Zinc and skin: an update

J Dtsch Dermatol Ges. 2019 Jun;17(6):589-596. doi: 10.1111/ddg.13811. Epub 2019 Mar 15.


The essential trace element zinc (Zn) plays a key role in the development, differentiation and growth of various human tissues. Zinc homeostasis is primarily regulated by two zinc transporter families (solute-linked carrier families, SLC). Disturbances in zinc metabolism may give rise to disorders that typically manifest themselves on the skin. An autosomal recessive zinc deficiency disorder, acrodermatitis enteropathica is caused by a mutation in the gene coding for the ZIP4 transporter. Due to intestinal malabsorption, affected infants develop clinical signs and symptoms shortly after weaning. Acquired zinc deficiency is a rare but underdiagnosed disorder associated with various etiologies and variable clinical manifestations. Depending on the patient's age, a multitude of causes have to be considered. Given the characteristic periorificial and acral lesions, the clinical diagnosis is usually made by dermatologists. Laboratory confirmation includes measurement of plasma zinc levels and - as a supplementary measure - zinc-dependent enzymes such as alkaline phosphatase. Oral zinc replacement therapy frequently leads to clinical remission within a few days. Depending on the cause, disease management should include cooperation with pediatricians and gastroenterologists in order to guarantee optimal patient care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acrodermatitis / etiology
  • Acrodermatitis / pathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Hair Diseases / etiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Malabsorption Syndromes / complications
  • Skin Diseases / etiology*
  • Skin Diseases / pathology
  • Wound Healing / physiology
  • Zinc / deficiency
  • Zinc / physiology*


  • Zinc

Supplementary concepts

  • Acrodermatitis enteropathica