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Antioxydant zinc.

The antioxidant power of zinc.

Stress, smoking, UV rays, pollution... the skin is subjected to numerous external aggressions. Therefore, it is crucial to protect it in order to minimize damage. Zinc is an essential trace element that helps counteract the formation of free radicals, which promote premature skin aging.

What does the term "antioxidant" mean?

An antioxidant is an agent that possesses the property ofpreventing or slowing down the oxidation process of a substrate, and thus the production of free radicals. In the body, there is a constant balance between oxidative defenses and pro-oxidant species: in other words, antioxidants are constantly eliminating free radicals.Although it has been proven that the presence of small amounts of free radicalsare necessary for the proper functioning of metabolism (defense mechanism against microbes, elimination of old or defective cells, etc...), they can become harmful if they are produced in excess.

An imbalance then sets in (excessive production of free radicals or absence/deficiency in antioxidants) and reactive oxygen species (ROS) begin to cause damage to vital components of cells (DNA, proteins, lipids...) with the result being adisruption in the skin's natural ability to regenerate and in cellular communication, apremature aging of the skinor even in the long term be the cause ofskin cancers.Indeed, free radicals will activate a myriad of signaling pathways that among other things lead to a reduction in collagen production, and the synthesis and activation of matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) responsible for the degradation of connective tissue, which then promotes skin aging.

Although free radicals are a natural byproduct of processes occurring within the body, these incomplete molecules are not solely generated by the body. Numerous external factors (pollution, stress, lack of sleep, sedentary lifestyle, UV rays, smoking, alcohol consumption, electromagnetic waves, allergens, etc...) are known to trigger or increase their production, which then manifests as signs of aging (age spots,skin sagging, fine lines, etc...), a loss of radiance and an increase in skin sensitivity (photosensitivity, redness, irritations…).

What is the role of zinc in the body?

Zinc is a essential micronutrient, present in small amounts in the human body, less than 50 mg/kg. It is vital to the body's health due to its critical roles in growth and development, bone metabolism, the central nervous system, immune function, and wound healing, which is the focus of this article.

Zinc is a vital cofactor for the function of over 10% of proteins encoded by the human genome, which represents no less than 3,000 proteins and enzymes ! Zinc-dependent proteins play numerous indispensable roles within cells, such as transcriptional regulation, DNA repair, cell death, metabolic processing, regulation of the extracellular matrix (ECM), and antioxidant defense.

It should be noted : this trace element cannot be stored by the body. Therefore, to reap its benefits, regular consumption of zinc-rich foods is essential. The food richest in zinc is the oyster, but there are others such as the offal, red meat, whole grain bread, and eggs. The vast majority of zinc present in the human body is stored in skeletal muscles (60%), but reserves are also present in the bones (30%), skin (5%), liver, and other organs (2 to 3%).

Zinc is particularly important for the skin. The skin contains a relatively high zinc content (about 5% of the body content), mainly associated within the epidermis (50-70 μg/g of dry weight). Due to its abundance in the epidermis, it is observed that a slight zinc deficiency results in rough skin and an alteration in wound healing.

Zinc, a powerful antioxidant.

A study has shown that zinc supplementation increases the antioxidant power of plasma, reduces inflammatory cytokines in plasma, and oxidative stress biomarkers in older subjects. Several mechanisms have been highlighted to demonstrate the antioxidant power of this trace element.

  1. Zinc competes with iron (Fe) and copper (Cu) ions to bind to cellular membranes and proteins. This, in turn, limits the action of these pro-oxidant metals (Fe and Cu), which catalyze the production of the radical hydroxyl HO• from H2O2.

  2. Zinc binds to the sulfhydryl (SH) groups of biomolecules, protecting them from oxidation.

  3. Zinc enhances the activation of proteins, molecules, and antioxidant enzymes such as glutathione (GSH), catalase, and superoxide dismutase (SOD), while also reducing the activities of enzymes that promote oxidation like inducible nitric acid synthase (iNOS) and NADPH oxidase. Furthermore, zinc inhibits the generation of lipid peroxidation products.

  4. Zinc induces the expression of a metal-binding protein, metallothionein (MT), which is very rich in cysteine and serves as an excellent scavenger of ⋅OH radical ions.

Take Note : Topical application of zinc results in fewer side effects than internal use, but it is not considered as effective as oral supplementation. However, this does not mean that it is completely ineffective, quite the contrary. Topically applied zinc can help the skin defend itself against attacks from free radicals. You can find this compound in various active ingredients such as zinc PCA, zinc oxide or zinc gluconate.


  • PRASAD A. S. Zinc is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent: its role in human health. Frontiers in Nutrition (2014).


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