So, what’s the connection between toothpaste and acne? Well, there isn’t one. However, that certainly doesn’t mean that you didn’t try to make fetch happen whenever a red, angry pimple arose and toothpaste was the only thing you had at hand.
It’s alright really, we’ve all done it when we didn’t know any better. However, some things are best left behind, but for some reason, people still swear by a dab of toothpaste as a pimple treatment.
This brings some important questions like “Is toothpaste a good way to deal with acne?” or “Is it safe to put toothpaste on acne?”, and I am here to answer them.
As someone who used to reach for toothpaste whenever I had a zit, in this article I will be talking about my experience as well as the science behind this.
So, can you use toothpaste on acne? Let’s find out.
What’s Inside Your Toothpaste?
Toothpaste is a key part of your daily oral hygiene routine. Along with toothbrush and floss, it helps to remove food debris and plaque your teeth and gums.
Toothpaste typically consists of active and inactive ingredients. While the ingredients may slightly differ from toothpaste to toothpaste, all of these typically contains the same general components:
- Mild abrasives – These help to remove debris and surface stains. Examples include calcium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate, dehydrated silica gels, hydrated aluminum oxides, magnesium carbonate, phosphate salts, and silicates.
- Humectants – This ingredient helps to prevent water loss and keeps your toothpaste from drying out or getting gummy. Some examples include glycerol, propylene glycol, and sorbitol.
- Thickening agents – Also known as binders, these help to stabilize the toothpaste formula. Some examples include mineral colloids, natural gums, seaweed colloids, and synthetic cellulose.
- Detergents – These create the foaming action of toothpaste and also help to increase the solubility of plaque and accretions during brushing. Some examples include sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium N-lauryl sarcosinate.
- Flavoring agents – This is what gives your toothpaste a little bit of sweetness and that minty fresh scent. The flavoring agents are non-caloric sweeteners like saccharin that helps improve the taste but these do not contain sugar as sugar is known to promote tooth decay.
Each of these does an excellent job of keeping your teeth clean and prevent bacteria from spreading. So it is very easy to see the appeal of why people reach for toothpaste when trying to get rid of a zit.
However, is it really a useful thing to do?
Does Toothpaste Get Rid Of Acne?
The short answer to this is: No. Toothpaste won’t help you get rid of acne because toothpaste isn’t intended to be used on acne. So, if you think you’ve found a cheap and easy trick to get rid of a zit, you are totally wrong.
Although it is not really clear exactly how and where this trend got started, some likely reasons may be the following:
- Many toothpaste formulas once contained a chemical called triclosan that could work to kill the bacteria that cause acne breakouts. However, this is no longer the case as most companies no longer use triclosan in their toothpaste formulas.
- Some ingredients commonly found in toothpaste such as baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and menthol are known to be drying, which could help shrink a zit.
So, it is not totally out of the field to believe that this home remedy could potentially work. However, there are several reasons why you shouldn’t use toothpaste as your go-to acne treatment.
Toothpaste is alkaline.
After having our food, the bacteria present in our mouth feed on the food and small particles of food trapped between our teeth and produce acid.
In order to neutralize this acidic effect, we brush our teeth with toothpaste and since toothpaste is used for neutralizing acids, it means that it can never be acidic but it is rather basic or alkaline.
However, our skin, on the other hand, is acidic and adding products that are alkaline in nature can negatively affect our skin barrier and result in dryness, irritation, and inflammatory conditions such as acne breakouts.
Toothpaste can be an irritant.
Your skin is more delicate than your teeth and some ingredients in toothpaste such as fluoride, methanol, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide can cause skin irritation.
Yes, these can dry out a zit, but at the risk of hardcore irritating your skin barrier at the same time.
And when your skin barrier is messed up, it goes into overdrive and overproduces oil to compensate for the dryness and heal itself, which often leads to excessively oily skin, clogged pores, and acne breakouts.
Additionally, toothpaste formulations rely heavily on fragrant components such as spearmint or menthol to mask the natural and often unpleasant odor of the other ingredients present inside the formulation.
