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The Ingredients in Desitin

author image Meridith Lohse
Meridith Lohse has worked as a hospital chaplain and an advocate for organ donor families. Her professional designations include a certification in thanatology through the Association of Death Education and Bereavement. She is a graduate of Baylor University, with a bachelor's degree in heath care biology and Southern Methodist University, with a Master of Divinity.
The Ingredients in Desitin
A mother has lotion on her hands. Photo Credit: MaxRiesgo/iStock/Getty Images

Desitin is an over-the-counter, topical medication intended to treat and prevent diaper rash in infants and children. It acts as a moisture barrier to prevent urine and stool from irritating baby's skin and contains several ingredients that promote healing.

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Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide

Zinc Oxide is the main active ingredient in Desitin Maximum Strength Original Paste. It acts as a skin protectant to seal out wetness from the wet or soiled diaper and to preserve the skin’s natural, clean moisture. The original formula of Desitin contains 40 percent zinc oxide.


BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) is a chemical preservative that is added to many cosmetics and food products in the United States to prevent fat spoilage. While it is generally regarded as safe by the FDA, the 11th edition of the Report on Carcinogens by the National Toxicology Program links it to certain cancers and toxicities.

Cod LIver Oil

Cod liver oil is produced from fish and is high in Vitamins A and D. These are present in the product to help facilitate healing of damaged skin. The oily nature of this ingredient also helps to lock in good moisture and to provide a barrier to protect the skin from soil in the diaper.


This is added to give the product a pleasant scent and to mask the fishy odor of the cod liver oil.


Produced from the wool of sheep, this ingredient acts as a moisture barrier for the skin while healing skin readily uses the fats present in it in the healing process. Lanolin also combines with the ammonia in urine to form an ammonia salt, effectively neutralizing the burning nature of urine. People who are allergic to wool might also react to lanolin.


This ingredient is an antimicrobial preservative for the product. It can cause allergic reactions in people who are sensitive to parabens.


Is also known as "white petroleum." Its use in this product is as an emollient, skin protectant and moisturizer. It is made from hydrocarbons of petroleum.


Talc serves many purposes in this product. It serves as an opacifying agent, giving color to the product. It also serves as a skin conditioner, adding moisture to the skin. Finally, its nature as a solid helps to give the final product the correct consistency. It is generally considered very mild.


Water serves as a solvent for the other ingredients and as liquid to help the product maintain its creamy consistency.

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