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Seborrheic Dermatitis & Zinc

by
author image Matthew Busse
Matthew Busse has pursued professional health and science writing since 2007, writing for national publications including "Science Magazine," "New Scientist" and "The Scientist." Busse holds a doctorate in molecular biology from the University of California-San Diego.
Seborrheic Dermatitis & Zinc
Zinc tablets spilling on a table Photo Credit BWFolsom/iStock/Getty Images

Zinc is a highly versatile nutrient that is required in small amounts by the human body to maintain good health. Additionally, zinc has many medicinal properties, including anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects. Among the myriad medicinal uses of zinc is treatment of seborrheic dermatitis, a skin condition that commonly causes dandruff. Like any alternative medicine, consult your doctor before attempting to treat seborrheic dermatitis with zinc.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is a poorly understood skin condition that causes a variety of symptoms, including patches of skin that may become dry and flaky or yellowish and oily, explains MedlinePlus. Although seborrheic dermatitis can occur on many different body parts, it is most common on oily areas of skin, such as the scalp, ears, eyebrows, eyelids, lips and nose. In severe cases, seborrheic dermatitis can lead to red, inflamed skin, itching and skin lesions.

Causes

The exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is not well understood. Doctors theorize that it may be caused by a combination of irritation from a yeast known as malessizia and production of excess oil by the skin. The condition tends to run in families and is often triggered by fatigue, extreme weather, stress, obesity and certain lotions. When seborrheic dermatitis occurs on the scalp, it commonly causes dandruff.

Zinc and Seborrheic Dermatitis

Zinc, often in the form of shampoos containing zinc pyrithione, is a common treatment for seborrheic dermatitis. The results of many clinical studies suggest that zinc pyrithione is an effective treatment for dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis, reports a review of zinc research published in 2006 in the "Journal of Dermatologic Treatment." Although zinc pyrithione is effective in reducing the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis, other shampoos containing a chemical known as ketoconazole may be more effective.

Mechanism

Exactly how zinc treats seborrheic dermatitis is a subject of debate. Part of the beneficial effect seems to involve zinc directly inhibiting the growth the malessizia, the yeast that contributes to seborrheic dermatitis. Zinc may also treat the symptoms by reducing the inflammation of skin cells known as keratinocyte, reports a study published in the July 2005 issue of the medical journal "Dermatological Surgery"; however, this claim requires addition proof.

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