Staph/Folliculitis cleared by stopping Zinc and taking Iron

I've been suffering from folliculitis and/or staph infections for years in my scalp and beard. It has been on and off, but so has my zinc intake (more on that later).

Doctors had trouble diagnosing exactly what was going on but I can describe it. Painful, itchy, and/or burning. Bulging oozing whiteheads that I would scratch off (didn't have to pop like typical pimples, they were usually very soft and on the surface and ready to go). They would come back either white, or yellow or greenish. They were always at the base of a hair/in the follicle. They would often dry to an amber-y colour. They would eventually flake over and seem to go away, but then come back after a while. At the worst of it I was waking up to 5-10 new spots every day around my mouth. I couldn't count them on my scalp but they were basically everywhere. Super painful and gross. The scalp ones seemed to be more deeply embedded, almost like cysts.

Taking low dose Minocycline always cleared it up, but after quitting it would come back the same or worse within a couple weeks. I don't want to be on antibiotics forever so I quit taking them altogether.

I tried the following things on my scalp and/or face: Nizoral, Head and Shoulders, Hibiclens (also tried it in my nostrils - was extremely irritating), Selsun Blue, all-natural shampoo, Paula's Choice BHA, Mupirocin (also in my nostrils), Clindamycin topical solution, white vinegar and/or apple cider vinegar (topically), tea tree oil, various moisturizers and face washes, avoiding all moisturizers and/or face washes, avoiding shampoo, avoiding hair product (paste).

Internally/diet: gluten free, vegan, apple cider vinegar, garlic, lots of water, lots of fruit and vegetables, avoiding sugar and alcohol.

Of all these things I would say Nizoral and Mupirocin (in nostrils) were the most helpful, but definitely not sufficient on their own. Or maybe they didn't help and I was just imagining it. Nothing else seemed to make any difference at all.

So the doctors couldn't help, but I went to a dentist and apologized for my skin because she was working around my mouth for an hour. She said "there's gotta be something you're eating that's causing it." I told her about my clean diet and denied that diet could be the cause. But then I went home and thought - maybe it's one of the supplements I'm on. I was taking vitamin C, D3, omega-3, and zinc. 100 mg of chelated zinc per day. I have taken zinc for months at a time several times over the past few years, but not consistently. I've also had these skin problems on and off over the same time period, and obviously suspect that the timing lines up. I also stumbled across an old post of mine in which I was already considering a connection (but I forgot I'd ever posted this).

Zinc helps me a lot with digestion, and sort of helps with mood although the folliculitis/staph made too miserable to see that effect. It also seems to help with wound healing and improves my skin on the rest of my face (not follicle-related). So I was hesitant to think the zinc could be the cause.

But I decided to google "zinc and iron deficiency" and found a bunch of research linking the two. I was already low in iron because of my vegan diet. And I found things saying anemia weakens your immune system and can make you prone to skin/staph infections and folliculitis. So I quit the zinc and started taking an iron pill every day. IMMEDIATELY I stopped getting new staph/folliculitis spots. The existing ones cleared up within a week or less - they just dried up and disappeared. I can hardly believe it. I am now trying to restore the rest of my face, after the strong soaps and stuff I was using caused some texture damage. But I am SO relieved. I have been clear of staph/folliculitis for a few weeks now, and changed NOTHING else in my routine. I used to think it was caused by stress but I've actually been more stressed than usual - writing exams, etc.

I am considering re-introducing zinc carefully in a few weeks, but at a much lower dose and in a supplement that also includes copper (because zinc also causes copper deficiency). I forgot to mention that blood tests have always shown me as zinc deficient, so I think I do need it. But I was overdosing and throwing off my mineral balance way too much.

Hope this helps someone! Let me know if you have any questions. I swore I wouldn't make this post very long but I got carried away.


  • edited June 2022
    It is good that you have found a solution to this problem. Commonly, doctors cannot determine exactly where the problem is coming from. In this case, you have to fight it yourself. It is good that there is always the Internet at your fingertips, where you can find answers to all your questions. I had a problem with sleep that I couldn't solve for a long time. The doctors couldn't establish the exact diagnosis so they wouldn't prescribe me any medication. I started taking sleeping pills, but they didn't help much. Then on the advice of a friend, I ordered special gummies. That was the only reason I was able to sleep normally again.
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