Zinc oxide is a mineral with a broad application, mostly used in the modern skincare industry to provide numerous benefits for the skin and in the reduction and healing of wrinkles. Though the trend is fairly recent, the application of zinc itself in skincare is not new.
The first record of zinc being applied on skin was found in some ancient medicinal scripts dated at around 500 B.C. Reports mentioned evidence of the mineral being used in ancient Indian medicines as a natural healing skin salve, back then called Pushpanjan.
Today, zinc oxide, which has many benefits and functions, is a key ingredient in many products including mineral sunscreens, calamine lotions, acne treatment ointments, and even diaper rash creams.
So what is zinc oxide? As the name suggests, zinc oxide is derived from the mineral zinc, a natural metallic element that is also used in electronic, household, and chemical products. Zinc’s ability as an elemental metal to carry an electric charge is beneficial to the body.
Different systems of the body are positively affected, including the brain, digestive tract, immunity, and skin. Zinc oxide is not naturally found in nature, but rather synthesized by heating the mineral zinc and combining it with oxygen molecules.
After being vaporized and condensed, the newly formed mineral is formed into a fine white powder that acts as a layer to protect the skin.
The breakthrough of zinc oxide particles was pioneered in 2008. Since then, it’s been continually researched, tested, and advanced to be one of the most powerful ingredients in skincare products.
This is because zinc oxide has a lot of benefits for the skin. If you’re not familiar with zinc oxide and how it might be the best magical ingredient for the skin, read the 15 benefits of zinc oxide below. They might surprise you!
1. Offers Protection Against Ultraviolet Rays
Zinc oxide has a number of natural sun-protecting qualities that have become the focus of numerous studies on skincare in the last three decades. Scientists and skincare experts have found that zinc oxide does a very good job at protecting the skin against both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays.
This broad range of protection is a benefit compared to many commercial sunscreens that only offer protection against one type of ultraviolet ray, either UVA or UVB.
In the past, zinc oxide’s sun protection quality had only been used in the making of sunscreens. But today, many companies incorporate zinc oxide into various skincare products, such as concealers, moisturizers, BB creams, mineral makeup, and anti-aging serums and ointments.
In sunscreens, the percentage of zinc oxide is usually at around 25 – 30 percent. Other makeup products such as foundation, moisturizers, and BB cream has lower zinc oxide percentage, usually at 10 – 19 percent.
This percentage is usually shown through the SPF level. The higher the SPF level is, the longer it provides protection from the sun.
In the past, there was a bad reputation on zinc oxide being used as an ingredient for sunscreens as it caused visible white streaks in some parts of the skin. It was because the skin couldn’t fully absorb the zinc oxide.
However, nowadays the technology in the skincare industry has solved the problem and came up with a flawless solution. A lot of products on the market today use microfine zinc oxide particles that can be absorbed easily by the surface of the skin. As a result, it doesn’t leave any white streaks.
2. Doesn’t Cause Irritation on Skin
Zinc oxide perhaps receives the most attention for its ability to be the alternative to chemical skincare products, without the allergies or irritations that usually come with chemical formulas.
These allergies usually occur on sensitive skin, but it’s not an uncommon incident. In fact, up to 75% of marketed sunscreens contain irritating and potentially toxic chemicals.
On the contrary, zinc oxide offers a better alternative. Because it’s a mineral, it can form a protective layer atop the skin and scatter away from the harmful ultraviolet lights.
So instead of protecting your skin with a chemical method, it acts as a physical barrier, just like multiple tiny umbrellas that shield and reflect the sunlight that attacks your skin.
Allergic reactions to chemical sunscreens usually occur because those chemical compounds absorb the ultraviolet rays. These rays are trapped on the skin’s surface.
While it cannot penetrate further into the deeper layers of the skin, the chemical itself commonly contains allergens like oxybenzone, which are toxic and irritating.
Different chemicals need to be combined, because one chemical typically can only block one type of ultraviolet ray. This is the reason sunscreens may cause swelling, hives, or acne on sensitive skin, something which will not be found in zinc oxide-based sunscreens.
3. Is Safe
Zinc oxide’s tiny particles are safe both for short-term and long-term use. However, some scientists still insist that further research is needed to ensure the safety of long-term use for humans.
