Zinc oxide is a chemical compound used as an active ingredient in various different non-prescription products. It is used for the following purposes:
• To protect the skin from irritants (such as in diaper rash creams)
• To dry the weeping and oozing of minor skin irritations (such as in calamine lotion)
• To soothe minor skin irritations
• To protect the skin from sun damage (when used in sunscreens)
• As a nutritional supplement (often as part of a multivitamin product)
• To help slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration as part of a specific dietary supplement
• As a food additive, to provide the mineral zinc (such as in vitamin- and mineral-fortified breakfast cereal).
There is also one prescription form of zinc oxide, which is a diaper rash ointment. Zinc oxide is also used for numerous different non-medicinal purposes. For instance, zinc oxide is used as a white pigment in paint.
How Does It Work?
Zinc oxide is a chemical compound. Its chemical symbol is ZnO. A molecule of zinc oxide consists of one zinc atom bound to one oxygen atom. It is very opaque and can reflect and scatter light, which is why it is useful in a sun block. When applied to the skin, it helps to protect the skin from outside irritants and may also serve as a mild astringent (helping to dry oozing of minor irritation) and a weak antiseptic.
When used as a nutritional supplement or food additive, zinc oxide is used to supply zinc to the body. Zinc is an essential mineral that is found in almost all cells of the human body.
Zinc oxide should be stored at room temperature, away from moisture and heat. Keep it out of the reach of children.
Diaper rash products usually contain 10 to 40 percent zinc oxide. Sunscreens tend to contain a little less (often 5 to 10 percent).