Facts Checked By Freewill Beauty Experts - Written by Gopika Suresh (Journalist) on 09th Oct 2020

Toothpaste for acne? Does it Work?

Toothpaste for acne

While washing your face before going to bed, you see a big, red pimple on your forehead. What do you decide to do, especially when you have an event the next day? The majority of us must have tried out this famous "trick" or at least heard of it. If not, you are probably (or should I say definitely) living under a rock.

The rumor mill might have advised you to dab a small amount of toothpaste on your angry pimple overnight as it would help clear it up. There is no doubt that the ingredients found in toothpaste help in drying skin. It may help shrink your pimple when kept for hours. Still, several other treatments are made for your skin that you could try out.

So, is it worth trying this home remedy; especially, when toothpaste is meant for the "tooth" and not the "skin"? We think not. Keep reading to know why.  

Toothpaste for acne

Why toothpaste is believed to help in decreasing zits  

Nobody can say when and how this trend originated, but stay with us as we take you through the following possibilities-  

  • Almost all toothpaste consists of a chemical called triclosan. It is a formula that works on killing the bacteria that causes acne on one's face.  
  • Some of the other ingredients that toothpaste possesses are hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and alcohol. You may be familiar with these as they are known to dry the skin. Thus, it could help with shrinking a zit on your face.  
  • Toothpaste is also made up of menthol, which creates a tingly effect. As per what Dr. Tsippora Shainhouse, a board-certified dermatologist says, menthol may help reduce swelling and inflammation of zits.  

We can not say that this home remedy would not work, as the toothpaste comprises powerful ingredients.

However, there are multiple other reasons why one must not resort to this remedy and look for skin-specific products in the market.  

Here are some risks you should know about:

More information on triclosan

Firstly, most toothpaste brands today no longer use triclosan. According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration reports, triclosan showed properties that may negatively affect thyroid glands. Although you won't be consuming the ingredient when applying it topically, it is best to stay away from it as it may cause danger in the future.  

Toothpaste can be irritating to your skin

One must understand at first that the skin and teeth are very different. Toothpaste, as the name suggests, is made for the teeth. It is advised to keep it away from your sensitive skin. So, don't be impressed with the way toothpaste works on cleaning your pearlies and assume that it would have the same effect on your skin. What is healthy for your teeth could be unhealthy when used on your skin.  

1. Baking soda

Sometimes using baking soda could strip the skin of its natural oils. It alters the pH of the skin. It also disrupts the natural bacteria's activity on the skin's surface to protect it from breakouts.

It thereby leaves certain people more prone to breakouts and infection. It can even cause burning and rashes.  

2. Sodium lauryl sulfate  

Sodium lauryl sulfate, which is found in several kinds of toothpaste, can be very harsh on your blemishes. If you have sensitive skin, it may even cause significant irritation.  

3. Alcohol  

Although the alcohol in toothpaste may help some, others report that it causes flakiness and dryness. This ultimately leads to the redness getting worse. In the worst cases, it could even promote scarring.  

4. Hydrogen peroxide

The same goes for hydrogen peroxide that could increase the chances of your skin getting scarred. It interferes with the healing process and, if used in excess, may even cause burns.

Several experts say that it is better to stick to using hydrogen peroxide for cleaning household surfaces only.  

Overdrying could backfire

Even if you get away with contracting an infection, as mentioned above, the ingredients in kinds of toothpaste can cause other adverse reactions such as over-drying.

The whole purpose of using toothpaste on your zit may be defeated as its components cause excessive drying, causing an increase in oil secretion. It ultimately leads to more breakouts in some people.  

What to use instead?

We know you can be tempted to dab some toothpaste over that annoying zit. But before you do, remember what we told you about its dangers. However, you don't need to worry! Minimalist has compiled some of the best skin and acne specific ingredients you could use instead of toothpaste.

Acne-specific products you could use

Dr. Shainhouse recommends those who suffer from acne to use three products. These are salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and topical retinoids. You could find these ingredients over the counter in the form of masks, face washes, and moisturizers. Let's take a closer look at the three magic components' benefits.  

1. Salicylic acid  

If you have acne-prone skin that causes blemishes to arise at times, you could use salicylic acid as a primary ingredient instead of benzoyl peroxide. You could use Minimalist's 2% Salicylic acid as it gently cleanses the skin from excess oils.  

2. Benzoyl peroxide  

Check out Minimalist's Benzoyl Peroxide 2% + Glycolic Acid 5% that gently exfoliates your skin, killing the bacteria and giving the skin a fresh glow. If you suffer from acne and have dry to normal skin, apply hyaluronic acid to a clean face every morning.

At night, you could use benzoyl peroxide on the affected areas but not the whole face. You may start every few days till your skin adjusts to the product.

Follow up with hyaluronic acid after, to avoid drying of the skin. 

3. Topical retinoids  

Research has proven time and again that retinoids are excellent for treating acne. It may take six months for one to see results from over the counter retinoids. However, the wait is worth it, believe us. It depends on skin to skin; however, we recommend you not to give up.  

Minimalist advice

Check out the retinoid routine that you can follow to gain the best of results.  

Step 1: Wash your face with a face wash or cleanser of your choice.

Step 2:
Apply an eye cream of your choice with your ring finger. Since the area around the eye is too delicate, you must protect it.

Step 3: Wait for a few minutes until your skin is dehydrated. This step is crucial as applying retinoid on damp skin will make it get deeply absorbed. Thus, giving rise to irritation sometimes. You could apply moisturizers and serums to damp skin but never use retinoids on it.

Step 4: Next, take a pea-sized amount of retinoid and starting from the chin, apply it on your skin in upward motions.

Step 5: Now, you can moisturize your skin with a moisturizer of your choice.

Step 6: Lastly, but not the least, remember to apply sunscreen if you are doing this routine in the morning.

With this routine, you should achieve great results from retinoids in the shortest amount of time.

You could also invest in spot treatments that can help get rid of a zit overnight. 

Other remedies 

Dr. Shainhouse recommends trying willow bark for those who are into natural remedies. It contains natural extracts of salicylic acid, which can help reduce blemishes. You may also invest in products that contain clay, sulfur, and charcoal that pull out the excess oils and dirt from the skin that could cause acne. For instance, nowadays, charcoal masks are being used by several people.  

The bottom line

Ultimately, we could say that toothpaste may reduce the sizes and redness of zits. However, usually, it comes with a price (a big one). So, it's best to stay off the adverse reactions that it may cause and resort to products made specifically for the skin. They are a much safer bet.