Do Zinc Supplements Help Acne?

Alexandralaw1977/iStock/Getty Images

Simply not getting an adequate amount of zinc in your diet is enough to cause acne breakouts. Furthermore, the NYU Langone Medical Center suggests that the average diet in developed countries does not contain enough zinc. This is partly due to beans and grains having compounds that inhibit zinc absorption. Topical or oral zinc supplementation may help you control acne breakouts and inflammation. However, it's important to consult a physician before taking zinc supplements due to the risk of zinc toxicity.

Effectiveness Rating for Zinc

Acne is a skin condition that doesn't have a cure, but treatment can help reduce symptoms. Zinc has shown some promise in controlling acne when taken orally or applied topically. Based on clinical evidence that the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology published in 2013, zinc scored a B grade on the Strength of Recommendation Taxonomy criteria. This suggests that the effectiveness of zinc in treating acne has been inconsistent. Sebum production, or oil, along with bacteria is what leads to acne breakouts. The article also notes that the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of zinc may help reduce oil production naturally.

Antioxidant Enhanced Zinc

Zinc may have more success in treating acne when paired when an antioxidant. A study published in a 2010 issue of Dermatology and Therapy explored the effectiveness of methionine-bound zinc with antioxidants in treating mild to moderate acne. Methionine is an essential amino acid and an easily absorbed binding agent. The study had 48 participants who were given a methionine-bound zinc supplement called APC three times a day for three months. The results showed that the supplement was effective in treating acne, with 38 out of 48 of the participants showing an 80 to 100 percent relief of symptoms.

Usefulness Against Antibiotic-Resistant Acne

Some antibiotics don't work in treating acne due to growing incidences of resistance. Certain bacteria responsible for causing acne gradually develop an antibiotic-resistance over the years, leaving dermatologists exploring other options. A 2005 issue of European Journal of Dermatology published a study where 30 milligrams of zinc gluconate was prescribed to 30 participants with acne over a two-month period. The results showed a reduction in inflammatory acne lesions whether acne-inducing bacteria were present or not. Also, live cultures of an acne-inducing bacteria showed that zinc reduced its resistance to erythromycin -- an antibiotic used to treat acne.

Zinc in Your Diet

Most studies with zinc supplements for acne treatment used very high doses that can cause toxic side effects, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Therefore, getting enough zinc in your diet can help you prevent zinc deficiency-induced acne. The recommended dietary allowance for adults is between 8 and 11 milligrams. A 3-ounce serving of cooked oysters provides 74 milligrams of zinc, which is 493 percent of your recommended daily value. Other foods such as braised chuck steak or cooked Alaskan king crab provide almost 50 percent of your recommended daily value. Other dietary sources of zinc include Swiss cheese, red meat, shrimp, legumes such as lima beans, and sunflower seeds. Zinc in food is best absorbed when eaten with a protein-rich meal.