Yes, there’s zinc in your favorite mineral sunscreen, but there’s a lot more to this dermatology favorite.
When referring to zinc in relation to our skin care products, we are usually referring to sunscreen. One of the main ingredients in mineral sunscreens, which is used to block UV rays from the skin, is zinc oxide. However, zinc is much more than just an ingredient in your favorite mineral sunscreen.
In recent months, the TikTok beauty community has taken to extolling zinc’s acne-fighting benefits, with one viral video even touting Head & Shoulders shampoo as the gold-standard solution for its zinc-heavy formula designed to tackle dandruff.
So, to learn more about zinc and its many skin and health benefits, we brought in three experts to break it all down, including how to start incorporating the ingredient into our skincare routines.
What is Zinc?
Before discussing the role of zinc in skin care, let’s narrow it down.
“Zinc is one of the most commonly found trace elements in the human body,” explains cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson of skincare brand BeautyStat. He goes on to explain that since zinc is so important for maintaining our bodies, a beta-beta deficiency can lead to hair loss, acne, slow wound healing and vision problems.
Zinc is normally absorbed into the body through our diet, explains Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. (He specifically mentions poultry, shellfish, and meat, but says supplements also play a role).
“In the skin, [zinc] is an important cofactor for the proper functioning of the cells themselves,” continues Dr. Zeichner. Beyond diet, Robinson confirms that zinc can also provide benefits when applied topically.
What are the benefits of using zinc in skin care products?
The benefits of zinc for the skin are manifold. First, says Joseph Cabasso, president of Mario Badescu Skin Care, zinc is an ingredient that works for all skin types.
Plus, he says zinc has anti-inflammatory properties and is thought to help wounds heal. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, Cabbasso adds, it’s a great ingredient for sensitive skin. For this reason, and the fact that it’s an antiseptic, zinc is also touted as a champion ingredient in acne-fighting products like Jori’s Acne and Oil Control Primer and BeautyStat’s Universal Microbiome Purifying Glow Mask, adds Dr. Zeichner. .
Of course, we also have to say something about the UV protection properties of zinc. “In sunscreens, zinc oxide is one of the main filters used, and it’s great for sensitive skin because it doesn’t get absorbed into the skin, so it’s great for people with acne, rosacea, and Very good for people with eczema. Less irritating”. He recommends Mario Badesco’s Mineral Sunscreen SPF30.
Finally, he and Robinson both suggest that zinc stimulates collagen production. In fact, studies have found that zinc supplementation can slow collagen degradation and increase collagen stability.
Are there any side effects of using zinc on the skin?
Since zinc is a topical ingredient and generally safe for all skin types, there are few side effects to be wary of. Of course, if you are allergic to it, that is the exception. “The only side effect I’ve heard of is skin irritation in people who are sensitive to zinc,” confirms Cabasso. Additionally, Robinson urges anyone who is pregnant or breastfeeding to consult their doctor to be safe. (Getting too much zinc through diet or supplements is another matter. It can lead to nausea, vomiting and headaches, says Robinson.)
What’s the best way to use zinc in your skin care routine?
There are several ways to incorporate zinc into your daily routine, most notably through a balanced diet. When it comes to skincare, though, Cabbasso recommends doing a quick patch test under the jawline or behind the ears before applying zinc to the face, just in case.
As for topical products, Robinson says cleansers, masks, creams, lotions, and serums are all good zinc delivery systems, depending on the benefits you’re looking for.