Calamine Lotion for Psoriasis: Can It Help With Itch and Irritation? | MyPsoriasisTeam

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Calamine Lotion for Psoriasis: Can It Help With Itch and Irritation?

Medically reviewed by Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD
Written by Joan Grossman
Posted on March 12, 2024

Calamine lotion is a popular anti-itch topical medication that is sold over the counter (OTC) and known for its pink color. It’s typically used to help relieve itchy skin and pain from insect bites, poison sumac, poison ivy, and poison oak. It can also be used to soothe skin conditions such as shingles, chicken pox, heat rash, or hives.

But does it help relieve the itch and irritation of psoriasis?

MyPsoriasisTeam members frequently discuss their efforts to find relief from the itching and discomfort that often come with psoriasis. Some have shared their experiences with calamine lotion. “My psoriasis has spread over different parts of my body but the worst is on my legs,” one member wrote. “They seem to be drying up. I’m using calamine lotion as well as ammonium lactate lotion. It’s taking forever. I feel like I’ll never get rid of this.”

If you’re curious about whether you should try calamine lotion for your psoriasis, here’s some information you can discuss further with your doctor.

How Calamine Lotion Works

Calamine lotion has two active ingredients — zinc oxide and iron oxide. The term “calamine” refers to a mineral name for iron ore. Iron oxide is essentially rust, which is what gives calamine lotion its pink color.

Zinc is a mineral that has been used in topical skin treatments for centuries. It’s an essential nutrient that has been linked to immune function, wound healing, cell health, and control of inflammation. Used topically (on skin), zinc has been found to have antioxidant properties, which protect cells from damage. It can also block harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, making it an effective ingredient in mineral sunscreen.

Topical formulations of zinc have been used to treat many skin disorders, including dandruff, warts, acne, rosacea, and basal cell skin cancer. Zinc has also been shown to be effective in relieving symptoms in some types of eczema.

Although research is limited on the use of topical zinc medications for psoriasis, one small dermatology study showed that topical zinc pyrithione (a substance derived from zinc) was significantly effective in reducing psoriasis symptoms.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends OTC anti-itch topical products with calamine — among other ingredients such as camphor, menthol, and hydrocortisone cream — to help with itch relief in psoriasis. However, the AAD emphasizes that the best way to relieve psoriasis symptoms is to treat the disease itself by controlling it with an individualized treatment plan that considers unique aspects of your psoriasis.

Treatment plans may include a combination of prescription and OTC topical therapies, light therapy, and systemic medications — drugs that treat the body as a whole — that may be taken orally or by injection.

Some MyPsoriasisTeam members have had positive experiences using calamine lotion to control some symptoms. One member wrote, “Good old calamine lotion. … Bliss!”

Another member described using a combination of topicals, including calamine, for their psoriasis. “I have been using aqueous and calamine cream on my feet,” they said. “Have had improvement in the last week or so.”

Risks Associated With Calamine Lotion

Although calamine lotion is generally safe for most people, like any medication, there is a risk of side effects. Talk to your doctor if you have a bad reaction to calamine lotion, or if your symptoms worsen after using it.

‘This morning, I was so itchy, and my boyfriend wanted to help so he put calamine lotion on one spot … ouch. The burning that was associated with that was awful!!! Do not try that!!!” a MyPsoriasisTeam member said.

Rare, but serious, allergic reactions can also occur with calamine lotion. Signs of an allergic reaction should be reported immediately to your doctor and may include:

  • An unusual rash
  • Hives or swelling in the face, tongue, mouth, or throat
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing, or tightness in the chest or throat
  • Wheezing or hoarseness
  • Fever

If you have allergies, be sure to ask your doctor for medical advice before using calamine lotion. Aside from the active ingredients in calamine lotion, other ingredients such as glycerin, calcium hydroxide, and bentonite magma may cause an allergic reaction in some people.

Also, be sure to ask your doctor about using calamine lotion if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Research has not yet determined whether or not ingredients in calamine lotion can be passed onto unborn babies or infants.

How To Use Calamine Lotion

Calamine lotion should be used properly to avoid bad reactions. It should only be used externally and should never be swallowed or used on mucous membranes, such as inside the mouth or nose or around the genitals. If you are having a bad flare-up, you may want to talk to your doctor before using calamine lotion on very sensitive skin.

For proper use of calamine lotion, take these steps:

  1. Shake the bottle well to thoroughly mix the lotion before using.
  2. Moisten a cotton ball or soft piece of clean gauze with lotion.
  3. Gently pat the lotion on affected areas.
  4. Let the lotion dry before covering skin with clothing or a wrap.

Calamine ointment can be applied gently to the skin without using cotton or gauze.

Your doctor or dermatologist can advise you on how best to use calamine products, particularly if you are using other topical treatments, such as a topical steroid (corticosteroid). It’s important to avoid any interactions that might decrease the effectiveness of topical therapies that are part of your treatment plan.

Both calamine lotion and calamine ointment can be stored in a dry place at room temperature, away from a heat source. The medicine should not be frozen.

Consider Testing Calamine First

When trying a new OTC skin care product, it can be helpful to test a small amount before using it more generally. You can test calamine lotion by applying it to a quarter-sized area of affected skin to see if you have a reaction. It’s best to leave it on as you would ordinarily and continue to test the same spot over the course of about a week.

If you have a bad reaction, wash the calamine lotion or ointment off immediately. A cool compress and some petroleum jelly may help relieve any skin irritation from the calamine.

If you have questions about testing calamine lotion, be sure to talk to your doctor before trying it.

Calamine as Part of a Skin Care Routine

You may want to incorporate calamine lotion into your skin care routine. If so, be sure to maintain your other skin care habits with regular moisturizing and using any topicals your dermatologist recommends.

A MyPsoriasisTeam member described how they incorporate calamine lotion into their skin care regimen based on using wet wraps for dryness, itch, and pain: “You will find the coolness of the wrap will help with pain and itching. The first time this was done to me, I almost sobbed out loud in relief from the itching and burning. I keep my calamine in the fridge.”

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MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis as well as their loved ones. More than 126,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their experiences with others who understand life with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis.

Have you tried calamine lotion for your psoriasis symptoms? How well did it work? Share your experiences and tips in the comments below or by posting on your Activities page.

Posted on March 12, 2024
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Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD received her Doctor of Pharmacy from Pacific University School of Pharmacy in Portland, Oregon, and went on to complete a one-year postgraduate residency at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Florida. Learn more about her here.
Joan Grossman is a freelance writer, filmmaker, and consultant based in Brooklyn, NY. Learn more about her here.

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