Zematop is an ointment used to treat eczema or psoriasis. Find out how to apply it safely and possible side effects. Zematop is also called tacrolimus ointment.

What is Zematop?

Zematop is used to treat moderate to severe atopic dermatitis (also called atopic eczema), and prevent flare-ups from recurring. Flare-ups (or flares) are when your symptoms come back or get worse. Zematop is used when other medications have not worked well. It is also to treat psoriasis.

Zematop works by suppressing your immune system and helps to control inflammation, redness and itching. Zematop belongs to a group of medicines called calcineurin inhibitors.


  • In Aotearoa New Zealand Zematop is available as an ointment.
  • Always use Zematop exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much ointment to use, how often to use it and any special instructions. The following is a guide:
    • For flare-up treatment: Apply Zematop twice daily to the affected areas until your symptoms have cleared. 
    • For flare-up prevention (maintenance): Apply Zematop twice weekly to affected areas. There should be 2-3 days without Zematop treatment between each application.
  • If you forget to apply your ointment, apply it as soon as you remember that day. But, if it is nearly time to apply your next dose, just apply it at the right time. Do not apply double the amount used.

How to apply Zematop

  • Wash your hands before and after applying Zematop if your hands are not the site for treatment.
  • Apply Zematop as a thin layer to the affected areas of your skin.
  • If you are applying the ointment to your face, try to avoid getting it near to your eyes or to the inside of your nose or mouth. If this does happen accidentally, wipe it off straightaway.
  • Other creams and ointments should not be used in the same area for 2 hours before and 2 hours following Zematop use.
  • Do not bath, shower or swim right after applying Zematop. This could wash off the ointment.

Precautions before starting Zematop

  • Do you have a weakened immune system or are you taking medicines that cause you to have a weakened immune system?
  • Do you have liver problems?
  • Are you taking any over-the-counter or complementary medicines, eg, vitamins, minerals, herbal or naturopathic medicines?
  • Are you breastfeeding or pregnant?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions, it’s important that you tell your doctor or pharmacist before you use Zematop. Sometimes a medicine isn’t suitable for a person with certain conditions, or it can only be used with extra care.

Precautions while using Zematop

  • Skin infection: Do not apply Zematop to infected skin areas including areas of the skin affected by viral infection such as cold sores (herpes simplex) or chickenpox. If your skin becomes infected during treatment you should inform your doctor. Your doctor may ask you to stop using Zematop until the infection has been adequately controlled.
  • Sun protection: Zematop makes your skin more sensitive to the sun. It's important to avoid unnecessary sun exposure and sunlamps, and when outdoors protect your skin by applying a good sunscreen (SPF 30+).
  • Vaccination site: If you have had a vaccination recently, do not apply the ointment to the site of vaccination until reddening of the skin and/or swelling disappears. If you accidentally applied the ointment to this area, wipe it off and rinse well with clean water.
  • Dressings: Do not cover the skin being treated with bandages or dressings. However, you can wear normal clothing. Bandaging can increase the amount of medicine you absorb through your skin and may cause harmful effects. 
  • Avoid or limit alcohol: Drinking alcohol while you are using Zematop may cause your skin or face to feel hot and become flushed or red.
  • Improvement: For treatment doses, you should see an improvement within 1 week. See your doctor if you do not see any improvement after 2 weeks. If your treatment is still working well after 6 weeks, your doctor may switch you to maintenance dosing.

Possible side effects

Like all medicines, Zematop can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effects What should I do?
  • Redness or burning feeling on your skin
  • This is quite common when you start using Zematop and usually goes away with time.
  • Tell your doctor if these symptoms do not go away, if they are painful or bothering you. 
For more information on side effects, see the Medsafe consumer information leaflet Zematop.

Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product

Learn more

The following links have more information on Zematop.

 Medsafe Consumer Information Sheet, NZ
Calcineurin inhibitors British Association of Dermatologists, UK


  1. Tacrolimus (topical) NZ Formulary, NZ
  2. Tacrolimus DermNet, NZ
  3. Zematop Medsafe, NZ
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Maya Patel, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 10 Feb 2022