Acne is a chronic inflammatory illness of the pilosebaceous follicle where innate immunity plays a central role. In acne, the density of Propionibacterium acnes is increased in the pilosebaceous unit. We hypothesized that the severity of acne is not only dependent on the proliferation of P. acnes but also dependent on the pro-inflammatory potential of P. acnes strains and consequently constitutes potential triggering factor for acne scarring. We investigated pro-inflammatory potential of five different strains of P. acnes and P. avidum in skin explants and the preventive effect of zinc gluconate. The expression of immune markers was studied by immunohistochemistry, RT-qPCR and ELISA. P. acnes strains modulate differently the expression of immune markers both at gene and at protein levels. P. acnes type III had the highest pro-inflammatory potential by up-regulating the expression of PAR-2, TNF-alpha, MMP-13 and TIMP-2, whereas P. avidum had the weakest by up-regulating only MMP-13 and TIMP-2. Preincubation of zinc gluconate, which is a modulator of innate immunity, down-regulates the expression of most immune markers induced by P. acnes, PAR-2, TIMP-2, up-regulates MMP-1, TIMP-1. Our results demonstrate that different P. acnes strains have different inflammatory potential targeting markers of cutaneous innate immunity, and that inflammatory potential can be down-regulated by zinc gluconate. As such, the inflammatory potential of P. acnes strains on acne skin may influence the severity of inflammatory acne lesions and scars.