A 2014 study found that low levels of zinc in the blood are correlated with increased incidence of acne, particularly in severe or hormonal forms.  Another study from 2001 found that zinc minocycline supplementation reduced acne by 66%. This post summarizes research and outlines the best sources of zinc for effective acne treatment and overall good health. As is often the case with integrative treatment options, zinc is a powerful mineral and antioxidant with a lot of health benefits that extend beyond clear skin.

Zinc For Acne and Beyond

Zinc supplements have been used to treat everything from the common cold to gastroenteritis. Zinc levels are correlated with a healthy immune system and healthy eyes. Topical zinc can protect against sunburn and treat windburn, diaper rash, dandruff and bad breath.

Besides these benefits, zinc is also the original acne supplement. The anti-acne properties of zinc have been documented and studied since about the 1980s. About a dozen studies shown a relationship between zinc levels and acne.

One study from 20o1 showed that supplementation with 100mg of zinc minocycline reduced acne by 66% over a 3 month period.

A more recent study from 2014 showed definitively that acne severity correlates with lower levels of zinc in  the blood.

Zinc deficiency is uncommon unless you exercise a lot and sweat it out. However, the studies on acne don’t mention a zinc deficiency but just lower levels of zinc in the blood. Increasing your zinc intake through diet or supplements could still have a positive effect on your acne even if you aren’t deficient.

Dietary Sources of Zinc

Animal proteins are the best sources of dietary zinc. Oysters have the highest dietary zinc of any food.

Plant foods can also have zinc but the levels depend on the soil plants were grown in.

zinc for acne dietary sources table
Source: NIH

Zinc Supplements

Zinc may be the world’s oldest supplement. Chemical analysis of ancient pills has shown that zinc carbonates hydrozincite and smithsonite were used as early as 140 BC by the Romans to treat sore eyes. The science has come a long way since then and now we know that not all zinc is created equal.

The question isn’t whether zinc is effective, but what kind of zinc is effective.

Zinc is notoriously difficult for the body to absorb and many supplements are a waste of time and money. The studies on acne and zinc have used different forms of zinc. What’s certain is that the best zinc supplement is the one with the highest bioavailability, which increases the likelihood that you’ll get full benefits.

There are many forms of zinc. Studies specifically addressing acne have shown that zinc gluconate and zinc minocycline are effective for acne treatment.

However, research has shown that the most bioavailable form is zinc orotate. Zinc orotate has yet to be studied in relation to acne but in other studies it’s proven to be more bioavailable so it’s likely also the best form of zinc for acne treatment. A reputable zinc orotate product is Now L-OptiZinc.


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