- Calamine lotion is a topical skin treatment made of zinc oxide and iron oxide.
- It is a remedy commonly used for rashes, bug bites and other skin conditions.
- Calamine lotion works best on pustules caused by inflammatory acne.
- Its active ingredients have drying properties but do not treat bacteria or inflammation.
Calamine lotion is a traditional remedy that has been used for thousands of years to treat common skin complaints. It’s associated primarily with treatment for rashes and conditions that cause itching. However, calamine lotion is also an effective spot treatment for acne lesions.
What Is Calamine Lotion?
Calamine lotion is a pink mixture that is commonly used to address skin-related issues. When calamine lotion is applied to the skin, it dries white like a mud mask. Because of its drying characteristics, calamine lotion can help to dry out acne pustules and minimize their appearance.
This remedy has a long history dating back to ancient times. Calamine lotion can be used to gently dry acne lesions, and it has been used over the centuries for skin complaints and conditions such as hives, poison ivy or poison oak rash, eczema, bug bites and chickenpox.
Ingredients in calamine lotion
Calamine lotion’s active ingredients are zinc oxide and iron oxide. Zinc oxide acts as an astringent, which dries the skin–though zinc in low concentrations has few astringent properties. Iron oxide reduces itching and soothes rashes, bug bites, eczema and hives.
Calamine lotion also contains inactive ingredients, which include:
- Bentonite magma, a suspending agent
- Calcium hydroxide, which reduces itching
- Glycerin, which moisturizes and protects the skin’s natural barrier
- Water, which allows the mixture to come together smoothly and makes it easy to spread over the skin
Will It Work on Acne?
Calamine lotion may help to treat the symptoms of mild to moderate acne in some people. It helps to dry and shrink the pustules caused by inflammatory acne.
Because it doesn’t unclog pores or encourage new skin cell growth, calamine lotion is not a strong choice for treating non-inflammatory acne lesions such as blackheads. Instead, topical retinoids work to clear the pores and encourage cell turnover.
While calamine lotion may help dry up acne lesions and surface oil, it doesn’t address acne’s cause. It won’t help to keep acne breakouts from occurring in the first place. Calamine lotion has no antibacterial or anti-inflammatory properties, so it can’t kill acne-causing bacteria or reduce inflammation.
Calamine lotion is best used as a spot treatment rather than all over the face, as it may dry the skin excessively. This can lead to skin irritation and worsened acne symptoms.
After using calamine lotion, make sure you use a moisturizer to counteract its drying effects.
Does calamine lotion help acne scars?
Calamine lotion won’t reduce or prevent acne scars because none of its active ingredients that lighten scar tissue, reduce inflammation or soften existing scar tissue. It also doesn’t prevent future scars from forming.
Does calamine lotion help dark spots?
Most calamine lotion formulations won’t lighten dark spots. However, some calamine lotion does contain the ingredient Kaolin clay. Kaolin clay is often used to lighten dark spots (hyperpigmentation) on the skin, so if calamine lotion contains Kaolin, it may help reduce their appearance.
How to Use Calamine Lotion for Acne
The best way to use calamine lotion for acne is to spot-treat pustules. You can easily apply it using a cotton swab.
- Wash your face with a gentle cleanser
- Pat dry with a soft washcloth
- Shake bottle of calamine lotion vigorously before opening
- Put a bit of calamine lotion on a cotton swab
- Use cotton swab to dab calamine lotion onto pimple
- Allow calamine lotion to dry
- Continue with your regular skin care routine
Calamine lotion may be reapplied as often as needed. Use caution, however, as it can over-dry the skin.
Should you leave it on overnight?
Calamine lotion spot treatments may be left on acne lesions overnight. If your skin is sensitive, though, you may want to wash it off with warm water before bed.
Can you apply it under makeup?
Calamine lotion can be applied under makeup. It keeps makeup from wearing off throughout the day, helping it to last longer.
Calamine lotion is a time-tested, safe topical skin treatment. Side effects are uncommon.
There are very few allergic reactions associated with calamine lotion or zinc. It’s possible for someone to be allergic to calamine lotion’s inactive ingredients. Be sure to read the ingredient label and check for potential allergens or ingredients you may be sensitive to.
Stop use immediately and see your doctor if your rash gets worse, you experience irritation or swelling where you apply the calamine lotion or you experience difficulty breathing.
Who should not use calamine lotion?
People who are allergic to zinc, zinc oxide or other ingredients in calamine lotion should avoid using it. Those with sensitive skin should use caution, as calamine lotion could overdry and irritate skin.
Calamine lotion is considered safe for use during pregnancy, and is commonly used to treat itching on the stomach.
For symptoms of mild to moderate inflammatory acne, calamine lotion could be an effective spot treatment. However, it can’t treat bacteria and inflammation–and it can’t regulate oil production or prevent future breakouts.
Calamine lotion can dry up acne lesions and may be left on overnight as a spot treatment. Side effects of calamine lotion are rare, but may include dryness and sensitivity.
Calamine lotion is safe for most people to use, including pregnant women. Allergic reactions are uncommon. If you experience the signs of an allergic reaction to calamine lotion, discontinue use immediately and contact your doctor.
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