Turns Out Zinc Wields Some Major Sunscreen Benefits — But That's Not All

Derms say this much-loved ingredient deserves a spot in your skincare routine.

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Turns Out Zinc Wields Some Major Sunscreen Benefits — But That's Not All

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When zinc is mentioned in relation to our skincare, we're often referring to sunscreen. After all, zinc sunscreen benefits are no joke, offering serious protection from harmful UV rays. However, there's so much more to zinc than just being a hero ingredient in your favorite mineral sunscreen. For instance, the TikTok beauty community has taken to praising zinc for its anti-acne benefits, with a viral video even touting Head & Shoulders shampoo as a gold standard solution thanks to its zinc-heavy formula designed to tackle dandruff. To learn more, we turned to the pros.

Keep scrolling for zinc sunscreen benefits — and why you should incorporate the ingredient into your skincare routine — according to skincare experts.

What Is Zinc?

Before going into how zinc works in skincare, let's scale it back.

"Zinc is one of the most common trace minerals found in the body. It is found in every cell in our body and it is essential for their proper function," explains cosmetic chemist, Ron Robinson, of the skincare brand BeautyStat. Since zinc is so essential in maintaining our health, a deficiency in it can cause hair loss, acne, slow wound healing, and vision problems, he explains. 

Joshua Zeichner, M.D., the Director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, further explains that zinc is typically absorbed into the body through our diets. (He calls out poultry, shellfish, and meat, specifically, but says supplements work as well.)

"In the skin, [zinc] is an essential co-factor for proper functioning of the cells themselves," Dr. Zeichner continues. Beyond diet, Robinson confirms that zinc can also provide benefits when applied topically.

The Skincare Benefits of Zinc

There are multiple ways zinc benefits the skin:

  • Safe for all skin types: According to Joseph Cabasso, President of Mario Badescu Skin Care, zinc is a suitable ingredient for people of all skin types.
  • It's anti-inflammatory: Furthermore, Cabasso says zinc has anti-inflammatory properties and is known to aid in wound healing. As it's anti-inflammatory, it's also a great ingredient for those with sensitive skin, he adds.
  • Combats acne: As an antiseptic, zinc is also touted as a champion ingredient in anti-acne products, such as Jori's Acne & Oil Control Primer and BeautyStat's Universal Microbiome Purifying Radiance Mask, Dr. Zeichner tells us.
  • Offers UV protection: Of course, we must talk about zinc's UV-protective qualities, too. "In sunscreen, zinc oxide is one of the main filters used and is wonderful for sensitive skin because it's not being absorbed into the skin so it's less irritating for those with acne, rosacea, and eczema," explains Cabasso. Find it in Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 60+, which is gentle enough for all skin types.
  • May promote plumper-looking skin: Lastly, both Cabasso and Robinson suggest zinc stimulates collagen production. In fact, studies have found that zinc supplementation slows down the degradation of collagen and increases collagen stability.

Side Effects of Using Zinc on Your Skin

Since zinc is a topical ingredient that's generally safe for all skin types, there are few side effects to be wary of. The exception, of course, is if you're allergic to it. "The only side effect I’ve heard of is skin irritation for those who are sensitive to it," confirms Cabasso. Furthermore, Robinson urges people who are pregnant or nursing to consult their physicians, just to be safe. (Overdoing zinc intake via diet or supplementation is another story. Robinson says it can cause nausea, vomiting, and headaches.)

How to Use Zinc In Your Skincare Routine

There are several ways to incorporate zinc into your daily routine, the most obvious being through a balanced diet. Skincare-wise, though, Cabasso suggests doing a quick patch test under your jawline or behind your ears before slathering it all over your face — just in case.

As for topical products, Robinson says that cleansers, masks, creams, lotions, and serums are great delivery systems for zinc depending on the benefit you’re seeking. 

InStyle uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Osorio R, Yamauti M, Osorio E, et al. "Zinc reduces collagen degradation in demineralized human dentin explants." Journal of dentistry. 2011;39(2).

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