Zinc oxide is a chemical compound found in several non-prescription products, such as diaper rash creams and sunblock, as well as one prescription diaper rash cream. This compound is also used as a nutritional supplement or food additive. Although it is a "natural" product, it is not suitable for everyone. Before using it, make sure to talk to your healthcare provider about your medical history.
What Is Zinc Oxide?Zinc oxide is an active ingredient in several different non-prescription products (such as Desitin®, Balmex®, and Boudreaux's Butt Paste®), as well as one prescription diaper rash ointment (Vusion® ointment). It is most often found in creams, ointments, or pastes and is typically used to treat or prevent minor skin irritations, such as poison ivy or diaper rash. It is also used in some types of sunscreens. It can also be used as a source of zinc for food fortification or nutritional supplementation.
Zinc oxide also has several non-medicinal uses, such as a pigment for paints or in light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
(Click What Is Zinc Oxide Used For? for more information about the medicinal uses of these products.)
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 sunblock. 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.