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Think Zinc for Treating Acne

We’ve commented elsewhere on this site that zinc fights acne, oddly enough, by making the immune system weaker. Now we would like to tell you about a specific kind of zinc that works about 50 times better than any other. But first let’s review why zinc works for fighting acne.

Zinc Supplements for Acne
Zinc reduces the production of oil in pores.

Zinc for Fighting Inflammation

The value of using skin care products that contain zinc and supplements that contain zinc is reducing inflammation. In acne, it’s really not acne bacteria that cause the redness and swelling and itching and pain we associate with inflammation. (In some other skin infections, like impetigo, it really is the bacteria that do the damage.) In acne, the bacteria release chemicals called chemotaxins that redirect inflammation to healthy skin so the bacteria can escape.

The immune system can generate inflammation aimed at these chemotaxins even after acne bacteria are already dead. It’s as if the immune system doesn’t know that it’s really destroying healthy skin. Some dermatologists have even developed vaccines for fighting acne that work on the principle of reducing the immune system’s inflammatory response by exposing it to chemotaxins over and over again.

You don’t have to take a vaccine to reduce the inflammation your own white blood cells release to fight vaccine. You can take zinc. The way zinc tones down the reactivity of the immune system is by reducing the production of a stress hormone called corticotrophin releasing factor CRF. This helps clear up acne in a number of ways.

  • Zinc makes your skin less likely to break out when you are stressed because it is not making as much of the stress hormone CRF.
  • Zinc also stops growth signals that thicken the lining of pores and trap oil inside.
  • Zinc reduces the production of oil at the base of pores.
  • Zinc slows the release of histamine, which can inflame pores the same way it inflames your nose and throat when you have allergies.

All of these effects help clear up acne. And it turns out one form of zinc is a lot better than the others.

Zinc Ascorbate for Fighting Acne

The most effective form of zinc for fighting acne, it turns out, is a compound known as zinc ascorbate. The “ascorbate” part of the zinc ascorbate molecule is a high-pH form of ascorbic acid, better known as vitamin C.

Vitamin C absorbs free radicals of oxygen and keeps them from damaging tissues. In the skin, one of the most important jobs of vitamin C is to quench the free radicals of oxygen released when the skin is exposed to UV-B radiation from the sun. By absorbing these oxidizing agents it prevents inflammation of the skin. It’s not essential to use a sunblock that contains vitamin C because your diet should provide you enough C to avoid being especially prone to sunburn. But having enough vitamin C in your diet or at least on your skin helps stop sunburns before they start.

Vitamin C also absorbs some of the free radicals of oxygen that trigger the inflammatory reactions of acne. In this case, it actually downregulates the immune system. It keeps white blood cells from being activated to release the leukotrienes that can destroy cells in the skin.

The kind of vitamin C that literally sticks to your skin is ascorbyl palmitate. It works on your skin because it is not water-soluble. If you were to grind up vitamin C tablets (it’s been tried) and use them as face powder, you wouldn’t get any benefit because humidity in the air or perspiration on your skin would dissolve the C and rinse it away. You need about 5% ascorbyl palmitate in a skin cream (that you squeeze out of a tube rather than dip out of a jar because the ascorbyl palmitate reacts with air) to get noticeable effects on acne.

The kind of zinc that is usually used in skin care products is zinc oxide. This form of zinc is better for blocking UV rays of the sun that it is for stopping other kinds of inflammation. Zinc ascorbate, however, interacts with the skin in ways that other forms of zinc cannot. Both the zinc and the ascorbate reduce inflammation. And Japanese scientists have discovered that a 0.064% solution of zinc ascorbate is as effective for relieving acne inflammation as a 5% solution of vitamin C or other forms of zinc. That’s 80 times more inflammation-fighting power than either zinc or vitamin C alone.

Where Can You Get Zinc Ascorbate?

Zinc ascorbate creams are relatively easy to get in China and India and relatively harder to find in the USA and the EU. In the United States and Canada, it’s easy to get a formulating pharmacy to make your own zinc ascorbate skin cream, although you may pay $10 to $50 for the labor involved. The cream itself should not cost more than $10 for a month’s supply.

Zinc ascorbate supplements are easy to find in the USA. Just look on Amazon and type in “zinc ascorbate.” If you are taking supplemental zinc for acne, this is the best form. But you will get better results from a cream than from a nutritional supplement.

There are some research studies that have found that zinc ascorbate is more effective than monocycline, clindamycin, and other antibiotics commonly used to treat acne. Don’t stop taking your antibiotics for a more “natural” therapy overnight, however.

It is always best to confer with your physician before you stop taking any prescribed drug. Sometimes antibiotics kill all but the hardiest bacteria, and when you stop taking the antibiotic, the remaining resistant bacteria have a chance to multiply rapidly on your skin. Sudden discontinuation of antibiotics makes acne worse. Usually it is best to taper off your use of antibiotic over two or three weeks while you start using other methods of acne control. And it is always best to use multiple methods of fighting acne such as are provided by Exposed Skin Care.

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