Education, Wellness / Self-Care

Can you fight a Pimple with Toothpaste?

The answer is complicated.

words by: Natasha Marsh
May 24, 2022

There are so many ways to catch a pimple nowadays — from masks, working out, diet, the list goes on and on. When I was younger, my mom taught me that if I wanted instant zit relief, a tube of Crest or Colgate before sleeping was the answer. The next day, I’d wake up with less redness, a smaller, 24-hour zit, and minty-fresh skin. The best of all worlds, right?


Now an adult, if a blemish comes up, I just switch to a simpler skincare routine and hope for the best. That thin veil of hope got me thinking about that middle school remedy—and if it’s safe for skin, now that I’m more conscious about ingredients.


This old wives’ tale has been used for years. But does it actually work as a spot treatment? And more importantly, would your dermatologist or esthetician be happy if you told them of your doings? (Don’t worry, we won’t tell them). Ahead, we break down the potential myth and reasons for why people believe in it.


Does toothpaste work on acne?

The debate is generally split between consumers and dermatologists. To start with, toothpaste was designed for your teeth. So you’d think an item that was never intended for skin should not be used for skin. On the other hand, toothpastes do contain ingredients (baking soda, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, sodium laureth sulfate) that are drying, making you believe it would help get rid of a pimple.
But let’s go back to the teeth intention. Teeth are some of the toughest substances in the human body and toothpaste is used to clean them. Simultaneously, skin is an incredibly delicate part of the body, and a toothpaste could greatly disrupt the pH balance of the skin and irritate it greatly. When the pH of your skin goes out of sorts, it can cause many skin conditions like rosacea and eczema flare ups, leaving you more issues than the non-frequent zit.


So, what are the risks?

Say you are me, and you haven’t experienced any skin conditions as a result of using toothpaste, or don’t care to spend the money on over-the-counter spot treatments. What effects will toothpaste have on your skin? Well, turns out, a lot. Slathering toothpaste potentially leads to perioral dermatitis, the inflamed, red, rash-like bump around your nose and mouth.


If you happen to be susceptible to skin conditions, the ingredients — sodium lauryl sulfate, propylene glycol, cinnamic aldehyde (a flavoring agent), and the preservative sodium benzoate — in toothpaste could potentially trigger allergic reactions (swelling, itching, redness) when applied directly to and left on the skin.


Instead, doctors and experts recommend using safe spot treatments and skincare solutions to help banish a blemish. Additionally, with the sun coming out and temps rising, meaning prime time for a pimple every other day.


Here’s how to take care of summer acne, leave the toothpaste for your teeth.

Photo via Shutterstock