Calamine – sheesh another skincare ingredient that has you wondering whether it had famous A-star parents deciding to name it Apple or North. Gwyneth.P did you have anything to do with this?
Calamine has a fancy sound to it.
In fact it almost sounds pretty calming ‘eh… a clue maybe?
If you have sensitive skin calamine is an ingredient to know. If you often have irritated skin, suffer from eczema or have a beautiful scent mosquitos seem magnetised by – calamine is an ingredient to know. If you’ve ever had sunburn, suffered an itchy rash or have a sore that needs to heal – calamine is an ingredient to know.
The conclusion – calamine is an ingredient to know and right here I’m going to be revealing exactly what this skincare ingredient is (I promise it’s really super simple) and exactly why and when you’ll be wanting to seek it out.
Calamine – this is your life…
Why You’d Want to Use Calamine?
The Itch-scratch cycle is an interesting thing. Ever been trapped in one? It can feel a bit like a set of revolving circular glass doors with only a seconds stop to exit.
You feel an itch, you scratch it… ahhh sweet relief enjoyed for a very grand second. And then, out of nowhere, surprise itch party. It’s back, you scratch some more, it itches again, you scratch even more and before you know it your feeling like that weird itchy, scratchy person only the bravest of people sit near.
The more you scratch an itch – the more itchy it becomes. That’s science proven and ‘eh, I’m willing to bet a pretty penny you also knew that from personal experience.
If you’re living this itch, scratch cycle with me – calamine is a great skincare saviour willing and ready to join your armoury.
But ‘eh, that’s not all calamine’s good at – willing to bet this skincare ingredient’s a lady?
Calamine’s also perfect for skin in need of healing.
What does that look like?
Ever experienced a dose of spots, acne or pimples.
Ever contracted lobster shade sunburn?
Perhaps you’ve had an allergic reaction, a bug bite or a sharp sting from a nettle?
Cue superhero music… Calamine to the rescue.
What Is Calamine?
Calamine’s like a superfruit smoothie made from bananas and blueberries. On one hand you could call it a banana and blueberry smoothie… where’s the fun in that ‘eh? Especially when you have another hand that’s far more jazzy, a hand that’s joyfully christened your creation a superfruit smoothie.
Banana and blueberry or superfruit smoothie? Hmmm… your choice dear friend! Does your jazzy hand win?
This describes exactly what calamine is because calamine is a skin loving duo of 2 ingredients;
- Zinc oxide.
- Ferric (aka iron) oxide.
Do not worry if those mean nothing to you right at this minute – by the end of this post, I promise you’ll be a calamine, zinc oxide, ferric oxide skincare talking pro.
— Cheryl Woodman (@HonestyForSkin) 11 January 2017
Can Calamine Help Your Skin?
The magic of skincare’s all about the ingredients. Your skin can’t eat with its eyes, can’t smell with its nose and can’t taste with its tongue. This makes your job as a skin chef extra simple. You have just one priority – ingredients.
What ingredients are you feeding your skin and are they going to do what you’re wanting your skincare to do?
It’s time to find out. Calamine – are you a true skin hero?
The magic of calamine skincare lies with one Ingredient – zinc oxide. Why’s the other one there? We’ll get to that bit later.
First up – does zinc oxide sound familiar to you? If you feel like you’ve heard of this skincare ingredient before, it’s likely because of it’s ability to stop your skin from sun damage. Yes dear friend – zinc oxide is a sunblock. In fact it’s the main ingredient in all naturally based sunblock’s.
Zinc oxide is definitely a women because as well as being incredible at protecting your skin from UV rays it can also act as;
- An anti-bacterial.
- A skin protectant.
- A mild astringent aka it can dry skin and coagulate tissues (that thing that happens when a nose bleed is cauterised at the hospital), great for wet forms of eczema.
- An anti-pruritic aka it relieves skin itching.
- An anti-inflammatory.
In human speak that means it can;
- Help your wounds, blisters, spots and acne to heal.
- Prevent infection.
- Relieve itchy skin whether that’s from a rash, a stinging nettle or a bug bite.
- Rewind skin that’s red and inflamed.
- Help treat and calm reactions to skincare or even sunburn.
Whenever your skin’s calling out for attention above and beyond the usual. Calamine could be exactly what you’re looking for.
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Calamine: What Does the Science Say?
