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TikTok Fact Check: Is Calamine Lotion a Good Makeup Primer? Here's What a Dermatologist and a Makeup Artist Had to Say

Beautiful woman applying make-up.
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TikTok has been the source of so many of our favorite makeup hacks. From using blush to conceal under-eye circles to lifting our features using just concealer, the platform has saved us from looking like a trainwreck on many occasions. But the latest hack that people are buzzing about, which involves using calamine lotion as makeup primer, gave us a little pause, so we decided to run it by some trusted sources before we tried it ourselves.

Meet the Experts:
• Dr. Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD and leading board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology: Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery.

• Judi Gabbay, aka Glossip Girl, a New York City-based professional makeup artist.


What is calamine lotion?

Calamine lotion is an over-the-counter treatment you can use to help relieve itchiness, pain and discomfort caused by bug bites, chickenpox, poisonous plants, heat rashes and other minor skin irritations. It’s typically recommended for mild cases and may cause skin irritation in some people, but it’s considered safe for the most part.

What makes it a good primer?

While the hack has been around for a while, content creator and makeup guru, @tiasamudaa is credited for making it go viral recently. Though she’s never explicitly urged anyone else to try the trick, users who saw her perfectly crafted, matte looks naturally got curious and got to testing the product themselves. And hey, for only $2 a bottle, it’s certainly more cost-efficient than any other primers on the market.

According to TikToker @makeupnmanifest, “Calamine lotion [works best] for people with really oily skin. It’s meant to create a barrier between your skin and the foundation, and keep the oils [in your skin] from breaking up the foundation throughout the day.”

In other words, a little calamine lotion under your foundation can aid with the longevity of your foundation (so you can keep the blotting papers away). Elsewhere on the platform, users also claim the lotion is good as an acne scar treatment and for reducing the appearance of pores as well.

What do the experts say about using calamine lotion as a primer?

Their take: Don’t use calamine lotion on your face, but if you must, do so sparingly.

“Calamine lotion includes a combination of zinc oxide, ferric oxide and phenol. When used for bug bites, it can help with itching. When recommended for poison ivy or other types of contact dermatitis, calamine lotion generally helps with excess weeping,” explains Garshick.

“Calamine lotion can also dry out the skin, which is why those with oily skin may find it helpful. But it is not meant to be used as a daily primer and should only be used for a limited duration of time,” she concludes.

Makeup artists agree. “Using calamine lotion as a primer can actually damage your skin. If your skin is normal and you use calamine lotion as a primer, it can cause harm by affecting the skin’s top layer (epidermis), which protects against environmental pollutants,” says Gabbay.

“Using this product can also make other skin conditions such as acne, dryness, rosacea etc., even worse. If your skin is on the greasier side, it may help makeup stay on in the short term, but you’ll still be causing damage without realizing it. Use calamine lotion in the way it’s meant to be used—to treat bites and itching,” she adds.

So, what are some alternatives?

If your skin is on the oilier side and you struggle to find a primer that keeps your foundation intact, below are five recommendations from the pros. (Bonus tip: “Those with oily skin should look for products containing salicylic acid, which can help to reduce oil and unclog pores. Also look for gel or foam-based cleansers, and moisturizers and toners that are intended to help control oil,” advises Dr. Garshick.)

1. Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Instant Retouch Primer

From queen Rihanna’s famed line, this primer is great for all skin types—normal, dry, combination, oily—so you don’t have to worry about causing any irritation. “It truly does mattify and hold product all day,” raves Gabbay, so anyone who is turning to calamine lotion to extend their wear time should be satisfied.

2. Smashbox Photo Finish Smooth & Blur Oil-Free Foundation Primer

“If you have oily skin, look for silicone-based mattifying primers, which often work the best for your skin type,” recommends makeup artist Dakota Alexandra. This offering from Smashbox is lightweight and oil-free, and reduces the appearance of fine lines and pores. It also contains antioxidants and vitamins A and E, which help protect your skin from pollutants and sun damage.

3. Milk Makeup Mini Pore Eclipse Mattifying + Blurring Makeup Primer

Another recommendation from Alexander, this lightweight water-cream primer fights shine for a long-lasting, soft-matte finish. It also contains niacinamide, which minimizes the appearance of pores, bakuchiol, which helps visibly smooth skin texture and even skin tone, as well as, lentil extract, which reduces overall shine.

4. Charlotte Tilbury Invisible UV Flawless Primer SPF 50

With broad-spectrum SPF 50, vitamins C and E and hyaluronic acid, this primer not only gives you a flawless finish, but it also moisturizes and protects your skin barrier at the same time.

5. Make Up For Ever Mini Step 1 Primer Shine Control

This mattifying makeup primer absorbs oil to control shine, and deliver a blurred, velvety finish that goes the extra mile. It boasts ginseng—which has been known to promote radiant-looking skin—as the main ingredient.