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The last time you thought about calamine lotion, you were most likely covered in itchy bug bites or a rash. The over-the-counter medication is most often used as a skin protectant to help relieve itching and discomfort caused by irritation, but according to TikTok, it has another use as — wait for it — a makeup primer for oily skin.
We've tested our fair share of products that promise to eliminate oil, but calamine lotion? While we're still wrapping our heads around that one, the hashtag #calamineprimer has over 4.3 million views, and thousands of users have been testing out the hack for themselves with mostly positive results.
In one viral video, a TikTok user says to the camera, "People are applying this before their foundation and essentially it's supposed to make your foundation last beautifully, and your makeup is supposed to last all day without getting oily." In another video, someone showcases how using calamine lotion as a primer kept her makeup in place all day, even through an 8-hour work shift.
TikTok is one of our favourite places to find beauty tips and tricks, but we found ourselves wondering: was using calamine lotion as primer effective? Was it even safe? We tapped Anthony Rossi Jr, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Rossi Dermalogica MD, to answer our burning questions.
What Causes Oily Skin?
"Oily skin happens when the sebaceous glands produce too much sebum," London-based consultant dermatologist Thieve Maruthappu previously told POPSUGAR. Other factors can have an impact on your skin's sebum production, like your age, where you live, and even just plain genetics. It can also be caused by using the wrong skin-care products for your skin type or over-exfoliating your skin. Although oily skin is completely normal, it can often be a nuisance that leads people to look for products that promise to reduce the amount of oil their skin produces.
Can Calamine Lotion Help With Oily Skin?
The short answer is yes, it can help — but it's not the best option available, and it might worsen some skin conditions. Calamine lotion is a topical over-the-counter medication that is typically used to soothe inflammation and discomfort caused by skin irritations. It's most often used for bug bites or stings, rashes caused by poison ivy or poison oak, chicken pox, and even shingles.
Some of the main ingredients in calamine lotion are zinc oxide, iron oxide, and bentonite magma, which help dry out oozing skin irritants. "The oxides and the bentonite will act as an absorbent base and that is why people are using it as a primer," Dr. Rossi tells POPSUGAR. The same ingredients that help dry out oozing bug bites are what draw out oils from the skin and leave a smooth, oil-free base for makeup, but it's not a long-term solution for oily skin.
Potential Risks of Using Calamine Lotion as a Makeup Primer
While plenty of TikTok users have showcased how using calamine lotion as a makeup primer has worked for them, there are just as many videos of doctors and dermatologists warning against it. According to Dr. Rossi, while it may be tempting to use calamine lotion as a primer, it's not ideal: "There are no skin humectants or moisturisers formulated in it, so it wouldn't hydrate the skin — it would only dry it out."
Dr. Rossi adds the product could exacerbate certain skin conditions like eczema, and that some formulations of calamine lotion may contain alcohol which could potentially dry the skin out even further. Plus, most bottles of calamine lotion include warnings not to use the product for a period longer than seven days, which means that even if you did want to test this product out as a primer, it wouldn't be a long-term solution for oily skin.
The Best Way to Prep Oily Skin For Makeup
While calamine lotion might work as a primer in the short term, it's not a risk-free answer. Rather than heading out to your local drugstore and stocking up on the product, there are other options you can try to help tackle your oily skin. Start out by introducing a face wash formulated for oily skin into your routine, like the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Face Wash for Oily Skin ($16). It could also help to use a moisturiser like the La Roche-Posay Toleriane Double Repair Matte Face Moisturiser for Oily Skin ($20) or the Kate Somerville Oil Free Moisturiser ($76).
There are also plenty of mattifying makeup primers on the market that are formulated specifically for oily skin, like the Jori Acne and Oil Control Primer ($70) or the Smashbox Photo Finish Control Mattifying Primer ($42).