc are common at all ages, but the elderly are especially at risk.

Levels of copper are particularly relevant to a zinc problem. When copper is too high, it can prevent the proper utilization of zinc. The only way to correct this imbalance is by taking a zinc supplement.

What Functions Does Zinc Have?

Because zinc plays a role in so many reactions with enzymes and various processes within the body, it is one of the most important minerals needed by the human body. In relation to the skin and hair, supplementation with zinc ( where there is a deficiency) can:
  • Improve and support immune function
  • Assist with  Acne
  • Improve rosacea
  • Assist with DNA and Growth -Assisting wound and injury healing
  • Help to maintain healthy skin and hair
  • Promote hair growth

Zinc deficiency symptoms

Below are some of the symptoms or signs associated with zinc deficiency, skin and hair;
zinc deficiency symptoms of the skin


Skin signs of zinc deficiency

Others symptoms related to the skin health and zinc include diarrhoea, emotional disturbances. Long term diarrhoea can have an impact on the absorption of vitamins and minerals in the diet. Emotional disturbances, such as stress, can be major triggers for skin and hair problems.

Zinc Deficiency Questionnaire

How do you rate on our zinc questionnaire

Complete the questionnaire to determine the likelihood of you having a zinc deficiency.

2 Types of Zinc Deficiency

Zinc deficiency can be divided into 2 types. First acrodermatitis enteropathica which is believed to be related to defective genes that code the zinc transporter. This can be seen in new born babies who have skin problems. Secondly, an acquired form of zinc deficiency can occur that relates to diet and lifestyle.12

Dietary causes of Zinc deficiency include inadequate intake due to ;

  • low zinc containing diets, especially in vegetarians due to low animal protein
  • consumption of processed foods that have lost the zinc during production;
  • poor diet contributing to a poor nutritional intake
  • consumption of foods that contain phytic acid (grains, nuts, seeds, beans) or fibers that contain zinc absorption inhibitors


Zinc Absorption

A zinc tally test - ask your practitioner today

A zinc taste test can help to determine zinc levels. A Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis gives a 3 month history of mineral levels within the body, as well as toxins such as mercury which can block zinc absorption.

The lack of zinc in our diet can affect our body’s zinc levels. Our ability to absorb minerals will vary from one person to the other however. The availability of zinc in our body’s can be affected by:

  • abnormalities in the gastrointestinal tract. This can include malabsorption syndromes such as liver disease, Inflammatory bowel disease or short bowel syndrome;
  • abnormalities in transportation;
  • substances that interfere with zinc absorption such as drugs.
The mechanism and control of zinc absorption from the intestine is not yet fully understood. It is known that zinc absorption is affected by the pool of zinc in the body and the amount of zinc ingested.
There is decreased absorption in the elderly.
For some people a liquid zinc provides the most effective and cost efficient means of increasing gut concentrations of zinc and subsequently stimulating the transportation of zinc in the body. This is demonstrated in studies done on those with acrodermatitis enteropathica and anorexia. 12.
Vitamin B6 also assists zinc absorption by facilitating the production of picolinic acid. Picolinic acid  co-ordinates with zinc to form a complex that facilitates the passage of zinc through the gastrointestinal wall and into circulation.

Improving  Immune Function for Healthy Skin

Zinc is arguably the most important mineral for the immune system and also for wound healing. A zinc deficiency causes a dramatic impairment in the body’s ability to properly respond to microbial infections by reducing the number of white blood cells (T-helper1 lymphocytes) that are available to attack bacteria, viruses,fungi and cancer cells.
Zinc deficiency in an experimental human model caused an imbalance between Th1 and Th2 lymphocyte-mediated functions. Raised levels of Th1 are linked to diseases where the body attacks itself such as psoriasis or arthritis.Decreased Th1 are also linked to decreased antimicrobial defences (immune suppression).
Raised Th2 levels are linked to problems related to allergy such as atopic dermatitis, sinusitis etc.
Dr Prasad, the discoverer of zinc deficiency, notes that a zinc deficiency will produce an overgrowth of the yeast, Candida albicans. 10. Zinc status should always be checked when there is a  fungal, viral or bacterial infection.

Acne treatment and zinc deficiency

A study of 96 people with mild to moderate acne, looked at the levels of  Vitamin A, E and zinc. It found that zinc and vitamin E were significantly lower than in the control group. The researchers concluded that supportive treatment for acne should include vitamins and zinc.

Another study looked at the affect of zinc sulphate in 56 patients with acne vulgaris. Patients were given daily zinc sulphate  whilst others were given a placebo. The placebo group showed no improvement after 12 weeks. The group taking the zinc sulphate however had a statistically significant decrease in the number of papules, infiltrates and cysts. Interestingly in the zinc treated group, there was also an increase in their vitamin A levels. 1

 Acne in females commonly occurs in conjunction with PCO’s – a health condition with raised androgens. Another in vivo study revealed that  at high concentrations, zinc could completely inhibit the enzyme activity that contributes to excessive androgens. Thus it could be an effective agent in the treatment of androgen related pathology of human skin. 8

Assisting wound and Injuries and Wound Healing

A zinc deficiency can significantly impair the body’s ability to heal itself.  Very often it is found that in people who have slow wound healing, there is a zinc deficiency. Identifying the need for and supplementing with zinc by doing a Zinc Tally Test, completing the questionnaire, or for more exact information, have a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis, can therefore be very useful.

