Beauty glossary

What Is Zinc?

‘Hold up!’ we hear you say, ‘Isn’t zinc a metal?’ Well…technically it’s a mineral, and an essential one at that – your body needs it for a number of functions, including boosting your immune system, regulating insulin levels and healing wounds, as well as growth and development.

Now, amid the noise of heavyweights like retinol and vitamin C, little-old zinc doesn’t get a lot of screen time. But, we think you’re going to want to make some space in your skincare arsenal for this natural wonder – especially if you’re prone to breakouts or your sensitive skin is crying out for non-irritating sun protection.

What Does Zinc Do? 

In addition to eating the recommended amount of zinc (that’s 8 milligrams a day for women, and 11 for men BTW), this skin-enhancing mineral can be applied topically as the compound zinc oxide.

First and foremost, zinc oxide is a kick-ass mineral sunscreen. That means it acts like a shield against harmful UVA and UVB rays, which can lead to wrinkles, sunspots, and even cancer. A dream for sensitive types, Zinc-laced sunscreens are the best choice for those with inflamed or sore skin, as they don’t irritate the way chemically created SPFs do.

Asides from being the gold standard of sun defense, zinc tackles breakouts and acne head-on like a boss. As a mild astringent, it penetrates pores to remove excess oil, dead cells, and impurities, preventing clogging and blemishes.

In addition, its anti-inflammatory properties help soothe angry zits and calm redness, creating a protective layer so skin can take the time to repair itself – anyone dealing with acne (or even rosacea) will know what I’m talking about.

Zinc is also effective at banishing another acne offender: excess oil. By reducing sebum production, this UV warrior makes angry breakouts way less likely (amen to that). If acne is your main concern, and topical treatments aren’t strong enough, speak to your doctor about zinc supplements.

Lastly, this acne-fighter is also an A* antioxidant, protecting skin from free radical damage (which equals brown spots, sagging and wrinkles), helping it stay young and healthy for longer. 

Who Should Use Zinc? 

Anyone battling acne or breakouts will appreciate this ingredient. As will all of you with sensitive skin irritated by regular chemical sunscreen. The good news is, zinc is safe for most skin types and there are almost no side effects (phew), although in very rare cases it may cause a minor allergic reaction.

How To Use It In Your Routine

The best way to introduce zinc oxide into your skincare regimen is using problem-specific products, like spot treatments or sunscreen.

Our Fave Zinc Skincare Products:

ZIncSource: Kate Somerville

Kate Somerville EradiKate Acne Treatment, $26: Formulated with sulfur to reduce blemishes, salicylic acid to minimize pores and zinc oxide to reduce oil production – this spot treatment will nip any brewing blemish in the bud before it gets the chance to make an official appearance.

ZIncSource: SkinCeuticals

SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50, $34: Designed especially for sensitive and oily skin types, this lightweight zinc-infused sunscreen offers up serious protection against UVA and UVB rays without leaving a sticky, telltale trail behind.

ZIncSource: Glossier

Glossier Super Pure, $28: Breakouts, meet your match. This super-absorbent water-gel formula combines niacinamide and zinc (a match made in skincare heaven), to calm breakouts and flush out impurities.

For more skincare ingredients that’ll amp up your skincare regime, check out our Beauty Glossary.