Zinc is the 23rd most abundant element in the Earth’s crust. It also is essential for many of our body’s processes. In fact, it is needed for the proper functioning of over 300 different enzymes in the human body. It may also have antiviral properties as it has be shown to be beneficial in the healing of wounds.
Zinc has also become well known and used in the prevention of colds; perhaps this is due to its involvement in the immune system and its regulation of many of the body’s natural defenses such as T lymphocytes. Zinc is also part of reactions necessary for carbohydrate and protein metabolism and is involved in cell division, the growth and maintenance of muscles, and the synthesis of protein and collagen.
Zinc is commonly found in animal protein, beans, and whole grains as well as many seeds and nuts, such as almonds and sunflower seeds. The recommended daily dietary intake of zinc is 11mg for men and 8 mg for women with higher does suggested during pregnancy and lactation. Zinc is commonly taken as a dietary supplement and there are several over-the- counter forms of this mineral that are available. The most common names include zinc gluconate, zinc chloride, and zinc sulfate.
Because of all the zinc can do for our bodies, it shouldn’t be surprising to find it in so many products that we use every day. Zinc or zinc compounds are found in all types of products including sunscreens, anti-dandruff shampoo, diaper cream, and deodorant.
Although there has been promising research showing that shampoo containing zinc pyrithione may be effective at treatment fungal infections of the scalp, the results for the use of zinc in the treatment of hair loss has been somewhat mixed. That said, it has been surmised that a deficiency of zinc could lead to hair loss because it along with other minerals is needed for proper health and growth. Further, zinc is important in the repair of damaged tissue and maintenance of oil secreting glands associated with hair follicles. The use of zinc to treat scalp and hair loss related conditions is supported by evidence that zinc coupled other nutrients can help relieve scalp dryness, itching, and flaking. Further, research has suggested that the proper amount of zinc can aid in slowing the graying of hair.
For those with scalp issues and hair loss, over-the- counter zinc supplementation may be recommended. Daily doses of up to 60 milligrams may be used for short periods of time. Users of zinc supplementation to treat hair loss are cautioned against using prolonged large doses as there is also evidence that too much zinc in the body can lead to hair loss. Zinc taken at too high of levels is thought to interfere with the proper absorption and usage of other minerals such as copper, iron, magnesium and manganese. Each of these is necessary for maintaining proper hair health.
The proper levels of zinc play an important role in our overall health. However, zinc is one nutrient in which more is not necessarily better when treating hair and scalp conditions.