What Is Zinc Oxide Gel?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Zinc oxide gel contains a compound of the mineral zinc and oxygen as its active ingredient. This gel is often used to protect the skin from the sun and treat diaper rash, and it may also speed the healing of wounds and herpes simplex infections. Gels containing zinc oxide usually do not cause severe side effects, but mild skin irritation can develop in some people. People are usually advised to avoid applying this gel to the inside of the nose, mouth, or ears in order to prevent adverse effects.

Zinc oxide gels can be used to treat and prevent some types of diaper rashes.
Zinc oxide gels can be used to treat and prevent some types of diaper rashes.

Often, people use zinc oxide gel as protection from the harmful rays of the sun. When combined with titanium dioxide, zinc oxide can block the harmful ultraviolet rays and prevent skin cancer. It is often considered particularly helpful when used as a sunscreen for babies because it doesn't irritate sensitive skin as easily as regular sunscreen can. People of all ages can benefit from the use of zinc oxide as a sunscreen, however.

Sunscreens that contain zinc oxide may also include ingredients capable of causing allergic reactions.
Sunscreens that contain zinc oxide may also include ingredients capable of causing allergic reactions.

A person can also treat diaper rash and some types of shallow wounds with this type of gel. In fact, this zinc compound is one of the most common active ingredients in many diaper rash creams. A person can apply this gel to diaper rash to reduce irritation of the skin and allow the area time to dry and heal protected from additional irritants. It is also effective for encouraging the healing of small cuts, burns, and scrapes.

This gel can also help with the treatment of herpes simplex virus infections. The virus often causes painful blisters and sores on the mouth and genitals. When applied directly to the infected area, zinc oxide gel can help heal the sores and reduce irritation caused by the infection. Usually, medical experts recommend that a person with herpes simplex apply zinc oxide gel several times per day to effectively treat the infection.

Most people can use zinc oxide gel without experiencing any dangerous side effects, though skin irritation and other reactions are possible. To prevent adverse effects, a person may do well to avoid bringing zinc oxide into contact with the inside of his nose, mouth, and eyes. Preparations that contain zinc oxide may also include ingredients capable of causing allergic reactions in particularly sensitive individuals. As such, an individual may do well to read all of the ingredients in such a gel before applying it to his skin. Sometimes an inactive ingredient, rather than the zinc compound, can cause an allergic reaction.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments


My dad uses zinc oxide gel sometimes for psoriasis, so he always has some at home. The other day, I had an allergic skin reaction to a face wash that I had just bought. My skin reacted to something in the product. I had burning, itching and redness all over my face.

After washing my face with water several times, I applied some of dad's zinc oxide gel. Within a few minutes, the redness, itching and burning disappeared. It was just amazing!

I'm sure that zinc oxide can't be used for every type of skin problem or every skin allergy but it worked for me.


@SarahGen-- Zinc oxide gel and zinc oxide cream aren't very different from one another. The percentage of zinc oxide in the product may vary, but it's mentioned on the label. You can use either type.

I personally use zinc oxide gel because it absorbs more easily than the cream version and it doesn't make my skin white. Gel contains more water, so it's easier for skin to absorb it. Zinc oxide creams and pastes usually leave a white film on skin which is not an issue with the gel.

I suppose which type you choose will depend on what you want to use it for. I use zinc oxide on my face for acne, so the gel is more suitable for me. If you're going to use it as a diaper rash ointment, you may want to use the cream.


What is the difference between zinc oxide cream or paste and zinc oxide gel? Does it matter which type I use?

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