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  • Writer's pictureMeg Hagar, MS, RD, CDN, CHHP

Does Zinc Help Acne?

Updated: Nov 20, 2022

Feeling lost in your cystic acne journey and curious how elemental zinc supplements can help? In this post, we will explore what zinc is and how use of zinc supplementation helps acne.

Zinc is an essential mineral present in foods (meat, fish, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts and whole grains) and also available in supplement form. This important mineral is not only required for healthy skin, but also helps the immune system and metabolic functions. Your daily needs of zinc vary depending on age, and gender. Below are recommendations from the Office of Dietary Supplements


  • Birth to 6 months: 2 mg.

  • 7-12 months: 3 mg.

  • 1-3 years: 3 mg.

  • 4-8 years: 5 mg.

  • 9-13 years: 8 mg.

  • 14 -18 years: 9 mg.

  • 19 + years: 8 mg (lactating 13 mg, pregnancy 12 mg).


  • Birth to 6 months: 2 mg

  • 7-12 months: 3 mg.

  • 1-3 years: 3 mg.

  • 4-8 years: 5 mg.

  • 9-13 years: 8 mg.

  • 14-18 years: 11 mg.

  • 18 + years: 11 mg

The general recommendations listed above are important to help prevent excess zinc intake of zinc, as it can be toxic in levels above the RDA, particularly in supplement form.

If one consumes too much zinc, gastrointestinal issues may arise, such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, stomach upset, headaches, and nausea. Zinc should also not be taken long term, which we will discuss later.

Why Zinc Helps Acne

Zinc has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that may help treat acne. A 2014 review, Zinc therapy in dermatology: a review - PubMed finds that zinc can curb sebum production. Sebum is a gland that produces oil to moisturize the skin. For those with acne, there can be an overproduction of this gland, leading to breakouts. These two mechanisms make zinc a popular option.

How To Incorporate Zinc Into Acne Treatment

One way to incorporate zinc into your acne regimen would be to use a topical formulation that is 5% zinc sulfate. Or, you could consider oral supplementation of zinc in the form of zinc sulfate or zinc gluconate. Before using a topical cream, or taking a dietary supplement, discuss treatment options with your doctor or dietitian.

Meg Hagar, a dietitian who specializes in acne and medical nutrition therapy, owner of The Acne Nutritionist, states, “Between 15-30 mg daily is usually what I recommend depending on how long they're going to be taking it and how severe the inflammation is. Zinc helps reduce inflammation, so it can be really helpful for someone who is getting red, painful breakouts. It's not really meant to be used for the long term though because it competes with copper for absorption, so I tend to use it mostly with my clients for temporary situations like times of higher stress, travel, etc..”

Is Zinc Right For You?

So now that we have learned what zinc is, and how it might benefit you when dealing with acne, you may be wondering if zinc is right for you.

If you want to know how to incorporate zinc, or what other diet and lifestyle changes might help with acne (cystic acne vulgaris, comedones, blemishes, extreme blackheads - Meg does it all!), schedule a one time session (The Acne Healing Intensive) or a gut acne bundle (which includes zinc in the supplement protocol) by The Acne Nutritionist.

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