A lack of zinc can impact your skin, body, and health. Let’s discover why!

Did you know that zinc deficiency affects up to 2 billion people? Commonly related to a poor diet, this worldwide problem happens when your body doesn’t have enough zinc and it can bring some serious consequences to the body.  Want to know more? Then, buckle up and keep scrolling to learn more about the symptoms and causes of zinc deficiency, how to treat it and which related skin problems you might have!

close-up of woman with hand on her back

Zinc and Skin: A Successful Partnership

Skin is the third most Zn-abundant tissue in your body. Skin cells are particularly dependent on zinc’s powerful properties. The epidermis contains more Zn compared with the dermis. The top layer of the skin concentrates up to six times more of the mineral than the lower layers.

So, it means that zinc can help you maintain the health of your largest organ: your skin. Here are the main zinc benefits for skin:

  • Anti-inflammatory: Zinc can help you heal wounds, lessen inflammation, and improve inflammatory conditions. It regulates immunity and may stimulate the production of new cells.
  • Anti-microbial: It can soothe and treat skin quickly. Plus, it also regulates cell production and turnover, helps to reduce the amount of natural oil your skin produces, and it may prevent pores from clogging in acne.
  • Anti-oxidant: It lessens the formation of damaging free radicals and protects the skin’s lipids (fats) and fibroblasts.
  • Sunscreen: Zinc oxide in sunscreen acts as a physical shield, stopping UV light from penetrating your skin altogether.

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So, What Happens If You Don’t Get Enough Zinc?

Mutations or dysregulation in Zn transporters such as acrodermatitis enteropathica, the dysplastic form of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, transient neonatal Zinc deficiency, and epidermodysplasia verruciformis can cause several human disorders accompanied by skin manifestations. Additionally, acquired Zinc deficiency is deeply involved in the development of some diseases related to nutritional deficiencies (acquired acrodermatitis enteropathica, necrolytic migratory erythema, pellagra, and biotin deficiency), alopecia, and delayed wound healing.

Zinc deficiency results in skin changes that can look like atopic dermatitis. The skin takes on a cracked, glazed and fissured appearance around the mouth, the nappy area, and the hands. The person may experience hair loss, nail changes and an increased chance of diarrhea as well as skin infections.

Zinc deficiency is also reported in some skin disorders including inflammatory diseases (atopic dermatitis, oral lichen planus, and Behcet’s disease, autoimmune bullous diseases, inherited epidermolysis bullosa, and hyperpigmentation).

white zinc oxide with black background

Zinc oxide powder

Signs of Zinc Deficiency

Zinc deficiency can be diagnosed with a blood test measuring zinc levels or by testing for:

  • Alkaline phosphatase (ALP): Alkaline phosphatase is a zinc-dependent enzyme and levels are low in severe cases of zinc deficiency;
  • Albumin: Zinc binds to albumin and albumin levels should, therefore, be checked to avoid misinterpretation of serum zinc results;
  • Trial treatment can be proof enough of the existence of a zinc deficiency. When treating a zinc deficiency, rapid improvement within 72 hours in the appearance of the skin should be expected.

Reasons Why You Might Have a Zinc Deficiency

  • Inadequate dietary intake of zinc, for example in premature, very sick infants or breastfed infants whose mothers may suffer from zinc deficiency;
  • Gut diseases in which zinc absorption is affected;
  • Use of medicines such as thiazide and loop diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, and angiotensin receptor blockers increase the loss of zinc through the urine.

Treatment of Zinc Deficiency

Supplements

You can treat zinc deficiency through supplements that you can acquire in pharmacies and health stores. You can find it in supplements that only have zinc, in multivitamin supplements and in some cold medicines.

It is also important to note that zinc deficiency does not improve when treated with topical steroids and moisturizers but rapidly improves with zinc creams.

Foods High in Zinc for Healthy Skin

Zinc is an essential mineral for good health since it helps the body inside and out! But since your body doesn’t store zinc, you should ensure that you eat enough foods that are high in zinc! And there is nothing than can contribute better to your daily zinc needs than oysters, crab, and lobster that are top sources of zinc. But don’t worry if you don’t like shellfish, we get can also get zinc from high-protein foods like meat, fish, beans, lentils, chickpeas, among others.

Men should eat at least 11 mg per day, while women only need 8 mg.

All in all, it is very important to eat enough of this mineral to maintain your body healthy.

table with white plate filled with mussels and shrimps

Written by:

Alexandra Matias, MD PhD

Senior Consultant of Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Especialised in Fetal Medicine, Invasive Techniques and Anti-ageing

Associated Professor, Porto Medical Faculty, Porto, Portugal

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