Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Sritama Dutta (Medical Science)  on 02nd Nov 2020

Calamine Keeps Several Skin Woes Away! Here's What You Should Know About Calamine

Calamine for skin

The use of calamine lotion can be dated back to 1500 BC. Due to its various beneficial effects, calamine lotion can be well-accredited as one of the versatile medicinal components that makes it a must-have in every household.

Calamine lotion is an inexpensive, readily available and incredibly effective medicine. It has been listed in the 19th edition of the Model List of Essential Medicines, issued by the World Health Organization
(WHO). Though Calamine lotion is not a cure, it is an excellent compound that helps in relieving the symptoms of various skin conditions.

Not familiar with the effects of calamine? We are here to throw some light on it. In this article, we will discuss what calamine is and how you can use it in your daily life.  

What is Calamine? 

Calamine, also called Calamine Lotion, is an over-the-counter medication used to treat many minor skin conditions.

It is only intended for topical usage.

Calamine lotion is a light pink lotion that helps relieve insect bites' symptoms, soothe the effects of poisonous plants, and relieve symptoms of Chickenpox and shingles.

Its soothing properties help treat mild itchiness, medically termed as Pruritus, and calm down the effects of inflammation. Calamine lotion also has a drying property, which helps in relieving skin irritation and oozing skin ailments.  

What is Calamine Lotion Made of? 

Calamine lotion is a non-prescription drug of the bentoquatam class. It is a uniform suspension concocted from several ingredients, each of them having specific properties. The two primary active components of Calamine lotion are Calamine and Zinc Oxide.

The Calamine powder, obtained from Calamina Stone, contains a high amount of zinc carbonate. Calamine lotion has about 8%-15% of Calamine in it. It has mild antiseptic as well as astringent properties.

The other active ingredient, Zinc Oxide, also forms about 5% to 8% of the formulation. It also acts as an astringent that contracts the skin tissue and helps to dry kit oozing rashes and blisters like chickenpox or shingles. Zinc oxide has mild antiseptic activity too.

Calamine lotion also contains other minor ingredients. They are: 

  • Ferric Oxide: The Iron Oxide (Ferric Oxide) gives Calamine lotion its distinctive pink color.  
  • Glycerol 5%: Glycerol is an emollient. It helps to trap moisture in the superficial dermal layers. It also gives the lotion its viscous nature.   
  • Polysorbate 0.01%: Used as an emulsifier for solubilizing the other ingredients as well as a humectant. It retains moisture in the lotion keeping it fluid and helps attract the skin when applied topically.  
  • Calcium Hydroxide: Being an alkaline ingredient helps in regulating the pH of the lotion.  
  • Bentonite Magma: Used as a stabilizer. It also plays a role in thickening the calamine lotion. 
  • Distilled Water: used as a suspension and diluting agent.  

Another ingredient known as Kaolin Clay is also often present in OTC calamine lotion. It can remove excess oil from the skin.  

What are the Benefits of Calamine Lotion? 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended the topical application of calamine as a medication for soothing and relieving the itching caused by poisonous plants like poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. It helps to dry out the oozing and weeping of the skin rashes caused by the plants. Apart from this, calamine has several other beneficial effects. Let's find out what these are. 

1. Helps to Dry Out Acne 

Excessive sebum production and reduced drainage of it can cause breakouts on the skin.

Calamine lotion, when applied topically, can be used as a spot treatment for acne. Its drying effect keeps the skin oil in check.

Though it does not treat the underlying cause of acne, it helps to quicken the pace of its healing. It can effectively reduce inflammatory acne like pimples and pustules by drying them out.

If you have oily and acne-prone skin
, regular use can reduce the excess oil production in the skin and prevent further formation of acne.

Note: Overdrying acne can make acne worse by causing irritation. Thus, use the lotion in small amounts and follow it with a good moisturizer.

2. Helps in Treating Bug Bites

Insect bites can cause severe irritation and redness of the skin. It can cause a stinging and itching sensation or even cause swelling. The topical application of the calamine lotion on the bitten area can soothe the stinging sensation. Its antiseptic property will promote healing and reduce the swelling fast.  

3. Helps in relieving Symptoms of Chickenpox  

Calamine lotion is also known for treating chickenpox symptoms caused by Varicella zoster virus, predominantly in children. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had recommended using calamine lotion to soothe the itching caused due to chickenpox. It will prevent the oozing of blisters and dry them out faster.  

