Back in high school, I definitely dabbed toothpaste on a zit or two before bed in hopes it would erase them by morning, and most of the time it did nothing except leave my face feeling sticky and smelling minty-fresh. However, knowing what I know now, I should have put the toothpaste on my toothbrush where it belonged and instead, treated my skin with actual acne ingredients that are clinically proven and backed by decades of research. These are six products you shouldn’t put on your face, according to experts—despite what TikTok says.
This is one we’ve known about for decades, but it’s recently starting making the rounds on social media: using toothpaste as a spot-treatment on pimples. “What’s the basis for thinking toothpaste would help with acne pimples you may wonder?” says New York dermatologist Snehal Amin, MD. “Toothpaste contains ingredients that can dry out pimples, such as baking soda, peroxide and alcohol. Many of them also contain antibacterials that work against bacteria in your mouth, and menthol, the ingredient in toothpaste that gives it the tingly sensation, can reduce swelling and pain. So it sounds like a great hack for treating acne right? Not so fast. Ingredients in toothpaste are optimized for teeth, not skin, and many of them are actually irritating and too harsh for the skin. Sodium lauryl sulfate, for example, can cause irritation and redness when used on the skin, and overdrying the skin can actually make acne worse. Additionally, the pH of toothpaste is basic or low, which disrupts the skin barrier since the skin’s natural pH is slightly acidic.”
San Diego dermatologist Azadeh Shirazi, MD finds it ironic “that people use toothpaste for acne when it can actually cause a type of acne called perioral dermatitis or fluoride dermatitis. Historically toothpaste has been used to treat everything from burns to breakouts, mainly due to triclosan, an antibacterial ingredient, which has now been removed by the FDA. Colgate Total was the last brand to remove triclosan from its toothpaste—there’s no reason to use it.”
Toothpaste for acne is a “hard no” for The LA Facialist Candace Marino as well. “First of all, the only way to speed up the healing of a pimple is by reducing inflammation,” she says. “Once you have a pimple, the acne process is over, which means topical spot treatments containing acids and clays aren’t doing much good. The most valuable way to deal with acne is to manage it, which means preventing breakouts by using ingredients to resurface the skin daily. The only true effective ways to spot-treat a pimple is to either occlude it or ice it—both methods will encourage healing by reducing inflammation. So instead of applying toothpaste, which can sensitize skin and cause further issues like perioral dermatitis, grab a pimple patch like ZitSticka or Starface and use ice to calm the breakout.”