Calamine Lotion

Calamine lotion is a topical over-the-counter medication you can use for mild itchiness. This soothing pink lotion helps relieve itchiness, pain and discomfort caused by bug bites, chickenpox, poisonous plants and more. Most people don’t develop any side effects, but you should stop using calamine lotion if you develop any kind of skin irritation.

What is calamine lotion?

Calamine lotion is an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine you can use to treat mild itchiness (pruritus). The topical pink lotion can help relieve itchiness, pain and discomfort caused by conditions such as bug bites, chickenpox and poison ivy. You can also use this medication to dry out oozing skin irritations and protect your skin. You should only use calamine lotion on your skin (topically). The medicine can be dangerous if swallowed.


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What is calamine lotion used for?

The main benefit of calamine lotion is that it can relieve itchiness. Poisonous plants such as poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac can cause itching and skin irritation. Calamine lotion for poison ivy and other poisonous plants can help relieve the itch, along with any pain or discomfort. In addition, it can help dry up any oozing or weeping that can develop on your skin due to the irritation. Other calamine lotion uses include:

  • Bug bites: You can apply calamine lotion to insect bites and stings to help with mild reactions. Apply the lotion several times a day until your symptoms clear up or the bug bites are gone.
  • Chickenpox: You can use calamine lotion to help relieve the symptoms of this infectious condition. It can also prevent further skin infections.
  • Shingles: Along with antiviral medicines, you can use calamine lotion for shingles. Apply the lotion directly to your skin to get some relief from the symptoms of this condition.
  • Swimmer’s itch: You can use calamine lotion for rashes like swimmer’s itch. You can develop this skin condition if you swim in water containing certain parasites.
  • Heat rash: You can use calamine lotion for heat rash as well. A heat rash is an area of your skin that becomes irritated when sweat gets trapped in your pores and ducts beneath your skin.
  • Scabies: A small mite can cause a skin condition called scabies. To ease the itching from scabies, you can try applying calamine lotion. It can help relieve your symptoms but it won’t kill the mites.
  • Chigger bites: Chiggers are a type of mite that feeds on human skin. Their bites can cause skin irritation and itching. You can apply calamine lotion to help relieve the itching.
  • Acne: You may be able to use calamine lotion for acne. While it won’t treat your acne, it may help dry out a pimple if you use it as a spot treatment.
  • Hives: You can develop hives for many different reasons. Calamine lotion for hives can help relieve the itching caused by this skin condition.

How does calamine lotion work?

Calamine lotion contains the active ingredients zinc oxide and 0.5% iron oxide. The iron oxide gives calamine lotion its distinctive pink color. Inactive calamine lotion ingredients include:

  • Purified water.
  • Glycerin.
  • Calcium hydroxide.
  • Bentonite magma.

Calamine is an over-the-counter anti-itch medication. You should only use it on your skin (topically). Be sure to follow all of the directions found on the package. You can also follow the directions your healthcare provider gives you.

Before using calamine lotion, shake the bottle well. Pour some of the lotion onto a cotton ball, cotton swab or soft cloth. Then, dab the medication onto the affected area of your skin. Let the lotion dry on your skin. Repeat this process as often as necessary.

Don’t use calamine lotion on an open wound. Avoid getting calamine lotion anywhere near your eyes, nose, mouth or genital and anal areas. If you get the lotion in any of these areas, immediately flush it out with water. Call a poison control center if you swallow the medication.

Stop using the medication and call your healthcare provider if your skin condition:

  • Gets worse.
  • Hasn’t improved within a week.
  • Clears up but comes back after a few days.

You can use calamine lotion on children ages 2 and older, but be sure to supervise the use of the medication. You can apply calamine lotion on your child up to four times per day. Safely store the medicine away from children when not in use. Ask your child’s healthcare provider about using calamine lotion on a child younger than 2 years old.


What are the side effects of using calamine lotion?

Most people using calamine lotion don’t have any side effects. Stop taking the medication and call your healthcare provider if you develop any kind of skin irritation from using the medication.

A very serious allergic reaction to this medication is rare. Seek immediate medical attention if you develop any symptoms of an allergic reaction. These symptoms may include:

Do I need to worry about any interactions while using calamine lotion?

If you have any allergies, talk to your healthcare provider before using calamine lotion. The inactive ingredients in the medication can cause allergic reactions or other issues. Tell your provider if you’re using any other skin products before you use this medication.

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding (chestfeeding), talk to your healthcare provider before using calamine lotion. Researchers don’t yet know if you can pass this drug onto your baby through your placenta or breast milk (chest milk).

A note from Cleveland Clinic

You may remember slathering on calamine lotion if you had a bout with chickenpox as a kid. This soothing pink lotion can help relieve the itch for many different skin irritations. In addition, the medication can help dry up any weeping and oozing that occurs due to reactions from poisonous plants such as poison ivy. While calamine lotion doesn’t cure any conditions, it can help relieve any symptoms that develop because of them. Only use calamine lotion on your skin, and keep it out of the reach of children. If you or a child accidentally swallows calamine lotion, call a poison control center right away.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 06/24/2022.

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