Does Using Toothpaste on Pimples Work?

Woman spreading cream on face.
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You've just awoke to a zit that definitely wasn't there the night before. Of course you want to banish it ASAP, but put down that tube of toothpaste! When you know what it really does for breakouts, and your skin, you'll think twice before dabbing toothpaste on a pimple.

Does Putting Toothpaste on Pimples Heal Them Faster?

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.

Although 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.

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.

Why You Shouldn't Use Toothpaste on Your Skin

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

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, or a nasty rash called contact dermatitis, 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 for Banishing That Pimple

If you're looking for a way to make a blemish heal quickly, there are much better ways than dabbing on toothpaste. 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.

If you have a particularly big blemish that won't go away, you may want to see a dermatologist. What you think is a pimple may not be at all, but rather a boil or sebaceous hyperplasia. And if it is just a big zit, your dermatologist has ways to shrink it fast.

A Word from Verywell

Truly, toothpaste isn't the best treatment for a pimple. There are many better options that simply work better. So save the toothpaste for your teeth and you'll save your skin.

If pimples are a regular problem for you, consider starting on an acne treatment regimen. Over-the-counter acne products and prescription acne medications help heal existing pimples and, even more importantly, help stop pimples from developing in the first place. Using these treatments consistently can help keep your skin clear.

Sources:

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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