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What is Calamine Lotion?

By Ken Black
Updated May 21, 2024
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Calamine lotion is a topic treatment that combines zinc oxide and iron(III) oxide to produce a lotion that is utilized to help mitigate irritants associated contact dermatitis. Calamine lotion often appears as pink in color and has a thick, creamy texture in many cases. It is sold primarily as a generic and is available over the counter in many countries, including the United States and Canada.

Calamine lotion is thought to be able to help soothe and protect the skin when it becomes irritated. If is often used in treating symptoms associated with poison ivy infection and chicken pox. In these cases, calamine lotion can provide much needed relief for those suffering these conditions. However, it should be noted that, as an antipuritic or anti-itch drug, it cannot treat the problem, only the symptoms.

Calamine lotion has a number of other uses as well. For those who suffer harsh reactions to insect bites, calamine lotion can be used to soothe those symptoms. Many have used it successfully to soothe sunburns. It is also a mild antiseptic that can be used to help ward off other types of infections.

Calamine lotion can also be used to treat acne, though it may not be as proficient in treating the problem as some of the other topical treatments available. However, using the lotion may provide some immediately benefits, such as lessening the irritation and making the blemishes blend in with the skin a little better. When using calamine lotion around the face, care should be taken to avoid the eyes and other mucous membranes. Calamine lotion has a tendency to dry out the skin and if it contacts these areas it can become an irritant itself.

Calamine lotion is usually applied on a daily basis, often twice or more daily as conditions warrant. In some cases, if the itching or irritation gets worse, it may be wise to consult a doctor before continuing to use the calamine lotion. However, it is rare to have any serious, negative side effects resulting from its use.

Many people may know calamine lotion best through the most popular brand being sold, Caladryl™. The packaging is distinctive with its pink lotion, bottle and other writing on the bottle. However, despite what may be thought, Caladryl™ is not just a calamine lotion; it includes both calamine and pramoxine HCI.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon349158 — On Sep 23, 2013

It is pink because of the iron oxide- but it isn't made to suit anybody. I am Indian and it is fine for me.

By anon345706 — On Aug 21, 2013

To those who think calamine lotion is some sort of a bias toward westerners, stop it. Why do you care so much about having it more suitable for your skin color? I am southeast Asian and I have a dark skin tone. I use it all the time and I don't think there has to be problem with that. There are also some calamine lotions which are available only in a white color. If that still bothers you, just use your fair and lovely. Get fairer and go on with pink calamine lotion.

By anon338419 — On Jun 13, 2013

Can calamine lotion help me to get rid of dark spots on my face?

By shell4life — On Nov 03, 2012

@DylanB – Calamine lotion works well on all sorts of stings and bites. I've even put it on wasp stings, which are the most intense kind.

I believe that it keeps the swelling from getting out of hand. It works to dry up the venom, or at least it seems to keep the area from enlarging as much as it would if left on its own. The itching doesn't usually start until the next day, so I continue using calamine lotion until the area looks and feels normal again.

Calamine lotion also works great on ant bites. These are some of the itchiest types of bites out there, so you know that if it works for this, it will work for anything.

By DylanB — On Nov 02, 2012

I just don't see how treating sunburn could be one of calamine lotion's uses. Sunburned skin is really dry to begin with, and calamine lotion would only dry it out further, right? I have to heavily moisturize my sunburned skin to get any relief.

To me, calamine lotion's best quality is how well it works on mosquito bites. It seems to suck out the venom and keep me from needing to scratch so much. Without it, I scratch the bites until they bleed!

How well does calamine lotion work for other insect bites or stings? I've only used it on mosquito bites.

By lighth0se33 — On Nov 01, 2012

I tried using calamine lotion on pimples before, but my skin was so sensitive that it only caused further irritation. It dried my skin out so much that it turned red and became really itchy. I would not recommend calamine lotion as an acne treatment.

