Reduces wrinkles and inflammation and supports your skin barrier.

Written by
Julia Hammond
Medically reviewed by
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min read
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Vitamins A, B, C and all the way down to Z — we all know that a healthy body and mind requires a daily dose of the good stuff.

From getting out in the sunshine for some vitamin D to taking a multivitamin each morning, we have different ways we like to get those essential nutrients too.

Zinc may be a lesser-known essential nutrient, but that doesn't mean it's one to forget. Zinc can help you fight a common cold, grow long and luscious hair, and it's a skin wonder. Here's everything to know about zinc and your skin; including how much is enough and whether zinc supplementation is necessary.

What is zinc?

There are a whole host of vitamins and minerals that work magic on our bodies. We need to consume them each day to maintain our health and well-being.

Zinc is one such essential nutrient that helps us live at our best. It’s the second most concentrated mineral in our body, losing out to iron in the race for the top [1].

There are many different types of zinc — from zinc sulfate to zinc picolinate, zinc citrate, zinc acetate, zinc glycerate and zinc monomethionin — which are used in topical and ingestible products.

Even though zinc is found throughout the body, we have to make sure we get enough each day. Our bodies cannot make zinc on their own and they also don’t store it in high amounts [3][7]. This means that eating a varied diet and taking zinc supplements are key to keeping up adequate zinc levels.

What is zinc good for?

Before we get into how much zinc you need and how to get it, let’s explain what it does for your body. We mentioned zinc is an essential mineral, and we really meant it.

Zinc plays a role in all kinds of body functions, some that you may not expect:

  • It supports your immune system
  • It helps with wound healing
  • It supports your sense of taste and smell
  • It can make cold symptoms go away faster, especially if you take a zinc supplement within the first 24 hours
  • It supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood and teen years [1][7].

Zinc really is an #MVP for all-around health. And we haven’t even got to the best part; zinc has some superpowers when it comes to your skin.

Is zinc good for the skin?

Believe it or not, your skin contains around 6% of your total body zinc! Only your bones have more than that [4]. So, it should come as no surprise that zinc is a skin wonder.

Here are some powerful reasons that zinc is good for the skin:

  • Zinc helps reduce inflammation, which is a big reason it’s used in treatments for acne, rosacea, eczema, psoriasis and more
  • Zinc helps your skin function, building a barrier that stops viruses from getting in, which in turn, supports your immune system
  • Zinc has been known to help reduce wrinkles and can be found in many anti-ageing products
  • Zinc helps suppress sebum, which are the pesky oils that can clog your pores and cause acne
  • Zinc is also great for hair health, helping it grow long and luscious [3][4].

You also may not realise that you already use some zinc-enhanced products for your hair and skin. Zinc oxide is a type of topical zinc, which means you apply it to your skin rather than ingest it like you would with an oral supplement.

Zinc oxide can be found in many common health and beauty products from anti-dandruff shampoo to moisturising creams [4].

Using zinc to fight acne

Zinc plays a role in fighting inflammation and reducing redness in the supplement. It works around the clock with other tough ingredients like vitamin C and chromium to help you find your best skin yet.

Common symptoms of zinc deficiency

Okay, so you’re well and truly on the zinc train. You know how good it is for you and that it can help with common skin issues like acne and rashes. But, what happens if your zinc levels are too low? That’s called zinc deficiency.

Here are some symptoms to look out for:

  • Losing your hair
  • Wounds that are slow to heal
  • Skin sores and rashes
  • A weak sense of taste and smell [1][2].

Quite a few of these symptoms are subtle and they can relate to other conditions. Maybe they have nothing to do with low zinc levels at all. The best person to speak to is your doctor for a trusted diagnosis.

Acquired vs. inherited zinc deficiency

For most people, a lack of zinc is an acquired deficiency. This just means that it comes from a lack of intake for some reason, as opposed to being inherited.

Inherited zinc deficiency, on the other hand, would be genetic. You would have learned about it as a baby and spent your whole life knowing you had higher zinc needs than other people [3].

An acquired deficiency is usually a mild zinc deficiency and is often simple to treat. If it was caused by a diet low in zinc, you can change up your food sources or take a supplement. If it was caused by an absorption issue, you may need to work with a health professional on supporting your gut.

Chronic illnesses that affect the gut and recent gastrointestinal surgery are some issues that can lower zinc absorption [2]. These would be best handled with your doctor.