4. Reduces Severity of Shingles

Shingle is a viral infection in adults caused by reactivation of the Chickenpox virus, known as the varicella-zoster virus. It is more severe than chickenpox and can cause painful blisters and rashes. It is treated by the administration of drugs such as acyclovir and valacyclovir.

One of the most popular home remedies for the itching and blisters caused by shingles is applying calamine lotion. The Zinc oxide in the lotion, helps to soothe the itching. Its mild antiseptic action prevents the spread of the infection due to scratching of the affected area. The astringent property of the lotion reduces weeping and oozing of the blisters.

However, it should be kept in mind that calamine lotion only helps relieve the symptoms and does not have any antiviral action that can treat the root cause of the infection.  

5. Helps in Treating Sun Burns 

If you have sensitive skin susceptible to sun damage, calamine lotion can be of your help. Calamine lotion helps in soothing the burning sensations of photodamage on your skin.  

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6. Relieves Swimmer's Itch 

Swimming in parasite-infected water can cause a rash known as swimmer's itch. Colloidal oatmeal baths and corticosteroid creams are the known medicines that help to treat the rashes. Calamine lotion, too, can help in relieving the symptoms.  

7. Helps in Treating Scabies 

Scabies is a skin infestation caused by a mite called the Sarcoptes scabiei. If left untreated, these mites and their eggs can live in your skin and proliferate for months. The major symptoms of scabies infection are redness and intense itching of the skin and are commonly seen on the wrist, elbows, armpit, nipples, genitalia, and the areas between fingers.

Scabies infection appears as tiny bites, hives, or bumps on the skin. Though calamine does not eliminate the mites o 

8. Helps in Treating Mite Bites 

Mites like chiggers, is a parasitic insect that feeds on human skin. Their bite can cause severe skin irritation, welts and itching. Chigger bites can be tended by washing off the affected area with soap and water and then applying calamine lotion. The lotion will soothe itching and also reduce the swelling and bumps.  

9. Helps in Treating Minor Burns

When topically applied over minor burns, Calamine lotion can also help in soothing the burning sensation and also speed up healing by its astringent action. 

Is Calamine Lotion Safe to Use During Pregnancy? 

Calamine lotion has shown no deleterious effect on the mother's health or the baby when used during pregnancy. However, it's wise to consult your doctor before you use it.

Pregnant women often experience itching on the stomach, which is a very common pregnancy symptom. Calamine lotion is a safe and effective medicine that helps to soothe the itching.  

Is calamine lotion safe to be used on babies? 

Calamine lotion is usually considered safe on babies. It can help relieve diaper rashes and skin irritations that are common in babies. It can also help in soothing sunburns and other skin conditions like eczema. However, it’s best to consult your doctor before using it.

Just dab a little lotion on cotton or a Q-tip, and apply it in the affected area, and within a few days, it will show its effect.

Are there any potential side effects of calamine lotion?

Calamine lotion is neutral and does not cause any adverse reaction in most people. However, a few cases reported where individuals had shown allergic reactions to the minor ingredients of calamine lotion.  

If you happen to develop any hypersensitive reaction from calamine lotion, you may show symptoms like,

It is always recommended that you perform a patch test before you begin using calamine lotion.

Calamine is only meant for topical use. If accidentally swallowed in large quantities, it can be toxic. Because of the high concentration of zinc in it, swallowing calamine lotion can also result in "Zinc Oxide Poisoning," which can be fatal if not treated immediately. To avoid unfateful events, keep the calamine lotion bottle out of reach of children.  

How to use calamine lotion? 

Calamine lotion can be easily included in your daily skincare regime.

Here's how you can use it: 

  • Cleanse your skin with a mild cleanser and wash off. Pat the skin dry with a towel. 
  • Dab the lotion on your skin and rub it gently. A thin layer will be visible on the skin after it dries. 
  • If you want to use it as a topical treatment, dip a cotton ball or a Q-tip in the lotion, dab it on the affected area and let it dry. Continuous use will show the effect.
  • To remove the lotion from the skin, soak a clean cloth in lukewarm water and gently wipe the skin. The drying lotion will easily get removed.  

The ingredients of calamine lotion can sediment if left standing for a long time. Hence, it's recommended to shake the bottle before use.  

The Bottom Line: 

You can find calamine lotion in any medical or cosmetic store, or you can order it online.

It shows the anti-inflammatory and anti-itching effect and is considered at par with drugs like dexamethasone, hydrocortisone, and prednisolone, according to the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines.

It can help you treat pimple and insect bites, and other minor skin irritations. It is very safe to use externally and shows minimal adverse effects. However, if accidentally swallowed, it can cause some severe damage.