By Perdido — On Oct 31, 2012

@anon141113 – Calamine lotion can be used for chicken pox. It helps dry up the blisters, and it keeps them from itching quite as badly.

I had chicken pox when I was nine, and it was a miserably itchy experience. I felt so much better after my mother put calamine lotion on my spots, though. Without it, the itching would have been unbearable.

By anon285725 — On Aug 17, 2012

Please, does anyone know how long does it take to heal from a skin rash if you're using calamine lotion? I've been using it for five days, and it's helpful but the results are slow. I'm depressed. My hands are burned I can't wear what I want.

By anon277304 — On Jun 29, 2012

@anon142787: Although it is unlikely that calamine lotion will be ingested, the lotion contains zinc oxide, which can cause an allergic reaction if swallowed. According to the National Institutes of Health, zinc oxide poisoning can occur if calamine lotion is eaten. Symptoms of zinc oxide poisoning include upset stomach, diarrhea, chills and fever, a yellowing of the eyes or skin, and irritation of the mouth and throat. If you swallow calamine lotion, drink lots of water or milk immediately, and do not induce vomiting.

By anon277301 — On Jun 29, 2012

The ferric oxide gives the calamine its faint pink color.

By anon271299 — On May 25, 2012

Um, I hate to break it to you, but I am white in skin color and calamine lotion definitely does not match my skin color, so I doubt there is a massive drug company conspiracy to make calamine lotion only attractive to western europeans. I think the pink color is just for looks to hide the natural coloring.

By anon185456 — On Jun 12, 2011

@anon41073. vinegar will get the pink stains out of your white towels.

By anon176027 — On May 14, 2011

Does calmine lotion contain chamomile?

By anon142787 — On Jan 14, 2011

I have mistakenly swallowed a desert spoon full of calamine lotion instead of kaoline. will there be any adverse side effects?

By anon141113 — On Jan 09, 2011

does calamine lotion helps chicken pox dissolve or to keep them less itchy?

By anon135566 — On Dec 19, 2010

Does anyone know that whether calamine lotion can be used on the head?

By anon122680 — On Oct 28, 2010

is calamine lotion a good acne treatment method?

By anon106831 — On Aug 27, 2010

Dear Hurt Indian / anon49940 and others: The pink color is because of the iron oxide (rust) and while it was designed to match the median skin color of expected customers, there's no reason that the amount of zinc oxide can't be reduced and iron oxide increased to match darker skin tones. The issue becomes one of store shelf space.

I would have to learn more about microeconomics to understand the detail, but there is certainly a market for darker calamine lotion in India and you should recommend such changes to your local calamine manufacturer.

By anon103455 — On Aug 12, 2010

Why are calamine and zinc oxide both are used in calamine lotion when they have same activity.(astringent, emollient etc.)?

By anon76799 — On Apr 12, 2010

Why is calamine lotion supplied as a suspension?

By kathygsy — On Apr 09, 2010

can calamine lotion be used on a newborn baby?

By anon71175 — On Mar 17, 2010

Calamine lotion is pink because the reaction between iron oxide and zinc oxide produces a pink color.

By princessfene — On Feb 09, 2010

Does anyone know what is the purpose of the pink color of the calamine lotion?

By anon62682 — On Jan 28, 2010

use clorox, that'll get it out quickly.

By anon49940 — On Oct 24, 2009

Iron oxide has a dirty color that may show out if applied on the skin, particularly on exposed areas. Pink color matches the skin color of the westerners (americans and europeans) and hides the original color of the lotion. That is why the western medical companies prefer to use such color. Also such an act would satisfy the sadist minds of the racist natured westerners and the marketing would be easier and profitable. - a hurt indian

By anon41073 — On Aug 12, 2009

Does anyone know how to get Calamine Lotion out of white towels?

By luna49 — On Jul 06, 2009

Does anyone know why calamine lotion is usually pink? Is it the iron oxide - or do manufacturers make it that way because that's what consumers are used to?

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