- Calamine lotion is an over-the-counter medication made with zinc oxide and iron oxide
- It is commonly used to treat itchiness associated with rashes, bug bites and other skin conditions
- Calamine lotion works best on pustules caused by inflammatory acne
- It has drying properties in addition to mild anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties
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 may also be an effective spot treatment for acne lesions.
What Is Calamine Lotion?
Calamine lotion is a pink mixture that is commonly used to address itchiness and irritation on the skin. 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.
It is also well known for its drying properties, which makes calamine lotion an effective treatment to dry out acne pustules and minimize their appearance.
Ingredients in calamine lotion
Calamine lotion’s active ingredients are zinc oxide and iron oxide (which gives it its color). Zinc oxide acts as an astringent, and has mild anti-inflammatory and antibacterial 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 to reduce itching
- Glycerin to moisturize and protect the skin’s natural barrier
- Water to smooth the mixture and increase liquidity for easier application
Will It Work on Acne?
Calamine lotion may help to treat the symptoms of mild-to-moderate acne in some people. It can dry and minimize 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 noninflammatory acne lesions such as blackheads. Instead, topical retinoids work to clear the pores and encourage cell turnover.
While calamine lotion could potentially treat the symptoms of active acne by drying up acne lesions and surface oil, it isn’t that effective at preventing acne breakouts from occurring in the first place. Targeted acne treatments are far more effective at killing acne-causing bacteria or reducing inflammation.
Does calamine lotion help acne scars?
In short, no. Calamine lotion won’t reduce or prevent acne scars because none of its active ingredients can 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?
No, calamine lotion itself won’t lighten dark spots. However, there are products available that contain calamine lotion and Kaolin clay. Kaolin clay is commonly used to lighten dark spots, such as postinflammatory hyperpigmentation resulting from acne.
How to Use Calamine Lotion for Acne
This lotion is best used as a spot treatment to avoid excessively drying out your skin, which can lead to skin irritation and worsened acne symptoms. Afterward, apply a moisturizer to counteract its drying effects.
- Wash your face with a gentle cleanser; pat dry
- Shake calamine lotion vigorously before opening
- Apply a small amount to a cotton ball or swab
- Dab onto pimple
- Allow calamine lotion to dry
Calamine lotion may be reapplied as often as needed. Use caution, however, as it can overdry or irritate skin.
Should you leave it on overnight?
Calamine lotion spot treatments may be left on acne lesions overnight. However, if your skin is sensitive, you may want to wash it off with warm water before bed.
Can you apply it under makeup?
Yes, calamine lotion can be applied under makeup. It also works as a primer to allow makeup to go on smoother and last throughout the day.
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. However, it’s possible to be allergic to its inactive ingredients. Be sure to read the ingredient label and check for potential allergens or ingredients you may be sensitive to.
Upon application, stop use immediately and see your doctor if you develop a rash, experience irritation or swelling, or have difficulty breathing.
Who shouldn’t 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.
Calamine lotion may be an effective spot treatment for symptoms of mild-to-moderate inflammatory acne. While it does have some anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties due to the presence of zinc, it isn’t the optimal choice to treat acne, regulate oil production or prevent future breakouts.
Calamine lotion can dry up acne lesions and may be left on overnight as a spot treatment. Use over the entire face is not recommended as it can cause 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.
- Cochran, R. J., Tucker, S. B., & Flannigan, S. A. (1985). Topical zinc therapy for acne vulgaris. International journal of dermatology, 24(3), 188-190. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-4362.1985.tb05756.x
- Gupta, S., Singh, M. M., Prabhu, S., Prabhu, M., & Mishra, P. (2007). Allergic contact dermatitis with exfoliation secondary to calamine/diphenhydramine lotion in a 9 year old girl. J Clin Diagn Res, 1(3), 147-150. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.590.2587&rep=rep1&type=pdf
- Page, R. C. L. (2007). 42 Insulin, other hypoglycemic drugs, and glucagon. Side Effects of Drugs Annual, 29, 523-538. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0378-6080(06)29042-1
- Quick, G. (1995, April). Scratching below the surface of poison ivy rash. Consultant, 35(4), 545+. https://go.gale.com/ps/anonymous?id=GALE|A16874861