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Doctors Warn the Countless TikTokers Using Calamine Lotion as Makeup Primer

Updated: Aug 2, 2022

By: Benjamin He

Most trends that pop up on TikTok— one of the largest social media networks— are overall pretty harmless. There isn’t anything harmful physically if there’s some colorful clothing combination or some dance to a funky song. However, the new trend of using calamine lotion as a makeup primer seems to disagree.

All around the world, women are starting to put calamine lotion on their faces before applying makeup, an apparent “beauty hack” that’s currently viral on TikTok. Supposedly, this helps to repair acne scars, dry oily skin, and make makeup stick to your face for hours.

Some used makeup brushes and sponges to dab the lotion on their faces, while others just poured the lotion on their faces and spread it with their bare hands. One TikToker commented: “I cannot see my pores anywhere.”

People say that they are “obsessed” with the discovery and #calamineprimer has 3.5 million views already. Despite all of this, however, dermatologists and makeup experts have issued warnings that this trend may worsen skin quality.

“It just doesn’t make sense to use calamine lotion and risk drying out the skin and damaging the skin barrier,” Azadeh Shirazi, a dermatologist practicing in the San Diego area.

Shirazi, whose TikTok name is “skinbydrazi,” uses her account to debunk beauty myths and trends. She claims that other users have also asked her for medical advice. She has warned people to reconsider using the lotion as a primer because it could result in “severe irritation and worsening of scars.”

“Calamine lotion is made up of zinc oxide, ferric oxide, and phenol. Zinc oxide is an astringent that can help absorb excess oil and have a mattifying effect,” Shirazi said. Typically, the lotion is for treating oozing wounds from chickenpox or monkeypox. The lotion is also used to soothe insect bites, pimples, rashes, and poison ivy.

The product is supposed to be used in such circumstances, causing the skin to dry up and harden so that it forms sort of a shield around the spot while it repairs itself. Using it as a makeup primer, however, is another subject. Makeup primers are specialized products that not only prepare and smooth skin for makeup but also lock it in place as well.

The worsening skin conditions aren’t the only problem, however. People see calamine lotion as the less expensive version of professional makeup primer products, so they’re being snatched up all over the place. That is starting to make it harder to find as well. In the United Kingdom, many parents are claiming that it’s getting harder to find calamine lotion to treat their children’s chickenpox.

It’s not just the UK though. A TikTok user wrote that “I have to use this when my lupus flares up, now it’s sold out in Walmart.” A lot of people are still using the lotion as primer despite the numerous warnings about it. One of the main reasons is, again, that people see it as a cheaper alternative to makeup primer. One Tiktoker had said that she had tried an array of different products but that calamine lotion had worked best for her.

She said that she tended to use a lot of money on primers and that she's tried all kinds of them. She compared the primers costing from $20 - $64 to a $4.50 calamine lotion she picked up at Walgreens. After using it, she commented, “I was so surprised at how good my makeup looked.”

Link: TikTok trend of calamine lotion as makeup primer draws dermatologist concern - The Washington Post.pdf

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