Calamine’s no ordinary skincare ingredient. When you delve into the CV of this mysterious one you discover…
Date of Birth: 1500 BC.
Parents: The Egyptians.
Achievements worthy of note: Listed on the WHO’s list of essential medicines aka a list of basic and important medicines everyone should have access to.
Calamine is a skincare saviour that was being used even before we understood why it worked.
Why exactly does it work? Let’s take a look at a few of zinc oxide’s benefits in action.
Zinc Oxide as a Skin Protectant.
Imagine a swordsman was running towards you at lightening speed. You’d want your chain mail on right? When attackers are around, protection is needed.
Day to day your skin acts exactly like this chain mail. Calm, un-assuming and naturally defensive. Most of the time it puts in an A* performance, sometimes it needs extra guidance to get there.
This is when a skin protectant comes to your rescue.
Skin protectants like zinc oxide form a second skin barrier. A barrier that protects you against irritants (aka itchiness) and bacteria’s while allowing your skin a quiet moment to heal.
This is exactly the ingredient used in most diaper rash creams. They allow skin to heal while also protecting against damage, irritation or inflammation.
Zinc Oxide as an Anti-bacterial.
Bacteria have their hand in a fair few skin conditions. There’s the P.acnes bacteria linked to acne. Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria linked to athletes foot…. and the common I have a cut or graze that’s open to Mr.whoever walking in the door.
Protecting skin against bacteria helps your skin to heal, relieves skin stress and stops lots of skin processes being kicked off that end up in red, sensitive, itchy and inflamed skin.
Zinc oxide works as a bacterioside. That means it does 2 things;
- It stops new bacteria from being born.
- It kills existing bacteria.
Double-Whammy. How does it do this? The life of a bacteria can be described like that of a water filled balloon bomb. When the balloon is in tact, the bacteria’s happy, when the balloon goes pop – it’s game over bacteria.
Zinc oxide causes game over bacteria, balloon popping.
Technically zinc oxide causes impairment of the bacteria cell membrane resulting in cytoplasm leakage and cell death. Why go there when you can say all that with a balloon popping analogy ‘eh?
Zinc Oxide as an Anti-Inflammatory.
When you’re skin is sensitive, allergy prone, sunburnt, post-pimple pop or any of the other skin conditions we’ve talked about above – it’s almost definitely red and inflamed.
If you’re suffering from a skin condition like eczema, acne or rosacea, you have a skin condition characterised by inflammation.
If you just bumped into a stinging nettle or offered a mosquito dinner, you’re about to experience inflammation.
When your skin’s in any one of the above situations, it releases a shot of histamine. Heard of anti-histamine? Yeh, you got it. Once the hormone histamine is realised, your body experiences all kinds of inflammation and itchiness.
Zinc oxide puts a pause on these biological reactions. It can help defend against them and it can also help reverse them.
Calamine: Why The Ferric Oxide?
Ingredient number 2, let’s give it some face time. Why is ferric oxide found in calamine? What does it have to offer your skin?
When you see a traditional calamine skincare product, you’ll be seeing a very traditional baby pink shade.
Who’s responsible? That’ll be Ferric or Iron Oxide.
Ferric oxide is dark red. Ever seen rust? Yup, that’s the colour.
A calamine mixture has a pinch of this iron oxide – 0.5% to be exact. That takes rust red all the way down to baby pink.
Ever used a zinc oxide based sunblock that leaves your skin a ghostly white shade?
Well a good pinch of iron oxide prevents calamine lotions from the very same side effect. Simples ‘eh.
Calamine Skincare – Take Your Pick
Need you some calamine skincare on hand dear friend? If so, I have you sorted. From traditional to even more traditional, here are 3 calamine based skincare picks that have your calamine needs sorted.
- Calamine lotion – Care Aqueous Calamine Cream – 100g/£3.
- Calamine powder – can be used dry or mixed with water as a skin soothing mask – simply The Calamine Powder – 500g/£14.
- The Uber traditional – shake lotions from your local pharmacy – Boots Calamine Lotion B.P– 200ml/£1.40.
There you have it dear friend, you’re now a calamine skincare talking pro. Tell me, had you heard of calamine before? Do you have a stash already? Do you use it? Have you seen the benefits. Tell me all in the comments below…
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who is more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She is founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.