Calamine Lotion as Makeup Primer: Does the Viral Trend Really Work? 

Jake Newby

| 3 min read

Calamine lotion is being hailed as a “makeup hack” on TikTok.
Users on the wildly popular social media platform – some with rather large followings – claim the anti-itch topical lotion works wonders as makeup primer for people with oily skin. They say it creates a barrier between the oil and the foundation they apply so makeup stays intact for more than 10 hours straight. It even resists hot, muggy weather, according to some users.
“I have just blotted today after over 12 hours of wear,” one TikToker said. “I put (calamine lotion) on at 5:30 in the morning, it’s almost 7 p.m. … I was out in the sun all day, it was humid, it was hot, I was sweating, I had my sunglasses on all day, can you tell? I don’t think you can tell.”
Other truthers on TikTok say it clears up rashes, smoothens skin and covers up pores and acne scars.
The hashtag “#calamineprimer” has 3.6 million views on TikTok. One of the allures of calamine lotion as an alternative is price. A bottle of calamine lotion usually costs less than $10 as an over-the-counter product at drug stores. Meanwhile, most industry-leading makeup primers cost between $30 and $50.
Calamine lotion’s intended use is as a topical analgesic and skin protectant. It relieves itchy skin and softens the painful, irritating effects and inflammation caused by poison ivy, insect bites and sunburns.

Fact or fiction: Does calamine lotion work as a makeup primer?

Calamine lotion as a beauty hack is mostly a myth. TikTok users seeing short-term results may suffer from the long-term damaging effects of the substance if they continue to use it regularly.
Dermatologists have taken to TikTok to debunk the viral use of calamine lotion as makeup primer. New York-based dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe addressed the trend in a July 2022 video, saying the zinc oxide ingredient in calamine lotion has an “astringent-like effect” on the skin, pulling moisture out of the skin and almost contracting it to make pores appear temporarily smaller. Zinc oxide is known for its ability to heal wounds.
“Over time it can damage your skin barrier,” Bowe said. “So, I wouldn’t recommend this if you’re someone with sensitive skin and eczema. If you’re worried about your barrier, this is not a long-term, daily solution.”
In an interview with “Good Morning America,” Bowe told hosts that a damaged skin barrier “can show up as blotchy skin, breakouts, it can even accelerate the aging process.” She said people lose elasticity in the skin by using calamine lotion this way.
Dr. Azadeh Shirazi, another dermatologist warned against potential side effects in her May 2022 TikTok, in which she stated that phenol combined with the zinc oxide, ferric oxide and calcium hydroxide in calamine lotion can lead to:
  • Irritation
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • The worsening of scars
In short, it’s probably wise to scroll past the viral calamine lotion videos the next time you’re browsing TIkTok. Instead, give these skincare tips a read:
Photo credit: Getty Images

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