What is calamine lotion?

Calamine is actually the historic name for zinc ore (deposits). Calamine lotion has a wide variety of uses for treating a number of skin infections and improving skin health. The use of calamine lotion dates back to 1500 BC. Calamine is mainly composed of zinc oxide and iron oxide. Iron oxides are amongst the popular components that are used in many cosmetic products.

Additional compounds like phenol and calcium hydroxide are often added to calamine lotion to give it a glycerine-like consistency. The healing effect of the calamine lotion is believed to be contributed by zinc oxide. The name calamine has been derived from the Latin words ‘lapis calaminaris’, which is the old name for zinc ores in general.

Calamine lotions have been primarily used as anti-itch lotions and are meant to be applied on the skin directly. Besides, calamine lotion has also been known to provide relief from sunburns, insect bites, and pain caused by poison ivy oak etc. The many benefits and components of the calamine lotion have been discussed in detail in the article.

  1. Did you know
  2. Calamine lotion benefits
  3. Calamine lotion price and dosage
  4. Calamine lotion face mask
  5. Side effects of calamine lotion

The main components of calamine lotion, i.e., zinc oxide and iron oxide are known to have several skin benefits. These have been discussed below.

Zinc oxide

Zinc acts a natural astringent and reduces the oil and sebum production from the oil (sebaceous) glands by shrinking the skin pores. This helps in keeping the skin tightened. It is also effective in reducing inflammation, skin irritation, and itchiness caused by skin conditions as acne. It also saves the skin from the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays and is thus, used in many sunscreens. It promotes wound healing as well.

Iron oxide or ferric oxide: It is used to improve the general skin tone. It is non-toxic and moisture resistant in nature. These properties make it a popular component of several cosmetic products. It is particularly used in mineral makeup as a primary colouring agent. The use of iron oxide is generally considered safe.

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The uses of calamine lotion and its benefits for the skin are profound. Let’s look at some of the most important benefits and the process of using calamine lotion.

Calamine lotion for acne

The zinc oxide component of calamine lotion is known to possess anti-bacterial properties. This is effective in the treatment of acne. Also, the anti-inflammatory nature of zinc oxide can help in reducing the skin protrusions in acne. The iron oxide of calamine lotion is known to assist in the removal of scars in acne.

To use calamine lotion for acne treatment, pour two to three drops of the lotion on a cotton swab and apply over the infected areas. Leave it to dry for up to three hours and then rinse with warm water.

Calamine lotion for dry itchy skin

Calamine lotion is also very effective in restoring the moisture of the dry skin. Symptoms such as itching and inflammation are primarily observed in dry skin conditions. Calamine lotion is very helpful in relieving the symptoms of contact dermatitis like itching and inflammation. The zinc oxide component is believed to provide a soothing feeling and also helps in reducing inflammation. Studies are, however, required to establish the mechanism of the action of zinc oxide.

Calamine lotion for eczema and psoriasis

The use of calamine lotion for treatment of eczema and psoriasis is also well-known. Zinc oxides have antiseptic properties and help in preventing further infections. The iron oxide component, on the other hand, is known to improve skin tone.

Dermatologists often recommend the application of calamine lotion over the infected areas in case of such infections. The lotion should, however, be applied with a clean cotton swab and not directly by hand as our fingertips are known to carry bacteria that can make the infection worse. 

Calamine lotion for insect bites

Insect bites often cause and pain and inflammation of the skin. These bites often cause much irritation, especially in the case of children. Calamine lotion has a cooling effect on the skin and this help in reducing the inflammation caused by insect bites. To achieve the effect, the lotion should be applied upon the affected area with a slight massage for best results.

Calamine lotion for shingles and scabies

Shingles is a type of viral infection that is often accompanied by a painful rash on the skin. The rash is also very itchy in nature. Scabies is an infestation on the skin caused by mites and leads to an extremely itchy rash. Calamine lotion when applied upon the rashes caused in such conditions provides a feeling of relief and also helps in reducing the rash.

Also, the antiseptic nature of calamine lotion does not allow the growth of any further bacteria that could aggravate the rash conditions. Applying the lotion to the infected areas, especially after a shower can help reduce the rash to a great extent.

