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Acne Treatments

How to Use Zinc Oxide for Acne

Girl with white mask on face and finger

Zinc oxide for acne – as simple as applying diaper cream to your face?

Not quite…

But it does have specific benefits that make it a really helpful acne treatment. This article will show you exactly how topical zinc oxide works, and how to use it for best results.

(If you are interested in taking zinc as a supplement, please see the FAQ at the end of the article).

What is Zinc Oxide?

Zinc oxide is a mineral, best known for its use in diaper creams (!).

Its specific purpose is as a skin protectant which helps dry, soothe and protect those red, irritated little baby bums…

This is also what makes it great for acne.

Why is it so Good for Acne?

Acne is an inflammatory condition. The redness, irritation, breakouts, oiliness are all part this inflammation response.

Zinc oxide can help by calming, healing and protecting the skin. This is why it’s so good for diaper rash and very good for sensitive skin.

It helps soothe redness, decrease the size of pimples, and dries out oil production.

How to Use Zinc Oxide for Acne

Option 1: Use a zinc oxide cream separately

Use a separate zinc oxide cream along with your other products.

One of the best other products for acne is one with salicylic acid, which dissolves oil and dead skin cells to improve the condition of your skin

Use a zinc oxide cream overnight (recommendation below), either all over your face or on individual pimples.

The problem with using a separate zinc oxide product?

A lot of zinc oxide creams are combined with mineral oil, cosmetic petrolatum or other additions, which help with the creams application.

While these ingredients are fine for skin in general, they may not be fine for acne skins as they can cause blockages—not exactly the result we want! So you might want to try some of the other products below that combine zinc with other acne-fighting ingredients.

Try this rash cream with 11.5% zinc oxide on inflamed areas overnight, or whenever you need to calm and soothe your skin:

Tub of Balmex Rash Cream

Balmex Adult Care Rash Cream

Option 2: Best products containing zinc for acne

1. Clay and Zinc Mask

One of the best acne treatments is a clay mask. Use one with several active ingredients, and you have a power acne treatment at your disposal:

Picture of AHAVA Clay Mask

AHAVA Purifying Dead Sea Mud Mask

Contains kaolin clay and aloe vera along with zinc oxide. This combination is a powerful acne purifier.

Important: while this is a mask, you will only leave it on for 2minutes then wash off. Any longer and you may end up with irritated skin. So use it as directed, as a spot treatment if you prefer (e.g. only on your nose), and enjoy the benefits.

2. Spot Treatment Drying Lotion

This drying lotion also contains salicylic acid (one of the best acne fighters there is) and sulfur. It is similar to using a pure zinc cream but with added oomph.

If your skin is oily with many blockages, you might find this treatment more helpful than pure zinc thanks to the addition of salicylic acid.

Bottle of Drying Lotion

Acne Spot Treatment with Salicylic Acid and Zinc

And remember: just because it is a post treatment does not mean those “spots” have to be small, single pimples. You can this all over your forehead or nose (for example) for a really effective treatment.

3. Zinc Sunscreen

You might not call zinc sunscreen a skin treatment, but using one can provide needed sun protection and help keep your skin calm during the day.

Zinc sunscreens are called “physical” sunblocks because they don’t use chemicals to block the UV rays. This makes them better for irritated or sensitive skin—which includes acne prone skin!

Look for a simple product that doesn’t contain fragrance. Also, because zinc can make your skin white, you might want to use a sunscreen with the word “clear” in it…

Image of Badger Zinc Sunscreen

Badger Clear Zinc Sunscreen SPF 30

FAQs About Zinc Oxide and Acne

What about taking zinc supplements orally?

Yes zinc supplements can help with acne. See this article for details on taking supplements for acne.

You can also get zinc from foods such as eggs. Check with your doctor if you are concerned about mineral deficiencies.

Will zinc oxide clog pores?

No. But it does need to be washed off—if only because it might make your skin white, like a ghost. But feel free to leave it on overnight.

However, some sunscreens with zinc oxide can clog pores, usually because they contain other oily ingredients. So go with a “clear” sunscreen as above, these are usually formulated for the face as non-comedogenic.

How long does it take for zinc to clear acne?

You can use zinc oxide nightly as a “spot” treatment. This can help reduce inflammation and redness almost immediately and will help reduce oil production the next day.

If you use it as a mask or treatment two or three times weekly, you may notice a difference in the severity of your breakouts in about a month. Like anything with skin care, consistency is key.

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