Physical Health, Wellness / Self-Care

Can you use Calamine Lotion for Acne?

Could the drugstore find be a hit?

words by: Natasha Marsh
Oct 13, 2022

Ever since I was small, I’ve been extremely allergic to mosquitos. One time in South Africa, I got bit on my right eye and couldn’t open it for two days. In high school, I got a bite on my ankle at cheer camp and had to forfeit the entire weekend because I couldn’t walk. And who could forget the time I was bit on my scalp and was itching so bad I thought I had lice?


Like I said, I’m extremely allergic. Over the years, through trial and error, I’ve sorted out the best remedies for when I’m uncontrollably itching: Non-stop ingesting of Benadryl, cortisone cream during the day, calamine lotion to sleep, and wearing breathable clothes so the infected areas can stay airy and not experience further irritation due to friction.


The calamine lotion always helps soothe my itch and thoughts. It’s been a way to keep from spiraling, which is why when I heard about it trending for acne, I got curious.


Acne, which forms from the clogged pores and overproduction of oil, can wreak havoc on even the most confident people. When a zit turns up, you might run to find the newest products and treatment to get back to clear skin. Although there is a bit of method to this madness, calamine lotion — yes, the thick pink cream that helps soothe mosquito bites and poison ivy rashes — is now being looked at as an acne treatment. The formula, made from zinc oxide (the same ingredient in great sunscreen) and iron oxide (the ingredient used to stop itching) the cooling sensation once applied helps soothe irritated skin. But does it really work?


Here is the thing: Calamine lotion helps to dry out the whitehead or blackhead — a key pillar in stopping acne in its tracks. Thanks to the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties in the zinc oxide, it also helps clear up redness and the raised bump that acne often brings. If you do use calamine lotion, be sure to use it as a spot treatment, only applying the pink ointment to areas that are affected, as opposed to your whole face.


However, there is no way for it to help with hormonal acne — the combination of inflammation, clogged pores, and bacteria. Over-the-counter medications like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and retinoids work a lot better to treat acne.


Basically, yes calamine lotion works for acne and you can totally use it. However, it should not be your first, second, or third line of defense. There are other things on the market that are totally stronger and can help calm, treat, and diminish acne way better. But if you are in a bind and happen to have it in the house, by all means, use it.


Here’s how to identify what type of acne you have and (most importantly) how you can treat it.


Photo via Getty