You’ve probably heard a ton of stories how zinc has helped various people cure their acne, who literally swear by it and recommend it to everyone they meet.

Can zinc really clear every type of zit though? Does it work the same for all people? Does it dependent on the severity of the case? What form of zinc should you look for? Do you need topical or supplemented zinc?

If you’re looking for the answers to some (or all) of those questions, keep reading. Today, we will examine zinc thoroughly and determine its effectiveness when dealing with acne.

What Does Zinc Mean for Us?

Zinc is one of the essential nutrients that protects the immune system by fighting off harmful cells. It is also one of the most studied elements to date in many areas including skincare and particularly, acne.

Zinc is mainly acquired by the body through food. The foods that contain the highest amounts of zinc are beans, dairy products, fortified cereals, nuts, oysters, poultry, red meat and whole grains.

Depending on your sex and age, the average daily dose of recommended zinc is 8-13 mg per day, which acts as prevention making you more resilient to illness, while the high dose is 25-50 mg, which is used to treat various health conditions, including acne.

However, it is not as simple as eating enough oysters or beans every day to achieve and maintain the desired levels of zinc. People are very different and the amount of zinc that gets absorbed from food and enters the bloodstream varies a ton from case to case.

Also, zinc is removed from the body primarily by sweating, so if you’re going in for sports or hitting the gym three times a week, diet alone may not be enough for your case. This is where zinc supplements become effective.

Types of Zinc

When we talk about the daily dosage, we always refer to elemental zinc, which is the weight of the zinc molecule itself. Whenever you’re shopping for zinc as a dietary supplement, you should be looking at the amount of elemental zinc contained in every capsule.

To make the absorption of zinc easier for the body, supplement manufacturers usually chelate it (tie the atoms of zinc to another compound) to organic and amino acids. Depending on the manufacturer and the manufacturing method, different types of zinc will contain different amounts of elemental zinc and, depending on your case, you’ll need to consume different doses of capsules to achieve the desired daily dosage.

Here are the most common types of zinc supplements – zinc acetate, zinc sulfate, zinc picolinate, zinc glycerate, zinc monomethionine and zinc gluconate.

While there is no concrete evidence on which type of zinc is absorbed best, it is believed that zinc sulfate, though the most affordable, absorbs very poorly and can cause side effects when taken in high doses, while zinc picolinate absorbs the easiest.

The absorption also depends on other ingredients present in the formula of the given manufacturer, so, when shopping for zinc supplements, your best bet is to try the one recommended by the most number of people.

Zinc and Acne – What Science Says

Scientific research suggests that people with acne-prone skin have, on average, 24% less zinc in their bloodstream. The severity of breakouts matters as well – the levels of zinc go lower as the severity of the breakouts goes up.

A study performed by Dr. Breno showed that, in a sample of 332 people, over three months of consuming zinc gluconate, the total pimple count dropped by 50%. The same study showed that antibiotics (in the form of minocycline) helped reduce the amount of acne by 66%. While the difference is quite large, there are a few things to note here:

  • Antibiotics can potentially carry a lot of side effects and may cause harm to your health when taken in high doses for extended periods of time, and require the oversight of a professional physician while zinc supplements are safer and easier to use.
  • Some acne-causing bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics after some time making them less effective, while it doesn’t happen in case of zinc.
  • Zinc supplements are more affordable than most antibiotics.
  • Your body may be allergic to antibiotics.

How Exactly Does Zinc Combat Acne?

With a good 40-50 years’ worth of studies and experience available, we know that zinc has been proven to reduce almost all of the known causes of acne. Here are the details:

Zinc eliminates acne causing bacteria

Multiple studies have shown that zinc is effective when dealing with acne-causing bacteria. While it’s not as powerful as antibiotics, it is still highly potent and doesn’t cause side effects.

Zinc reduces keratinocytes’ activity

Keratinocytes are skin cells that produce the protein keratin, which is responsible for the skin’s elasticity, durability and strength. However, too much keratin prevents cells from separating and causes pores to block, which creates favorable environment for bacteria to breed. Zinc helps regulate keratinocytes’ activity and keep pores open and breathing.

Zinc has powerful antioxidant properties

Antioxidants have been proven to reduce acne breakouts, and zinc plays a big part in this process.

Zinc has high anti-inflammatory properties

When bacteria gets trapped inside a closed pore, they cause severe irritation in the area, which is how breakouts emerge. While inflammation is a natural response by the body, acne-prone skin reacts to bacteria a lot stronger than healthy skin. Also, zinc has the ability to shrink the amount of inflammation and reduce redness, irritation and itchiness, ultimately calming the skin.

Zinc is a DHT blocker

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a hormone responsible for hair growth and sebum oil production. While zinc isn’t one of the most effective DHT blockers available, it still helps a considerable bit.

Which Supplements Should I Use?

There are a ton of zinc supplements available on the market, with some offering higher bioavailability zinc than others.

Bioavailability essentially shows the concentration of elemental zinc in each capsule and how well the zinc is absorbed into the bloodstream. Based on this metric, the products with higher bioavailability (such as zinc picolinate and zinc monomethionine) are considered the best ones, while zinc citrate and zinc sulfate have the lowest bioavailability.

Here are three great products you could try:

#1 Zinc Picolinate 30 mg by Thorne Research

The product’s formula is completely natural meaning that all the ingredients are taken from natural sources and don’t contain chemicals.

Fairly good price for 180 capsules. Also, the product has very reassuring customer reviews.

Key features

  • Promotes reproductive health
  • Essential for growth and immune function

#2 SOURCE NATURALS Optizinc 30

Optizinc is another name for zinc monomethionine.

The product has great bioavailability and is made of high quality ingredients. Great price for 240 capsules and 4.5 star user rating on Amazon with close to 300 reviews to support it.

Key features

  • Antioxidants
  • Suitable for vegetarians

#3 Nature Made Zinc Tabs – 30 mg

The all natural formula of the well-known manufacturer for various supplements offers high quality zinc gluconate with moderate absorption properties.

This is probably the most widespread version of zinc dietary supplements and the vendor offers a fairly good price for 100 capsules. Also, the product enjoys a 4.5 user rating on Amazon with over 200 reviewers sharing their experience.

Key features

  • Nature Made
  • Gluten Free

Recommended Dosage

Depending on the severity of your case, you’ll need to consume 30-50mg elemental zinc per day. However, be careful as too much zinc (especially when you take chemically-derived versions of supplements) can cause side-effects like abdominal pain, diarrhea, headaches, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and stomach upset.

How Good is Topical Zinc?

According to various studies, topical creams containing zinc can be effective for treating acne, however, the effect is very minimal. Some manufacturers add zinc to antibacterial creams in an attempt to increase the effectiveness of clearing acne, but in reality, most of it is just marketing with no real benefits.


Overall, there is a lot of evidence (clinical, scientific as well as user experience-induced) that zinc can be beneficial for treating acne. While no study suggests that it will work 100% and will clear your acne for good, there is a fairly good chance that it will reduce acne by around 50% and boost your immune system, which in turn will help prevent future breakouts. Zinc is also an essential nutrient that the body needs for a number of various operations, which makes it even more appealing.

If you’re a long time acne sufferer and haven’t tried zinc supplements, there is no reason why you shouldn’t. At the very least, it will improve your immune system and deliver a bit of relief in terms of breakouts or, it may very well prove to be the most effective treatment method for your specific case.

Have you tried zinc for acne treatment before? What results did you experience? Did it work for your case? Which supplements did you use? Share your thoughts with all of us in the comments!