What are the symptoms of zinc deficiency in the skin?

Since zinc and your skin share an epic love story, it’s likely your skin will show the signs if you become zinc deficient. Skin rashes are a common symptom of zinc deficiency. They may look a bit like eczema at first and are often found around the hands or mouth [8].

A key sign they come from a zinc deficiency is that they aren’t improving with moisturisers or lotions. They also won’t respond to steroid creams that may have been recommended by a doctor.

What foods are highest in zinc?

We would hate to leave you high and dry wondering how and where to get a good dose of zinc. Your diet is the main way that you’ll keep your zinc levels high and healthy. We also have some good news — the foods that are high in zinc are ones you probably enjoy already.

These include:

  • Oysters, which are the best food source of zinc
  • Animal foods like beef, lamb, chicken, crab or lobster
  • Fortified breakfast cereals and whole grains
  • Beans, nuts and legumes
  • Dairy products, which have a small amount of zinc
  • Yeast (pass the Vegemite!) [1][2].

In general, eating a balanced diet with a range of grains, meats and dairy should cover your daily zinc requirements.

Risk factors for dietary zinc intake

For some people, dietary zinc intake can be a struggle. Vegetarians and vegans, in particular, can find it tricky to meet their daily zinc intake through food. This is not only because they cut out animal foods and meat, but also because eating lots of beans and grains can lower zinc absorption [2].

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you may ask your doctor or health practitioner whether zinc supplements would be beneficial.

How else can you incorporate zinc?

When your diet just isn’t cutting it, your next best option is to take a zinc supplement. There are lots of options available — from multivitamins to zinc-only options and specialty ones like Software’s Acne Supplement.

For people with acne and skin concerns, the Software Acne Supplement is a great choice. It was designed by dermatologists to support skin health and fight acne from the inside, out.

Along with zinc, it has other skin-boosting ingredients like vitamin C, copper and silica. The capsules are also vegan, gluten-free and cruelty-free to make effective skin supplements accessible for every lifestyle.

What happens if you take too much zinc?

It’s a rare occurrence, but not impossible to take too much zinc. This would be known as a zinc overdose or at high levels; zinc toxicity. First off, how much zinc is normal?

  • Men aged 14 and over need 11mg of zinc per day
  • Young women aged 14-18 need 9mg of zinc per day
  • Adult women over 19 need 8mg of zinc per day [1].

While these numbers look small, they are just the recommended doses. The safe upper limits are around 35 mg of zinc for teens (14-18) and 40 mg of zinc for adults (19+) [2]. That’s both men and women this time.

Keep in mind those are the daily limits as well. Your body needs to replenish its zinc levels constantly, so you should keep enjoying zinc-rich foods or having your zinc supplements.

Symptoms of excess zinc intake

So, what would excess zinc intake feel like? The usual symptoms are diarrhoea, stomach cramps and nausea or vomiting. They appear within 3-10 hours of taking a supplement and will go away over time. We’re sorry to tell you, it’s only time that heals this one [1].

Zinc toxicity would be the extreme level of too much zinc. It doesn’t occur until you’ve had around 1-2 grams of zinc which for dietary intake and even high-dose zinc supplements, is going to be rare [5].

We want to assure you that a zinc overdose or zinc toxicity is unlikely. We’re mentioning them to help you be fully informed when it comes to zinc.

If you’re ever taking a supplement that you think might be having bad side effects, talk to your healthcare provider to get to the bottom of it. Supplements should make you glow — not feel worse.

Are there any risk factors to taking a zinc supplement?

Generally, no. Taking a zinc supplement is safe and easy to do. There are a couple of side effects to consider though. Excessive zinc intake may lead to issues like a copper deficiency or an iron deficiency [1]. These are good ones to monitor if you're on high-dose zinc supplements.

There's also a chance that taking a zinc supplement may interfere with certain medications. A common one to watch out for is tetracycline antibiotics [2].

Your doctor will let you know what to do if you're on these, but the general advice is to space out your doses. Take your antibiotics at least 2 hours before or 4-6 hours after you have your zinc supplements.

Your journey to your best skin yet

As with all health advice, the ideal person to speak to is your doctor or preferred health professional about your options. For more great skin health articles, head to the Skin Journal where we share our knowledge of all things skin.

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