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JAMA Dermatology a Century Ago
September 2013

Better Living Through Chemistry

JAMA Dermatol. 2013;149(9):1016. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.4213

I didn’t know that. All I know was that for my entire childhood, there was this crumpled tube covered with sticky black fingerprints in the family medicine cabinet. I still don’t know how efficacious ichthyol is, but as a blaring advertisement, “Look here! There’s a huge zit underneath this glob of black gunk,” nothing beats ichthyol! Try to identify from their chemical formulae these other home remedies that might be lurking in your medicine chest.

  1. C3H8O

  2. MgSO4

  3. C6H9I2NO

  4. ZnO + Fe2O3

  5. (C6H5CO)2O2

  6. (CH2)n 20 ≤ n ≤ 40

  7. C20H8Br2HgNa2O6

  8. (MgO)3(SiO2)4H2O

  9. KAl(SO4)2 + 12(H2O)

  10. C23H46N6O13 + (H2SO4)3, C56H100N16O17S, C66H101N17SZn

Answers: (1) rubbing alcohol; (2) Epsom salt; (3) povidone-iodine (Betadine; Purdue Products LP); (4) calamine; (5) benzoyl peroxide; (6) mineral oil; (7) merbromin (Mercurochrome; no longer manufactured); (8) talcum powder; (9) alum (styptic); (10) triple antibiotic (neomycin sulfate, polymyxin B sulfate, and bacitracin zinc).