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169: Why Is Zinc So Important For Your Skin?

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This episode is bought to you by Quell — to help support rebuilding healthy skin from the outside-in + inside-out!

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Though zinc is most commonly discussed in terms of its immune-boosting function, there’s also a lot of interest in it for skin health.

Though I’ve touched on zinc before on the Healthy Skin Show, I want to spend some time diving deeper into its benefits as well as problems with over-supplementation.

I plan on exploring zinc over the course of several episodes, so stayed tuned as we dive deeper in the coming weeks.

For now, I’d like to share with you why you absolutely need zinc if you’ve got rashes, hair loss and other health issues going on!

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In this episode:

  • Why zinc is so important for your body
  • Does your body make zinc?
  • Where zinc is stored in your body
  • Skin rash conditions and symptoms helped by zinc
  • Best food sources for zinc
  • Why you shouldn’t take zinc with calcium
  • Drugs that deplete zinc (hint: one is topical steroids)
  • How much is too much zinc (and why too much is a bad thing!)

Quotes:

Zinc is an important antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-itch nutrient needed for over 300 enzymes in your body.

Steroids (including those which are used topically) + other common medications can cause zinc deficiency.

Foods full of zinc

Why Is Zinc So Important For Your Skin? (FULL TRANSCRIPT)

Welcome back to episode #169 of the Healthy Skin Show!

In today’s episode, I want to talk about the benefits of zinc for your skin. In fact, I consider zinc to be an essential skin rebuilding nutrient.

We previously touched on the importance of zinc in episode #68. Since that episode aired, it’s become clear to me that listeners could use more info on this particular mineral.

People either don’t take any zinc, don’t eat enough zinc-rich foods, OR they take too much assuming that more is better.

It’s important to remember that having skin issues increases your nutrient needs (especially considering how extensive and serious your rashes are).

This is due to having damaged tissue that, in my clinical experience, often increases nutrient need.

If you’ve been interested in adding some zinc to your routine, here’s what you need to know before you purchase a supplement!

Woman wondering why zinc is important for skin

Why Is Zinc Important For Your Skin?

Zinc is a very important micronutrient + antioxidant that serves many critical roles in your body. Some of these functions include being required for over 300 enzymes in addition to gene transcription (via what’s known as zinc fingers). And it helps keep inflammation in check by blocking inflammatory cytokines and supporting mast cells from dumping histamine.(1,2)

While it’s recent popularity has come from how zinc supports healthy immune function, it’s also involved in reproduction, wound healing, and steroid + thyroid hormonal regulation. (1)

Your body DOES NOT make zinc. (3)

I think this is an important point to make since there tends to be this confusion many people have that our bodies make most of the nutrients we need. That’s often not the case.

You must have a constant influx of zinc in order to meet not just your daily nutritional needs, but potentially more if certain exacerbating situations arise. (I’ll talk more about that in a moment!)

What’s super interesting is that your skin has one of the highest concentrations of zinc! Other significant concentrations can be found in the bones, prostate, seminal fluid, and uvea in your eye.(1)

There are many skin conditions where zinc has at least some research demonstrating that it could be helpful such as eczema, psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, seborrheic dermatitis, wounds, rosacea, and acne.(1)

AND zinc has anti-itching properties and may help reduce transepidermal water loss (TEWL).(1,2)

Different nuts, all a source of zinc

Zinc Food Sources

Ideally, we should get nutrients from our diet, but zinc can be tricky since the single best source is not something many people love — oysters!(4)

Next in line would be beef, crab, lobster, pork, beans, chicken, pumpkin seeds, and cashews.(4)

Certain substances in plant foods can block zinc absorption including phytates, calcium, and phosphate.(3) There are methods to reduce phytates naturally occurring in food like soaking or fermenting legumes or grains. (5)

And avoid taking calcium supplements along with zinc supplements to maximize how much zinc you can absorb.(6)

One’s need for zinc can increase for a number of reasons — burns, wounds, pregnancy, lactation, chronic diarrhea, high alcohol intake or diuretic use.(3)

