Aluminum acetate is a chemical present in some topical products designed to help relieve skin irritation. Some people may consider using aluminum acetate to alleviate symptoms of the characteristic painful rash associated with shingles.

Shingles is a viral infection that occurs following the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, which is the virus responsible for chickenpox. Shingles is relatively common, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggesting that about 1 in 3 people in the United States will develop shingles during their lifetime.

A common symptom of shingles is a painful rash that usually appears on one side of the body. Most cases of shingles last for 3–5 weeks, during which a person may experience discomfort from the rash blistering and crusting over.

Although there is currently no known cure for shingles, many treatment options are available. As aluminum acetate can help reduce irritation and itching, people with shingles may consider using it to relieve their symptoms. However, this is not a common use for the product, and aluminum acetate itself can sometimes cause allergic skin reactions.

In this article, we discuss aluminum acetate, its uses, and whether it can help with shingles.

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Aluminum acetate is a topical astringent that people can use for the temporary relief of skin irritation. The product is available in different formulations, such as creams, gels, and a powder that people may mix with water to form a solution known as Burow’s solution. The different products typically contain 0.13–0.5% aluminum acetate.

As an astringent, aluminum acetate causes tissues, such as the skin, to tighten or contract, which can help treat inflammation, itching, and stinging. The medication is available over the counter (OTC) in many pharmacies and drugstores.

Although people may use aluminum acetate as a topical astringent, there is not much evidence to suggest that it is useful for relieving the symptoms of shingles.

Many product labels do not list treating shingles as a potential use for aluminum acetate. According to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) labeling requirements, aluminum acetate can provide temporary relief from rashes resulting from soaps, detergents, cosmetics, jewelry, or plants, but there is no mention of shingles.

However, some sources note that aluminum acetate can help relieve the symptoms of this condition and dry out the blisters.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) indicates that people can medically treat shingles by taking antivirals or anti-inflammatories, but to minimize discomfort, the organization suggests using damp washcloths, oatmeal soaks, and calamine lotion.

Learn more about choosing creams for shingles.

Aluminum acetate can help relieve the pain and itching that result from minor skin conditions, such as:

It is important to note that aluminum acetate can sometimes cause skin irritation rather than treating it. Due to this, a person using this product for the first time should apply it with caution and check for any side effects. They should also avoid using aluminum acetate near their eyes, as it can cause serious eye irritation.

Product labels may advise that individuals stop using the product and seek medical assistance if the skin condition worsens or the symptoms persist. As the product is only suitable for external use, it is also advisable to keep it out of the reach of children and to seek immediate medical help if a person swallows it.

A person should follow the instructions on the product label when applying the aluminum acetate. For topical forms, such as creams and gels, people can just apply the product to the skin as necessary. Those looking to use a soak or wet dressing will need to dissolve one to three packets in 16 ounces of cool or warm water and stir until fully dissolved.

People can use aluminum acetate as a soak by:

  • soaking the affected area for 15–30 minutes as necessary or as a doctor has directed
  • repeating this three times a day
  • discarding the solution after each use

People can use it as a compress by:

  • soaking a clean, soft cloth in the solution
  • applying the cloth loosely to the affected area for 15–30 minutes
  • repeating this as necessary or according to a doctor’s instructions
  • discarding the solution after each use

People can use a variety of prescription drugs, OTC medications, and home remedies to try to treat shingles. These include:

Antiviral medications

Examples of antiviral drugs that doctors may prescribe to treat shingles include:

Antiviral medicines are most effective when a person starts them within 2–3 days of the shingles rash appearing.

Pain and anti-inflammatory medication

A person may take OTC pain relievers to help alleviate shingles pain. Also, a doctor may prescribe certain medications to help with pain relief. Examples include:

Home remedies

Possible home remedies for shingles include:

  • taking oatmeal baths, which may help relieve itching
  • applying calamine lotion
  • practicing regular stress management techniques
  • getting enough sleep
  • eating nutritious foods to help boost the immune system

Shingles vaccination

The CDC recommends that healthy adults aged 50 years and older receive the shingles vaccine, known as Shingrix. A pharmacist or doctor gives a person two doses of the vaccine 2–6 months apart.

Aluminum acetate is a widely available topical treatment that helps relieve skin irritation. Some people may consider using it to provide relief from a painful shingles rash. However, it is advisable to discuss this with a doctor, as aluminum acetate can further irritate the skin.

Other treatment options, such as antivirals, can help treat shingles, while the Shingrix vaccine can help prevent it. People may also consider other home remedies, such as oatmeal baths, calamine lotion, and stress reduction techniques.