Acne is the commonest skin condition in the world and lasts longer in women than men. However, men have more severe acne breakouts than women. Severe acne affects people from teenage till around 30 or more. It does not pose a serious health threat but can be painful, produce permanent scars and distort our facial appearance.
Acne causes inflammation of the skin and signs include blackheads, pimples and clogged pores. It affects mostly those with oily skin and appears usually on the trunk, nose, cheeks, forehead, back and chin. Sebum is released by the sebaceous glands (oil glands). It travels up the hair follicles to the skin’s surface. Its function is to lubricate skin and hair. When the oil glands secrete excessive oil, it combines with dead skin cells and blocks and inflames hair follicles. This inflammation occurs as eruptions. When pustules rupture, acne spreads over a wider area.
Common acne lesions
- Whiteheads – small, white, round bumps due to clogged follicles
- Blackheads – dark bumps that appear due to plugged follicles
- Papules – small, pink bumps that are inflamed lesions
- Pimples or pustules – lesions filled with pus with a base that is red and inflamed
- Nodules and cysts – large, pus-filled, inflamed lesions that are deep rooted, are painful and leave scars
Acne incidences can occur or worsen when there is a family history of infections; excessive use of hair products and oil-based cosmetics; hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy, menstruation and adolescence; excessive sweating and friction caused due to helmets, tight collars, headbands and backpacks; certain medications; and pinching or squeezing the eruptions.
Zinc for Acne
It has been suggested that zinc for acne can help with wound healing, reduce inflammatory conditions and improve the skin’s appearance. Zinc supplements and zinc creams or lotions applied on acne can reduce breakouts.
Doses of 40-300 mg of zinc sulfate taken 2-3 times a day, for 4-12 weeks, have been suggested for treatment of acne vulgaris. This supplement can be taken with or without meals. Some studies have suggested the use of 30-200 mg of zinc gluconate before a meal for 2-3 months.
Skin creams such as Nels’ cream also contains zinc for acne treatment as zinc oxide. Using this twice daily for 8 weeks has shown improvement. Other preparations include 2% zinc sulfate combined with ethanol and propylene glycol, 4% erythromycin with 1.2-1.3% zinc used over several weeks have provided relief from acne symptoms.
Zinc has many healing and anti-inflammatory properties. Zinc helps to heal wounds and regulate hormones in the body. All these functions are crucial in fighting against acne breakouts. Zinc picolinate is easily absorbed and has been suggested as a better alternative for zinc sulfate that could cause stomach problems. 30 mg of zinc picolinate taken twice daily for a month and then reduced to once daily has been recommended for treating acne
Zinc also controls levels of testosterone production that is prominent in causing acne lesions. Zinc helps with collagen synthesis that is needed for normal secretion of oils in the skin. Collagen synthesis therefore maintains healthy and clear skin free of acne.
Zinc rich foods
It has also been suggested that zinc-rich foods such as peanuts, red meat, whole grains, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, oysters and green beans can reduce incidences of acne breakouts by regulating oil secretion by the sebaceous glands.
Tetracycline is often recommended for treatment of acne and this reacts adversely with zinc. Excessive zinc supplements can cause nausea, vomiting, upset stomach, suppresses the immune system and cause anemia. Hence, consult a doctor before taking any zinc supplement especially if you are on medications like ACE inhibitors and anti-inflammatory drugs.
When acne eruptions appear on the face, it leads to a lot of heartache – especially in teenage girls! Keeping the skin clean, avoiding strong soaps, cosmetics, foods, and drinks that irritate the skin can reduce these incidences. Make sure you use oil-free skin products. Skin thus damaged can be effectively treated with zinc for acne as supplements, lotions and creams.