Chemical products on the market can be as effective as sunscreens with zinc oxide, but these chemical products contain different substances to provide protection against a broad-spectrum of UV rays.
Besides allergies, there are worse risks that potentially occur because of dangerous chemicals incorporated into the products.
4. Prevents Infections
Zinc works like a mild astringent, as it naturally dries skin by reducing oil production. Consequently, it also reduces the chances of bacteria from growing and infecting the skin.
A study published in the 2003 issue of Journal of Nutrition demonstrated the ability of zinc oxide to reduce bacterial infections in a unique yet powerful way.
Rather than killing off the bacteria, zinc oxide works by inhibiting the internalization and adhesion of the bacteria. It also decreases cells’ permeability by improving the tightness of pores and junctions so the bacteria can’t penetrate into them.
Since the bacteria’s path is blocked and it’s impossible for them to make their way through, they’re not able to form new colonies and infect the tissue.
In addition, zinc oxide also reduces inflammation by helping to modulate the gene expressions of cytokine.
5. Treats Acne
Zinc oxide is also known as an effective ingredient for acne treatment. To treat acne, usually, zinc oxide is combined with other anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory zinc substances, such as zinc sulfate, zinc gluconate, antioxidants, and sometimes antibacterial agents.
These elements work together to reduce the severity, appearance, and pain of the acne. These minerals also lower the duration of the inflammation and speed up the healing process.
A research team published a study in the 2013 edition of Journal of Drugs in Dermatology mentioning the different ways zinc oxide works to prevent and treat acne blemishes and breakouts.
First, zinc oxide eases the infection caused by the bacteria or microbes associated with the acne. Then, it lowers the inflammation that is invoked as a response to the bacterial attack and the clogging of the pores.
Once the acne disappears, zinc oxide reduces the chance of the acne to reappear, as it causes the skin to be more resistant to microbial infection.
Additionally, zinc oxide also fights acne by stabilizing the oil in the skin. It regulates skin’s production of sebum and acts as an astringent which removes and dries excess oil.
As a result, acne will less likely to reappear, damaged skin will start healing faster, and large pores will become smaller.
A number of studies suggested that the topical application of zinc oxide, either mixed with other ingredients or used alone, is effective to fight acne due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial nature.
The inhibition of P. acnes bacteria by preventing its lipases and free fatty acid activities makes the bacteria die away. For persistent and severe acne, sometimes dermatologists will suggest using zinc along with antibiotics.
Antibiotic treatment for acne problems may later cause insensitivity and resistance, but zinc oxide will continue to be a useful ingredient even for those whose acne has developed resistance.
6. Zinc Oxide Treats Diaper Rash
There are many prescription and commercial diaper rash creams that use zinc oxide as one of its active ingredients. Diaper rash is a form of irritation on a baby’s skin related to the use of diapers.
Some studies have demonstrated that zinc oxide ointments can help optimize protection of delicate baby’s skin by stimulating a layer of protection that repels bacteria and irritants. The bacteria and other agents will not be able to penetrate the layer and cause reactions.
Additionally, zinc ointments are safe to use as often as needed to lower the risk of inflammation. 5% content of zinc ointment is enough to protect the skin and lower the symptoms of irritation when applied on the affected area of infants suffering from IDD (irritant diaper dermatitis).
To optimize the effectiveness choose a cream that has no added fragrance or coloring, as those additives may trigger irritation and worsen the symptoms.
7. Zinc Oxide Redness and Swelling
Redness, swelling, and pain are usually caused by the build-up of the bacteria on the skin. Since zinc oxide possesses some anti-bacterial properties, the topical use of the ointment on the skin may also help reduce those symptoms.
The mineral is also gentle on the skin and provides a soothing effect.
8. Reduces Pores
As an added benefit, zinc oxide, like many other commercial astringent products, also gives your skin a smooth, flawless look because it shrinks the large pores. More importantly, this is achieved naturally without clogging the pores.
9. Prevents Oily Look on Face
Since zinc oxide also regulates the sebum and oil production on the skin, it also prevents the skin from looking shiny and oily. Your skin will look bright and smooth with well-controlled sebum.
