ingredient spotlight zinc

Here's How Zinc Can Benefit Your Skin—And 4 Products to Try

It’s the star in just about every mineral sunscreen, but zinc’s skin-boosting benefits make it more than a sunny-day staple.
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What is zinc?

"Zinc is a trace mineral that your body requires in order for its immune system to function properly," explains Tricia Pingel, NMD, an Arizona-based naturopathic physician. "It plays a critical role in fighting and controlling inflammation." It also helps skin functions such as wound repair, collagen synthesis, and UV protection, adds Orit Markowitz, MD, a dermatologist and founder of OptiSkin in New York City. Because the body doesn't produce zinc on its own, it's important to incorporate zinc-rich foods into your diet, and perhaps even consider a supplement if you're deficient. Nearly 2 billion people worldwide have a zinc deficiency. 

What does zinc do?

"Zinc oxide defends the skin against damage from UV rays," says Alexis Stephens, DO, consulting dermatologist for Urban Skin Rx. That's why it is best known for its role in sunscreens and lip balms. Zinc creates a physical barrier, blocking the sun and deflecting its rays, which prevents them from penetrating the skin's surface. 

Because of its anti-inflammatory effect, zinc—when used topically or orally—is recommended for those with acne and changes associated with aging skin. (Inflammation is a root cause of both.) Derms sing zinc's praises for its ability to reduce blemishes and nix redness. And zinc helps calm the inflammation under the surface of the skin that causes collagen degradation, which leads to fine lines and wrinkles. 

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How do you get zinc?

  • A zinc-rich diet. Dr. Pingel recommends focusing on plant-based sources like asparagus, chickpeas, and nuts and seeds.
  • SPF. And you no longer have to deal with a chalky white cast from sunscreen. "New technology allows for zinc to be so finely milled that it becomes blendable, even on deeper skin tones," says Dr. Stephens.
  • Acne treatments. Dr. Pingel cites a 2014 review of studies that found that topical zinc products are effective in treating mild to moderate acne, while oral zinc sulphate and gluconate (consult your doctor) are useful in treating moderate to severe acne.
  • Anti-aging serums and creams. Zinc is essential for building collagen, the protein that helps keep your skin plump and looking young. 

This article originally appeared in the October 2021 issue of Health Magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

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