Certain drugs can also increase zinc depletion including corticosteroids (including those which are used topically, inhaled or used in a systemic fashion), NSAIDs, birth control pills, ACE inhibitors, Thiazide Diuretics, and H2 Histamine Blocking meds for heartburn and ulcers.(7)

Thus, it shouldn’t surprise you that zinc deficiency is pretty common. In fact, ⅓ of the world is actually zinc-deficient!(3)

One paper found that “erythrocyte zinc levels were significantly lower in Atopic dermatitis (eczema) patients than in the control group” compared to serum zinc which didn’t yield any significant findings.(8) And that would be in line with my experience as a clinical nutritionist.

That’s why I’m a strong advocate for those with chronic skin and health issues to get your zinc level checked. Most clients in my private clinical practice end up being deficient!

Simply checking your serum zinc (often just labeled as “zinc”) on your lab is not a sufficient marker to evaluate whether you’re deficient in zinc.

CLICK HERE FOR THE SPECIFIC ZINC TEST I RECOMMEND IN MY PRACTICE!

Woman wondering if you can take too much zinc

Can You Take Too Much Zinc?

One of the most common supplements that people with skin issues (especially eczema) take is zinc.

Add to that the fear of getting sick from the global pandemic, and zinc supplements are hot commodities.

Yes, zinc is natural.

And yes, zinc is obviously very important to your skin + health.

But too much zinc can cause trouble in your body if you take dosages that are much too high.

This is because zinc must be in a proper ratio with another important mineral — copper.

The upper limit on zinc intake is set at 40mg/day which includes the total of both supplementation and dietary sources.(9) And for every 15mg of zinc you get, about 1mg of copper should be consumed (either in food or supplemental form).

Excess supplementation of zinc is considered to be daily doses of 50mg or more for “up to 10 weeks”.(9)

This presents two problems. First, it can mess up the Zinc-Copper ratio resulting in health problems. Second, high zinc consumption causes your body to essentially block appropriate absorption of copper in your gut ultimately skewing the ratio even further.(9)

Needless to say, more is not always better!

Supplementing at high doses without testing and guidance can have some serious risks.

Woman applying skin lotion with zinc

Can Zinc Be Absorbed Through Skin?

If you’ve wondered if zinc can be absorbed through your skin, the answer to that is YES.

As you know, your skin is an absorptive barrier similar to your gut.

Many nutrients can be absorbed through the skin including zinc and Vitamin D (which I’ve covered before HERE).

It’s one of the reasons that it is included in the Z+ Rebuilder cream to help you rebuild healthier skin.

With skin rashes, the skin barrier is often “leaky” and compromised.

One recent study found that a compromised skin barrier increased the amount of zinc that ended up in the epidermis “60–65-fold.(10)

I’ll dive more into zinc and your skin in an upcoming episode, so stay tuned!

For now, know that zinc may be a crucial piece of your puzzle. It’s not likely to be THE ONE PROBLEM, but addressing low zinc can make a significant difference in your symptoms.

Leave your questions and comments below so we can keep the conversation going!

And share this episode with our community members — especially those who are interested in looking deeper at their skin. Nutrient depletions are more common than you’d think in those with chronic skin rashes, so this episode could be a wake-up call for someone who never realized the importance of zinc and their skin issues.

Thank you so much for turning in and I look forward to seeing you in the next episode!

References Books

REFERENCES

  1. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/drp/2014/709152/
  2. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/acm.2018.0363
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493231/
  4. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Zinc-HealthProfessional/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4325021/
  6. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/calcium-supplements/faq-20058238
  7. http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productid=107&pid=33&gid=000728
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5110625/
  9. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/zinc
  10. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsabm.0c00280

Zinc is an important antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-itch nutrient needed for over 300 enzymes in your body.


Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS is an integrative Clinical Nutritionist and the founder of Skinterrupt. She works with women who are fed up with chronic gut and skin rash issues discover the root causes and create a plan to get them back to a fuller, richer life.


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