However, it does so without making your skin dry. As a result, you will have clean and smooth skin with small pores and no acne problems.
10. Speeds Up Wound Healing
Zinc oxide is a mineral that plays a very important role in stabilizing and regulating the functions of enzymes that are required to repair epidermal wounds and form new skin tissues.
Because of this, zinc oxide has also been traditionally used to treat wounds resulting from surgery, sores, or ulcers. Zinc also plays an important role in helping the production of new collagen.
Studies found evidence that treating dry, wounded, or damaged skin with zinc oxide for about two days after the damage occurs helps speed up the healing, lower the inflammation, restore the pigment, and regulate the sebum.
When used with other products, zinc also helps to increase the absorption of other minerals.
11. Preserves Youthful Look
Zinc oxide is a powerful mineral with effective anti-aging properties. Not only does it help your skin stay young-looking by preventing forms of sun damage like dark spots and wrinkles, it also accelerates the synthesis of collagen and new skin tissue.
Collagen is the most important substance in ensuring the elasticity and youthful appearance of the skin. Collagen is naturally produced by our body, but it can only be synthesized with the help of zinc and other essential minerals.
Besides, as we grow older, the production of collagen will keep decreasing. Zinc oxide helps speed up the reconstruction and reparation process of the connective tissues.
12. Zinc Oxide Prevents and Reduces Wrinkles
If you don’t want your beauty ruined by pesky wrinkles and fine lines, not exposing your skin to sunlight should be your first attempt at defense.
Yes, we should blame most aging signs on the sun. According to a research, 80% of wrinkle cases are caused by exposure to the sun.
Human beings need the sun for a lot of things. Tanned and glowing skin is even considered as an exotic beauty that is pursued by many women, either through direct sunbathing or being in the tanning booth.
But while it has a wonderful short-term effect on our skin, in the long run it actually accelerates the process of aging. Most of the skin changes that we considered to be some normal and inevitable signs of aging, including wrinkles, are actually caused by the sun.
Prolonged exposure to the UV light will damage the elastin, the skin fibers. When these fibers are damaged, the skin begins to turn into saggy, stretchy, and loose tissue with not enough elasticity.
Because it loses its elastic ability to go back to the original form after stretching, movements of the face like smiling, laughing, and speaking will overtime creates lines and wrinkles.
Thus, protecting your skin against the harmful effects of UV light is a must if you want to maintain a flawless youthful look. Zinc oxide in sunscreens is one of the most effective substances to fight UV radiation, which, consequently, also prevents wrinkles.
13. Prevents Age Spots
Besides wrinkles and sunburns, one of the major consequences of sunlight is age spots. An age spot is also called a liver spot, a sunspot, or solar lentigines.
It appears on the skin as a flat brown, black, or gray spot on the areas that are mostly exposed to the sun, such as the face, back of the hand, and shoulders.
Age spots are actually the results of excessive production of melanin that may be triggered by several reasons, including, and perhaps mostly, prolonged exposure to the sun.
Because of this, the best way to avoid age spots is by protecting your skin against the dangers of the sun, using the best sunscreens with zinc oxide as the key active ingredient.
14. Treats Melasma
Melasma is a common skin condition which causes discolored patches on certain areas of your skin. These patches are darker than the rest of your skin. The dark discoloration usually occurs on faces and other areas that are commonly exposed to the sun.
One more time, the ability of zinc oxide in protecting your skin against the harmful effects of sunlight is what makes it the best weapon against this skin condition.
Although common, melasma is quite difficult to heal. However, you can always use zinc oxide ointments to relieve this discoloration problem and make the dark patches gradually disappear from your skin.
15. Promotes Healthy Scalp
Your scalp is also a part of the skin that needs protecting. Many problems can happen to your scalp, including dryness, too much oil, and the general lack of nutrients that causes hair loss.
Zinc oxide is also used in many hair products to combat dandruff and hair loss. Zinc deficiency is actually a very common cause of dandruff.
Zinc helps by strengthening the structure of your cells’ membranes and preventing the flaking of the scalp. Zinc oxide also helps your scalp by locking in the moisture so it doesn’t become dry. The particles have the perfect formulation to combat scalp problems.
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