What Is Calamine?
Calamine lotion is a product that you may be familiar with from your childhood. The pink chalky solution that you may have had slathered on everything from mosquito bites to the stings you got from rummaging through poison ivy in the garden. While its anti-itch properties have been historically well regarded it has more recently lost favour as better, more effective products come on the market to help treat itching or stings. It is occasionally still used in some formulations such as anti-dandruff products or some soaps and cleansers.
Calamine has in the last couple of year increased in popularity once again. This time for acne or blemishes. However, there is little evidence to suggest that calamine is actually helpful to treat acne and there are more effective alternatives that are available over the counter. However, calamine may be a good thing to have on hand in case you have run out of your other spot treatments and you have an irritated, active blemish surface on your face.
Calamine is actually just a zinc solution with a small amount, usually 0.5% of iron oxide which gives calamine that unique pink colour. It is usually applied in a lotion which requires being shaken before use as the zinc tends to separate to the bottom.
the good: Helps to relieve mild itches and stinging.
the not so good: Can be drying to the skin and there is little evidence to suggest that it helps to address any underlying causes or acne.
Who is it for? All skin types except those that have an identified allergy to it.
Synergetic ingredients: Works well with most ingredients.
Keep an eye on: Calamine shouldn’t be your first choice for acne or even for stings or itches. There are better products on the market, however, calamine can be a good last resort if you are out of everything at home and can’t get to the pharmacy.
What Are The Benefits of Calamine?
There a number of benefits to using calamine, most of which focus on reducing itchiness or stinging that are associated with bites, stinging plants or itchy skin conditions such as chickenpox. There are better options nowadays for treating the itch associated with these conditions but calamine is an okay alternative if you are not able to get your hands on these better options.
Calamine helps to reduce irritation and itching. It does this by creating a cooling sensation on the skin as the lotion evaporates. Often the anti-itch effects are shortlived or temporary.
The drying abilities of calamine are why many brands are including calamine in their spot treatment formulations for blemishes. Drying out active blemishes, think irritated, pus-filled and angry, may help to reduce the time they are active. However, drying out non-active blemishes can leave the skin dry and irritated, potentially creating further issues.
Is Calamine Safe?
Calamine lotion is considered safe for use for helping to treat itchiness and oozing wounds. However, as previously mentioned there are many better alternatives to calamine lotion that you can get over the counter.
Calamine for acne may be useful in drying out the blemish but again there are better alternatives.
Gupta M, Mahajan VK, Mehta KS, Chauhan PS. Zinc therapy in dermatology: a review. Dermatol Res Pract. 2014;2014:709152.