When I was a teenager, my grandmother used to douse my puberty-induced spots in calamine lotion. I have vivid memories of her chasing me around the house with a foul-smelling, pink-stained cotton ball, determined to "dry them out" (13-year-old me preferred to pick them before slapping on some toothpaste, naturally). Only now that I'm working as a beauty journalist do I realise my nanna was actually totally clued-up when it came to dealing with a pimple.
After years of searching for the perfect solution I now can confidently say I have found my go-to emergency pimple treatment. And I know I'm not alone when I say I genuinely love this product because the entire team at Byrdie Australia HQ are wowed by its whitehead-diminishing capabilities. It's even a celebrity secret weapon.
Keep scrolling to find out more about this cult spot treatment.
Calamine is a medication applied topically as a cream or a lotion to treat mild itchiness and skin irritation. Its active ingredients are a combination of zinc oxide and iron (ferric) oxide.
It really isn't just myself that swears by Mario Badescu's Drying Lotion, since I'll take this opportunity to point out the 386 five-star reviews on Mecca just for good measure (according to Jamielii, "the most juicy and angry pimples you imagine can be diminished within one to two nights of use"). Even Kylie Jenner knows what's up, and single-handedly depleted stocks around the world after she posted it on her Snapchat. It's reached cult status for a reason, being that one dab before bed will send any whitehead packing faster than you can say, "where's the concealer?"
While calamine is one of the pimple-fighting heroes in this lotion, it also boasts salicylic acid, a BHA that exfoliates the dead skin cells and debris (including from inside the pore), healing and preventing both pimples and blackheads. The calamine has anti-inflammatory properties which work to shrink the blemish, meaning that this concoction is a fail-safe recipe to help nix breakouts.
Separation is natural so do not shake the bottle. Dip a clean cotton bud down to the sediment at the bottom before dabbing onto your spot and don't reuse the now-infected cotton bud to avoid cross-contamination.
Also, try your best to always keep it standing upright (my only gripe here is that it's not ideal for travel, but you can't have everything).
I will add one disclaimer: This lotion works best on whiteheads and other raised spots, as its purpose is to dry everything out. If you have deep, sore cysts, a trip to the doctor is a better option. Alternatively, if you have a blemish that isn't quite at the surface, Payot Pâte Grise ($45) is dangerously effective at drawing it out (then hit it with your drying lotion when it rears its ugly head).
Gupta M, Mahajan VK, Mehta KS, Chauhan PS. Zinc therapy in dermatology: a review. Dermatol Res Pract. 2014;2014:709152. doi:10.1155/2014/709152