One study looked at the effects of giving zinc sulphate to  46 severely burned patients and the effect it had on their wound healing. The results found that in comparison to a control group who had the same severity of burns,  the patients taking zinc were cured 8 days earlier. 5

Another study looked at the effect of zinc on the closure of excisional wounds. It found that parenteral zinc, copper, and selenium combined appeared effective for wound healing in humans. Close examination of the skin revealed that copper and selenium are mobilized to injured sites and possibly play a supportive role to zinc which is vital for the wound healing activity of the matrix
(metalloproteinase activity).14.

Skin and hair problems

Seborrhoea, scaling or flaking of the skin can be the result of a zinc deficiency. Other studies have demonstrated that a deficiency of zinc may increase the risk of alopecia, and that by reducing the zinc deficiency the alopecia may become reversed. 3
 “Two unrelated patients had dry brittle hair, alopecia, trichorrhexis nodosa, dry scaly skin, pigment dyschromia, short stature, and neurosecretory growth hormone deficiency. By means of the zinc tolerance test, patient 1 was shown to have zinc deficiency, whereas no clear zinc deficiency could be demonstrated in patient 2. In both patients, hair and the skin abnormalities responded to oral zinc therapy.”4
Hypothyroidism in another common cause of hair loss. Research has found that for hair loss that is attributed to hypothyroidism. there may be no improves with thyroxine unless zinc supplements are added. 15.Oysters are a food source of zinc for skin health

1. Verma KC, Saini AS, Dhamija SK. Oral zinc sulphate therapy in acne vulgaris: a double-blind trial. Acta Derm Venereol. 1980;60(4):337-40 2. Leigh DA. Prostatitis–an increasing clinical problem for diagnosis and management. J Antimicrob Chemother. 1993 Jul;32 Suppl A:1-9

3. Neve HJ, Bhatti WA, Soulsby C, Kincey J, Taylor TV.Reversal of Hair Loss following Vertical Gastroplasty when Treated with Zinc Sulphate.Obes Surg. 1996 Feb;6(1):63-65.

4. Slonim AE, Sadick N, Pugliese M, Meyers-Seifer CH.Clinical response of alopecia, trichorrhexis nodosa, and dry, scaly skin to zinc supplementation.J Pediatr. 1992 Dec;121(6):890-5.

5. Han CM. [Changes in body zinc and copper levels in severely burned patients and the effects of oral administration of ZnSO4 by a double-blind method] Zhonghua Zheng Xing Shao Shang Wai Ke Za Zhi. 1990 Jun;6(2):83-6, 155

6. Young B, Ott L, Kasarskis E, Rapp R, Moles K, Dempsey RJ, Tibbs PA, Kryscio R, McClain C. Zinc supplementation is associated with improved neurologic recovery rate and visceral protein levels of patients with severe closed head injury. J Neurotrauma. 1996 Jan;13(1):25-34

7. Pennington JA, Schoen SA. Total diet study: estimated dietary intakes of nutritional elements, 1982-1991. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 1996;66(4):350-628.

9. http://www.merck.com/pubs/mmanual/section1/chapter4/4e.htm10. Evans GW. Normal and abnormal zinc absorption in man and animals: the tryptophan connection. Nutr Rev 1980;38(4):137-14111.

10. Prasad AS. Clinical, biochemical and nutritional spectrum of zinc deficiency in human subjects, an update. Nutr Rev 1983;41(7):19712.

11. Baghurst KI, Droesti, IE, Syrette JA, Record SJ, Baghurst PA, Buckly RA. Zinc and magnesium status of Australian adults. Nutr Res 1991;11:23-32.

12. http://www.merck.com/pubs/mmanual/section1/chapter4/4e.htm

13. Marovt, M and Drogos, V. Acquired zinc deficiency: a case report.Acta Dermatovenerol Alp Panonica Adriat. 2013 Sep;22(3):75-6.14Ozuguz PDogruk Kacar SEkiz OTakci ZBalta IKalkan G. Evaluation of serum vitamins A and E and zinc levels according to the severity of acne vulgaris. Cutan Ocul Toxicol. 2013 Jul 5. 

14.Mirastschijski UMartin AJorgensen LNSampson BÅgren MS. Zinc, copper, and selenium tissue levels and their relation to subcutaneous abscess, minor surgery, and wound healing in humans. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2013 Jun;153(1-3):76-83. doi: 10.1007/s12011-013-9658-z. Epub 2013 Apr 18.

15. Betsy ABinitha MSarita S. Zinc deficiency associated with hypothyroidism: an overlooked cause of severe alopecia. Int J Trichology, 2013 Jan ;5 (1):40-20. doi:10.4103/0974-7753.114714.



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