Calamine lotion for wound treatment

Calamine is also very effective when applied to wounded areas on the skin. This property of the calamine lotion can be attributed to the zinc oxide component. The mineral zinc is essential for treating wounds and it also helps in the regeneration of the skin around the wounded area. The lotion also inhibits the growth of microbes, thus, preventing any further infection and accelerating the process of wound healing at the same time.

Calamine lotion for diaper and poison ivy rash

Diapers are known to cause rashes in babies due to continuous exposure to moisture. Also, bacteria tend to grow upon the skin under such moist conditions. Calamine lotion can help to keep the skin moisture free and prevent the rash from recurring. It also soothes skin irritation and is thus, a wonderful remedy to treat diaper rash.

Poison ivy rash is caused due to an allergic reaction of the skin to a resin present in the plant called poison ivy. The rash is extremely itchy, irritating, and painful. Calamine lotion can be used to treat this rash.

To achieve the best result in case of rash, it is better to wash the infected area with a disinfecting soap, clean the area and apply the lotion while the skin is slightly damp.

There are a wide variety of brands that market calamine lotion as such or in combination with other components. The price of calamine lotion typically ranges from INR 75/- to INR 200/-. It is usually ideal to pour two to three drops of calamine lotion and apply it to the infected area. The dose and the manner of application may vary for varied skin conditions and babies. It is, therefore, best to consult a doctor prior to use of calamine lotion for medicinal purposes.

A face mask can be prepared using calamine lotion and other ingredients either to treat conditions such as acne and maintain hydration of the skin. The calamine lotion face mask will require the following

How to make calamine lotion face mask

  • Take a teaspoon of the sandalwood powder and add a pinch of turmeric in it. Mix the two roughly.
  • Add a tablespoon of calamine lotion to the above mixture.
  • Then add a teaspoon of rosewater to make a paste.
  • Add 6 to 7 drops of lemon juice to it and mix the ingredients well to make a smooth paste.

How to apply calamine face mask

  • Cleanse your face properly and pat dry.
  • Apply the face pack and let it sit for about 20 minutes.
  • Wash off the mask after 20 minutes with lukewarm to normal water.
  • Remember to moisturize your skin shortly afterwards.

This face mask can be used two to three times a week or whenever required. It is essential to a patch test on a small area of skin to check for any allergic reactions.

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There are a great many uses of the calamine lotion for its numerous benefits. However, there may be certain side effects associated with its use which have bee listed below.

  • The lotion is meant for external use only. If this product gets into eyes it may cause redness and irritation. Was off with water in such a case and consult your doctor at the earliest.
  • Certain people might experience some kind of allergic reaction upon the use of calamine lotion. If you notice irritation when you apply calamine lotion, discontinue its use and contact your doctor for an alternative medication.
  • Severe side effects are rare but may include hives, difficulty breathing and swelling of the tongue, throat or face. If any of these side effects occur, contact your doctor immediately.

Medicines / Products that contain Calamine


  1. Gupta M et al. Zinc therapy in dermatology: a review. Dermatol Res Pract. 2014;2014:709152. PMID: 25120566
  2. Bibi Nitzan Y, Cohen AD. et al. Zinc in skin pathology and care. J Dermatolog Treat. 2006;17(4):205-10. PMID: 16971312
  3. Mak MF, Li W, Mahadev A. Calamine lotion to reduce skin irritation in children with cast immobilisation. J Orthop Surg (Hong Kong). 2013 Aug;21(2):221-5. PMID: 24014789
  4. Marc Tebruegge, Minju Kuruvilla, Isabel Margarson. Does the use of calamine or antihistamine provide symptomatic relief from pruritus in children with varicella zoster infection? Arch Dis Child. 2006 Dec; 91(12): 1035–1036. PMID: 17119083
  5. Mrinal Gupta, Vikram K. Mahajan, Karaninder S. Mehta, Pushpinder S. Chauhan. Zinc Therapy in Dermatology: A Review . Dermatol Res Pract. 2014; 2014: 709152. PMID: 25120566
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