Why TikTok's Viral Calamine Lotion Hack Isn't a Great Alternative for Primer

Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe warned against trying the buzzy calamine lotion trend, telling E! News, "It can lead to serious skin issues."

By Alyssa Morin Jul 28, 2022 11:55 PMTags
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TikTok's latest makeup craze has beauty experts concerned.

Sure, most of the trends on the app are quite harmless, like using a brow tint as a lip liner or placing white dots under your eyes to "hypnotize" men. However, the new hack makes the others seem like child's play.

TikTokers have been using calamine lotion as a replacement for mattifying primers, with some beauty devotees wearing it for as long as eight hours.

According to WebMD, the purpose of the over-the-counter medication is to help relieve pain, itching and discomfort from skin irritations caused by poison ivy, chickenpox and more.

The hashtag #calaminelotions has racked up more than 20 million views and doesn't show any signs of slowing down. 

But before you decided to tap into this trend, board-certified dermatologist and brand founder Dr. Whitney Bowe told E! News why the viral calamine lotion can do more harm than good.

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"Calamine lotion is an astringent, meaning it dries out the skin," she noted. "That's a good thing, especially in the short term."

Bowe explained that if you need to treat a skin condition, like a bug bite, you'd want to dry out the skin and take away the itch with the medication. 

"However, if you use it daily," she warned, "it can lead to serious skin issues, because it can disrupt the skin barrier."

The dermatologist added, "Our skin barrier is a smart, protective shield made up of living and non-living cells. Its main function is to serve as an interface with the outside world. When our skin barrier is healthy, it acts like a biodynamic membrane, constantly making decisions about what is allowed to enter the skin and what is blocked."

Bowe said that when your "skin barrier is compromised, the skin is no longer able to trap moisture as effectively," which in turn, leaves it dehydrated and less capable of protecting against other irritants.


According to the dermatologist, a damaged skin barrier can result in dry patches, blotchy skin, sensitive skin, breakouts or accelerated aging.

"Now it might not happen right away with calamine lotion," she said, "but if you use it more than a few times a week, it will ultimately damage the skin barrier."

People with sensitive skin, eczema and rosacea, she said, are "especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of calamine lotion."

A safer alternative for better skin, according to Bowe, is to incorporate exfoliating serums and retinoids into your regimen to "even out skin texture and minimize the appearance of pores."

She doesn't recommend using them every single day, but "if you cycle through your evening skincare routine, what I call Skin Cycling, you can actually get more out of your skincare products and see real changes in your skin."

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