The root causes of acne are not completely understood, and studies into potential connections with vitamins and minerals in the body continue. Zinc and magnesium, both essential trace minerals that are usually consumed and absorbed regularly through food, may play roles in effective acne treatments. As with any mineral supplements, however, a physician or dermatologist should ideally be consulted before beginning a treatment regimen.
The American Academy of Dermatology reports that acne is a skin condition characterized by excessive skin oil production and the tendency for dead skin cells to shed improperly. Excess oil, called sebum, and accumulated dead skin cells can clog the hair follicles in the skin, creating a blemish. Oil lingering on the surface of the skin provides a suitable environment for common skin bacteria to multiply, which in turn irritates existing pimples and encourages additional or worsening breakouts.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, zinc supports the immune system, aids wound healing and has antioxidant abilities. Clinical studies into the efficacy of oral zinc supplements for treating acne have produced mixed results, but slightly more promising clinical evidence suggests that topical zinc formulas may be effective when used in combination with erythromycin, a topical antibiotic. "Handbook of Minerals as Nutritional Supplements," by Robert A. DiSilvestro, states that in some rare cases, acne may be linked with a zinc deficiency, in which case oral supplementation with zinc may improve the condition.
Magnesium supports teeth and bones, produces energy, activates enzymes and regulates the levels of other essential minerals, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. While it is not directly related to specific skin benefits, its role in ensuring proper levels of calcium, vitamin D, zinc, potassium and other nutrients can have an affect on skin conditions by association.
Janet Zand, Allan N. Spreen and James B. LaValle's "Smart Medicine for Healthier Living" states that magnesium, along with calcium, can reduce stress and cravings for sweets when taken at the daily recommended levels. While the National Institutes of Health reports that there is little evidence linking sugary foods to acne, this possible link remains an area of study. Stress, the organization reports, can aggravate existing acne, but does not cause it by itself.
Rich nutritional sources of zinc include red meat, poultry, cheese and shellfish. Oysters are the most potent nutritional source. Of the zinc ingested in food, the body metabolizes and absorbs between 20% and 40%, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Magnesium is readily available in a broader selection of foods, including whole grains, tofu, nuts, green leafy vegetables, bananas and chocolate.
Zinc is available as a topical cream in both prescription and non-prescription strengths, and may be an active ingredient in creams that contain a blend of vitamins and minerals. Specific types of oral zinc supplements include zinc picolinate, zinc citrate, zinc acetate, zinc glycerate, zinc monomethionine and zinc sulfate. Of all these types, zinc sulfate is the most affordable and readily available, but it is the least readily absorbed and can cause nausea. Magnesium citrate, magnesium gluconate and magnesium lactate are all widely available supplements that are easily absorbed by the body.