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Should you be using zinc as part of your skincare regimen?

While we know that vitamins and minerals are essential for both internal and external health, does zinc deserve a place in your beauty routine? RHEA CARTWRIGHT asks the experts

Beauty

Recommended by nutritionists and dermatologists alike, zinc is perhaps most commonly known as a soothing ingredient in diaper-rash creams. But with a plethora of other benefits associated with this powerhouse mineral, now is the perfect time to integrate it into your beauty arsenal.

What role does zinc play in skincare?

“Zinc is a trace mineral and an essential nutrient that your body can’t produce,” explains New York-based dermatologist Dr. Shereene Idriss. “Diet, supplements and topical skincare products are all ways to deliver zinc, which helps with immune function, wound healing and inflammation.” However, as it’s not stored in the body for long periods of time, regular consumption is crucial for overall health – and Georgie Cleeve, founder of nutritional skincare brand Oskia, has developed a way to help. “Zinc is a very large molecule, which is why it’s used as a mineral UV protector to act as a physical barrier to UV rays and cannot penetrate the skin unaided,” she says. “So, at Oskia, we’ve grafted zinc onto glycine – the smallest of the amino acids – to aid dermal penetration.”

How does zinc protect skin?

“When used topically, zinc is a strong anti-inflammatory and is commonly used to treat acne, rosacea and eczema, as well as accelerating wound healing,” says Dr. Idriss. Research suggests that acne may partially be associated with a low zinc supply in the body, too. “It’s thought to be related to zinc’s ability to limit oil secretion in the pores,” Cleeve adds. Then there’s the anti-aging benefits: zinc is known to encourage the production of collagen fibers and elastin, which can firm skin and boost healing. “Both help support the underlying structure of the skin, which reduces the appearance of wrinkles and other signs of aging,” explains Cleeve. “Importantly, zinc is also a powerful antioxidant, with the ability to capture and reduce harmful free radicals to reduce intracellular oxidative stress.” If that weren’t enough, Cleeve adds that zinc can improve skin tone and reduce hyperpigmentation, helping you to achieve a bright, even complexion. “Studies show that zinc can suppress factors responsible for hyperpigmentation, such as the over-stimulation of hormones, scarring or sun damage, and reduce the production of melanin,” she says.

Which skin types benefit from using zinc?

“All skin types would benefit from adding zinc to their skincare routine, but particularly those with sensitive, reactive complexions or those who want firmer, brighter skin,” says Cleeve, who labels zinc a “super-nutrient” for its universal appeal. That said, Dr. Idriss warns it shouldn’t be used by those with a known zinc allergy and adds that “zinc oxide, when applied topically on its own, will not treat a bacterial or fungal infection”. Any signs of infection, such as redness or warmth, should be assessed by a medical professional.

How to use zinc in your routine

As Cleeve has explained, zinc isn’t easily absorbed by the skin. However, clever product formulas now ensure you can easily integrate zinc into your regimen. If your skin barrier is in need of restoring and soothing, a rich, nourishing cream works well. But if an unexpected breakout hits, zinc is often best used alongside antibacterial ingredients to stop blemishes in their tracks. “Zinc isn’t a substitute for treating underlying skin disorders, such as acne, but it is an effective adjunct to your normal routine,” adds Dr. Idriss.

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