Zinc oxide is a compound commonly used as an active ingredient in sunscreens, baby powders, baby lotions, and other skincare products due to its skin protectant nature. One of the common skincare products with zinc oxide is the calamine lotion, a popular, topical remedy for skin irritation in babies.
The ubiquity of zinc oxide increases the chances of finding it in at least one babycare product you use regularly. Knowing the compound’s safety could help you choose skincare products wisely. In this post, we share the safety, side effects, possible benefits, and precautions to be considered when using zinc oxide for babies.
Is Zinc Oxide Safe For Babies?
The topical application of zinc oxide is considered safe for babies’ skin (1). Research indicates that the compound’s nanoparticles linger in the skin’s epidermis and do not penetrate the deeper dermis layer. There is also no cellular toxicity noted due to repeated topical use of zinc oxide.
The compound is approved for use in skincare products by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The concentration of zinc oxide is limited to 25%, which is the safe limit (2). Considering the extensive research and FDA approval, zinc oxide can be noted as safe for babies when used topically.
Uses Of Zinc Oxide For Babies
Zinc oxide is found in several baby skincare products. The compound could be used in the treatment or management of the following conditions in babies.
- Diaper rash: Zinc oxide-based ointments and lotions, such as calamine lotions, are often used as a safe home remedy for a baby’s diaper rash (3). Zinc oxide is an antipruritic agent, meaning it provides relief from itching. It can be safely used even for babies younger than six months.
- Dermatitis: Dermatitis or eczema is an autoimmune condition causing excessive skin inflammation, redness, and irritation. Zinc oxide-rich lotions, such as calamine lotions, can help relieve itching and irritation due to the compound’s anti-inflammatory properties (4). It could be a safe alternative to corticosteroids, which require a doctor’s prescription for administration.
- Skin irritation: Zinc oxide-based ointments could be used as a home remedy to relieve skin irritation due to insect bites, contact with irritant plants, and friction.
- Sunburn: Experts recommend checking for the presence of zinc oxide in sunscreen lotions since the compound protects the skin from sunburns (5). The compound may provide broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays depending on the overall formulation of the sunscreen lotion.
- Certain skin conditions: Zinc oxide-based medicated ointments may be prescribed to treat certain skin conditions. A few examples are warts, skin ulcers, and some types of skin wounds. The likely reason could be the antibacterial and antioxidant properties of the compound (6).
Besides these uses, zinc oxide may also be found in regular baby soaps, skin moisturizers, and talcum powders. It may also be found in certain types of suppositories (7).
Side Effects Of Zinc Oxide In Babies
An allergic reaction to topical zinc oxide is extremely rare, considering it has anti-inflammatory properties useful for relieving allergy-related skin conditions, such as eczema (8). Most side effects of zinc oxide arise due to accidental ingestion or inhalation of its fumes (9). Inhalation of zinc oxide fumes usually occurs in an industrial setting, and it is highly unlikely a baby will be exposed to it. Therefore, the only potential risk for the baby is accidental ingestion of zinc oxide-based lotion or ointment.
- Chills and fever
- Stomach cramps
- Mouth and throat irritation
- Yellow skin and eyes
Take your baby to the emergency room immediately if you notice any of the symptoms. Remember to carry the bottle or container of the zinc oxide product so that the healthcare provider can provide a relevant antidote based on the product’s formulation.
Precautions While Using Zinc Oxide
The following precautions could help in the safe use of zinc oxide for babies.
- Although zinc oxide is safe, the product may have other compounds that could be potential allergens. Remember to check all the ingredients. Do a patch test on a small part of the skin, such as on the baby’s feet, to check suitability.
- Apply a thin layer on the affected area and repeat after a few hours instead of applying a thick layer for better results.
- If you are using a zinc-oxide-containing diaper rash cream, change the diaper often since it may absorb some of the cream.
- Keep zinc oxide-containing products away from the baby’s reach to prevent accidental ingestion.
Zinc oxide is a common compound in several skincare products for babies. The compound is known for its efficacy and mildness, making it a common home remedy for treating several skin conditions. Remember to keep the container away from the baby’s reach. If zinc oxide application does not improve a skin condition, consult a doctor for further analysis and treatment.
2. Zinc Oxide; Chemical Safety Facts
3. Bowel Movements and Diaper Rash; UC San Diego Health
4. Mrinal Gupta et al., Zinc Therapy in Dermatology: A Review; U.S. National Library of Medicine
5. 9 Sunscreen Tips for Your Kids; Children’s Hospital Colorado
6. Agnieszka Kołodziejczak-Radzimska and Teofil Jesionowski, Zinc Oxide—From Synthesis to Application: A Review; U.S. National Library of Medicine
7. Zinc Oxide; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
8. Elisabeth Anderson, Summer Staple – Zinc Oxide; Michigan State University
9. Zinc oxide overdose; U.S. National Library of Medicine
10. Calamine Lotion; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
11. Abendrot and U. Kalinowska-Lis, Zinc-containing compounds for personal care applications; International Journal of Cosmetic Science