And menthol, as we already know is a common skin sensitizer that promotes that cooling and refreshing sensation when applied to the skin.
This cooling, refreshing sensation menthol produces is direct evidence that your skin is being sensitized and potentially irritated rather than being soothed.
Toothpaste won’t help heal acne.
The ingredients in toothpaste can help dry out your zit. But drying out your zit definitely won’t make it go away.
What usually happens when applying toothpaste over an already inflamed area is it just dries out the top layer of your skin, without killing the bacteria inside the follicle.
Which all in all, is a pretty bad solution to go about.
What To Use Instead?
There are several other ingredients that are known acne-fighters and these can actually help you take care of your skin concern without irritating or further damaging your skin. Some known ingredients are:
Benzoyl peroxide is one of the most common ingredients in skincare products designed to combat acne breakouts and it is often found in cleansers, toners, gels, and creams.
Through many studies, benzoyl peroxide was finally proven to have an antibacterial effect that specifically inhibits and destroys the acne-causing bacteria Propionibacterium acnes or simply P. acnes that live deep in your pores and survive on your natural oil, dead skin cells, and skin tissue.
Read my full article on How Does Benzoyl Peroxide Work.
Salicylic acid is a BHA naturally derived from willow tree bark, wintergreen leaves or sweet birch bark. Different concentrations may vary depending on the product at hand with mild percentages of 0.5 up to strongest percentages being 5.
This multifunctional ingredient addresses many of the systemic causes of acne.
Its primary benefit is as an exfoliant, however, because it has the ability to penetrate into the pore lining and exfoliate inside the pore as well as on the surface of the skin, it is especially effective for reducing acne breakouts, including blackheads and whiteheads.
In addition to these benefits, salicylic acid also has soothing properties to calm aggravated skin, help minimize the appearance of uneven skin tone, and has hydrating properties that can result in smoother skin.
Read my full article on Exfoliating Acids In Skincare – Explained.
Mandelic acid is an increasingly popular alpha hydroxy acid derived from the hydrolysis of an extract of bitter almonds.
It has a large molecular structure, which means it is a gentle exfoliating alternative as it doesn’t penetrate the skin as deeply as some of the other AHAs, like glycolic acid.
Mandelic acid has been extensively studied for its uses in treating common skin problems including inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne.
One of these studies shows that different percentages of mandelic acid can have the upper hand in successfully treating inflammatory acne over salicylic acid.
Additionally, using mandelic acid to treat acne can have significantly fewer side effects such as inflammatory reactions as well as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Read my review on Mandelic Acid 5% Prep Water by Wishtrend.
Niacinamide is otherwise known as vitamin B3 and it’s one of the most potent anti-inflammatory ingredients in skincare.
It is ideal for treating blemishes due to its anti-inflammatory properties and can suppress the skin’s inflammatory response to calm redness, sores, and imperfections.
Niacinamide also helps to encourage the production of ceramides that are a naturally present moisturizing factor in the skin.
Ceramides are the oils that protect your skin by forming a barrier to prevent pathogenic bacteria from entering into your pores.
This is also called a lipid barrier and will prevent moisturize from evaporating from the surface of your skin which can result in dryness and dehydration.
The benefits of moisture retention are extremely useful for oily and acne-prone skins because sufficient hydration will regulate the amount of oil the sebaceous glands produce and prevent them from going into overdrive and potentially clogging the pores.
Read my full article to learn What Does Niacinamide Do For Skin.
So, coming down to the end of this article and the answer to “Can you use toothpaste on acne?” is definitely no.
It is just not worth experimenting with it and potentially exacerbating the problem when there are many other products and ingredients you can safely incorporate into your skincare routine in order to tackle a particular skin concern.
Trying to cope with my obnoxious acne breakouts forced me into finding a solution to my problem by pursuing a career in the beauty industry. Today, I’m a certified esthetician & I’m passionate about sharing what I know to help you achieve healthy, glowing skin. You can learn more about me here.