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Calamine Lotion: Too Good to be True?
By: Sunnie Gao
Recently, women all around the world have started applying calamine lotion on their faces as a primer before applying makeup. They hail it as a “beauty hack,” claiming it helps dry out oily skin, repair acne scars, and keep their makeup on for hours on end.
The product is commonly used to soothe rashes and other skin conditions that cause itching, such as chickenpox, but people have started using it as a primer.
“I cannot see my pores anywhere,” one TikToker said in approval, claiming the product made her skin appear “super matte.” Other Tiktokers have also claimed that it helps their makeup stay put in the summer sun and throughout 12-hour workdays. Some say they are “obsessed” with the discovery, but it may not be as good as it seems.
Many dermatologists and makeup experts are warning that those jumping on the trend could risk worsening skin conditions and long-term damage. One of the dermatologists warning against using calamine is Azadeh Shirazi, a dermatologist practicing in the San Diego area. She urges others to learn more about the ingredients before using calamine as a primer, saying that overuse may lead to “severe irritation and worsening of scars.”
While some experts say the lotion can be used to shrink acne lesions and marks left on the skin, especially if using it as a targeted treatment. The American Academy of Dermatology warns that the astringent calamine can worsen skin irritations if used daily.
The product, Shirazi says, causes the skin surface to dry up and harden, protecting it while it repairs. “Ferric oxide helps with itching, and the phenol is also a powerful exfoliant,” she said. “Combining phenol with an astringent as in calamine lotion can be very drying and irritating, leading to a damaged skin barrier. It can worsen skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, and dermatitis.”
One of the main reasons why calamine surged to popularity is because of its low cost. One makeup enthusiast told her followers on TikTok she had tried an array of expensive products, but that calamine lotion had worked best for her.
“I tend to spend a lot of money on primers. I’ve tried all kinds of primers,” she told viewers, holding up primers ranging from $20 to $64.
“I was so surprised at how good my makeup looked,” she said, holding up a bottle of calamine that costs $4.50 from Walgreens.
This is causing trouble in other parts of the world. In the United Kingdom,
Some parents have reported in recent months that they struggled to buy the lotion to treat children suffering from chickenpox. It is also affecting the United States. One user wrote on TikTok, “I have to use this when my lupus flares up. Now, it’s sold out in Walmart.”