Does Using Toothpaste on Pimples Really Work?

Using Toothpaste on Acne


If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me if toothpaste heals pimples, I'd be a very rich woman indeed. This question comes up in nearly every class I teach, and, in my very unscientific polls, about 75 percent of my students have actually tried using toothpaste on their pimples at least once.

Toothpaste is often thought of as an inexpensive spot treatment for blemishes, but this is one acne home remedy you don't want to try.

I know some people swear toothpaste dries up their pimples quickly, the fact is most people will find the toothpaste leaves their skin red and irritated. Definitely not what you want to do on an already red, swollen blemish.

Where Did This Idea Come From?

The idea to use toothpaste as a spot treatment is probably due to the fact that many brands of toothpaste contain ingredients to help combat bad breath. And, the idea is, if they kill bad breath bacteria they'll also kill acne-causing bacteria.

Unfortunately, that's not the case. Toothpaste wasn't designed to be put on the skin, and the ingredients aren't meant to control acne-causing bacteria.

Or maybe you have seen the ingredient triclosan in both your acne treatment product and your toothpaste. Triclosan effectively kills bacteria. It is actually a common addition to acne treatment products, although as a preservative and not an active ingredient.

Some studies have found that triclosan can kill propionibacteria acnes, the bacteria that causes acne.  But, it has to be formulated in a specific way to do this. Just putting any random product containing triclosan, toothpaste, for example, isn't going to do the trick.

Incidentally, in 2016 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of triclosan in hand soaps and body washes.

Triclosan was used as an antibacterial agent, but it was banned after no evidence was found to show that antibacterial soaps containing triclosan worked any better than plain soap and water. There was also some concern over its long-term safety.

Triclosan is still allowed in toothpaste, though, because it's been shown to be effective at reducing plaque and gingivitis.

Toothpaste Can Burn or Irritate Your Skin

Here's the biggest reason to forgo the toothpaste on your pimple—besides being unlikely to really work, toothpaste will probably irritate your skin.

Remember that 75 percent of my students that tried the toothpaste on their pimples? More than half of them said the toothpaste irritated their skin. (Most of the others said toothpaste didn't do a darn thing for their pimple.)

Toothpaste wasn't meant to be applied to the skin, especially the delicate skin on the face. Using toothpaste on an already inflamed pimple can cause more redness and irritation.

Many unfortunate souls have developed a chemical burn after applying toothpaste to a zit. Your skin could be feeling sore for days afterward. Bottom line: Toothpaste can make your pimple look worse instead of better.

Instead of Toothpaste, Try This

If you're looking for a way to make a monstrous blemish heal quickly, try an acne spot treatment instead.

These products contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or sulfur, all of which can help reduce redness and speed healing.

Acne spot treatment products are milder for your skin than toothpaste ever will be, and they're inexpensive to buy. You can find many spot treatments at your local drugstore for less than $10. Of course, if you're already seeing a dermatologist for your acne, ask him/her before using any spot treatment.

So save the toothpaste for your teeth, and save your skin.


Dall'oglio F, Tedeschi A, Fabbrocini G, et. al. "Cosmetics for acne: indications and recommendations for an evidence-based approach." G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2015 Feb;150(1):1-11. 

Domínguez-Delgado CL, Rodríguez-Cruz IM, Escobar-Chávez JJ, et. al. "Preparation and Characterization of Triclosan Nanoparticles Intended to be Used for the Treatment of Acne." European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics. 2011;79(1):102-7.

Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL, Schlosser BJ, et al. "Guidelines of Care for the Management of Acne Vulgaris." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2016; 74:945.

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