It started on Reddit.com, at a well-known forum named Skincare Addiction. Users go there to fix their skin and review products, mostly rub-on creams and products designed to go on top of acne. Some users become desperate as they run out of fixes and no chemical compound seems to do the trick, so it was only a little unusual when a user named infinitesimallyok posted a thread named:
“Diaper Cream is my HG for cystic acne!!!!!!”
Yes, they’d put some nappy cream on their cysts, which caused heads to finally appear. A day and a hydrocolloid patch later, the cysts were flattening.
Over the next couple weeks, the nappy cream legend exploded online. People were trying it and talking about it everywhere. So what’s the active ingredient, why is baby cream changing people’s faces?
Zinc oxide is an anti-inflammatory chemical you can find in many good rash and haemorrhoid ointments. Kylie Jenner has been using it on her face for at least two years and now health experts are talking about it because there’s something you should know. Like many treatments that gain steam online, this acne hack comes with a risk.
Here’s an explanation from our SkinB5 acne expert, Judy Cheung-Wood:
“It is well known that Zinc Oxide can help fight acne, superficially – Zinc Oxide is a naturally occurring mineral that has anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This same mineral is also the main ingredient in many diaper creams and natural sunscreens. The latest craze of using diaper creams with zinc oxides to control acne shows the desperation of acne sufferers to find an effective solution to control their skin breakouts, even that the effects of plastering zinc oxide on your face are not long lasting because the underlying issues that cause acne in the first place are not addressed at all.”
What kind of issues?
Judy says there is a range of side effects.
“Zinc oxide can cause allergic reactions such as swelling, itching or tingling in some patients. People with sensitive skin or those who have any allergic tendencies should check with their doctor first before using anything that has zinc oxide.”
Another thing you should know before you go down the diaper road:
“… ingredients like zinc oxide can slowly build up in the system, until they reach toxic levels, particularly if they are also taking supplements containing zinc.”
What if zinc oxide is doing the trick for me?
Fads are fascinating because they all work the same way. Whether it’s nappy cream, tanning beds or mullets, everyone will get on it at once and for a while. Then there’s a chance it’ll stop working, or worse, everyone has a bad result and your new thing will quickly become uncool. But there will always be the photos and the social media posts proving you were there. Did you buy Bitcoin? Yeah, fads are bubbles.
I’m not judging. When I was a kid I had a giant rat’s tail at the back of my head, and as an adult I still don’t regret it. When I’m a silver fox I’ll feel the same about my man bun. No really.
But we’re here to feel good, and the smartest way to do that is with a treatment that keeps your skin clear long-term. We’re all playing a short and long game — short term, you’re testing treatments like the SkinB5 5-minute Skin Purifying Mask and figuring out which lifestyle choices your body loves. Long-term, you’re keeping it up, getting healthier every week (let’s be honest, some days are better than others). The long game is the safest and most rewarding part.
Sorry to sound like your mother and accountant, but why take risks when you have a sure thing? Every day you care for yourself, you’re on the right track. The more days you can keep it up, the more good you do. It’s fine to wait out an exciting new shortcut while others trial it for you. The best part of a health fad can be sitting back, watching everyone else, then seeing it disappear while you do your thing and patiently get better looking.
Peter Matthews is a freelance writer living in Melbourne. He runs, drinks lots of water and wakes up too late, but he does it consistently and that’s what matters.