Toothpaste is one of the popular home remedies for pimples. Anecdotal evidence claims that toothpaste makes the pimple disappear if leftover it overnight. However, there is no scientific proof to support this claim. In fact, toothpaste may actually cause more harm than good. Shocking?
This article explains the science behind why toothpaste may not be the right option for treating pimples. It also has alternatives that can help you deal with the issue.
Table Of Contents
Is It Safe To Use Toothpaste On Pimples? Does It Work?
Toothpaste is not safe for your skin. It is formulated for the teeth and not the skin. Toothpaste could harm your skin due to the following reasons:
- It Contains Triclosan
Triclosan is an antimicrobial agent widely used in toothpaste. However, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned this chemical in 2017 as it may affect thyroid hormone levels (1). Triclosan may also trigger the development of skin cancer (when tested on animals) (2).
Note: Almost none of the toothpastes now use triclosan in their formulas. Colgate was the only brand containing triclosan (for Colgate Total) that was allowed in the US Market. But in early 2019, Colgate-Palmolive eliminated triclosan from their formula for Colgate Total (as per news reports).
Even with triclosan removed, toothpaste is not a safe option for your skin. There are other ingredients in toothpaste that may harm your skin, like:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
- Sodium bicarbonate (Baking soda)
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Essential oils
In a study evaluating four different brands of toothpaste with different chemical compositions, three of them were found to irritate the skin of 16 of the 19 human participants. The toothpaste brands had caused mild to severe skin reactions (3).
None of the above-mentioned ingredients are suitable for your skin. They may cause skin irritation. Also, toothpaste has a basic pH level, while the pH of our skin is acidic. Hence, applying toothpaste to skin can upset its natural pH, leading to rashes and irritation.
Toothpaste is not a good treatment option for pimples. It can dry your skin out and instead aggravate the condition. However, there are other alternatives that work better and are safer.
Alternative Treatment Options
1. Medicines And Over-The-Counter Products
If you experience frequent breakouts, you can try OTC products (face washes, gels, and creams). Check for OTC face washes and creams containing the following ingredients:
While OTC medicines work effectively for mild to moderate cases of pimples, severe cases need medications with a higher dosage of the ingredients. In such cases, consult a dermatologist.
Also, the doctor may prescribe you oral medicines, such as:
- Contraceptives or birth control pills
- Oral isotretinoin (also called Accutane)
- Oral antibiotics
- Clindamycin (topical or oral)
2. Natural Home Remedies
If you prefer home remedies and natural treatment options, you may try the following ingredients:
- Tea Tree Oil
A study found that applying 5% tea tree oil helped heal mild to moderate acne (8). However, be careful while using tea tree oil (or any other essential oil). Always dilute it with a carrier oil (preferably jojoba, olive, or sweet almond oils). Mix 2-3 drops of the essential oil with a tablespoon of the carrier oil. Apply as a spot treatment.
- Willow Bark Extracts
White willow bark extracts are found to be effective in preventing acne and pimples. They may also not cause any side effects (9). You can use toners and skincare products containing willow bark extracts. Alternately, you can buy willow bark, steep it (like tea) in hot water, strain it, and use the water as a natural toner.
- Aloe Vera
Aloe vera extracts have anti-acne effects on your skin. They also help keep your skin moisturized and stimulate collagen production (10). You can scoop the gel out from the leaf and apply it directly to the pimple.
Eating and applying probiotics (curd or yogurt) can help repair (and maintain) your skin barrier function. They may also prevent acne. Preliminary studies have found that intake of probiotics can prohibit the growth of P. acnes bacteria by producing antibacterial proteins (11).
Though natural remedies are safer options, it is important you do a patch test beforehand. This is to check if your skin can tolerate the particular ingredient.
The chemicals in toothpaste can fight the microbes in the oral cavity, but they may not be effective in treating skin issues. Toothpaste can cause excessive skin dryness, itching, and aggravate existing pimples or lead to new ones. Try the alternative remedies we have mentioned. Make sure to consult a dermatologist.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Colgate toothpaste help treat pimples?
No. The toothpaste (or any toothpaste) may further worsen the condition. It may dry the skin out and cause irritation.
How do you make pimples heal fast?
Try OTC medicines with benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or sulfur. These may help reduce inflammation fast.
- Triclosan Exposure, Transformation, and Human Health Effects, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- 5 Things to Know About Triclosan, U.S Food and Drug Administration.
- Skin reactions and irritation potential of four commercial toothpastes. Acta Odontologica Scandinavia, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- What is the Role of Benzoyl Peroxide Cleansers in Acne Management? The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Treatment of acne vulgaris with salicylic acid pads. Clinical Therapeutics, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- An update on the management of acne vulgaris, Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Tretinoin: A Review of Its Anti-inflammatory Properties in the Treatment of Acne, The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- The efficacy of 5% topical tea tree oil gel in mild to moderate acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study., Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Pleiotropic Effects of White Willow Bark and 1,2-Decanediol on Human Adult Keratinocytes, Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, ResearchGate.
- Aloe Vera: A Short Review, Indian Journal of Dermatology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- The effect of probiotics on immune regulation, acne, and photoaging, International Journal of Women’s Dermatology, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
- Natural Remedies To Remove Old Scars
- 11 Simple Ways To Remove Pimples Overnight
- 10 Causes And Simple Remedies For Pimples On Forehead
- 4 Effective Ways To Treat Pimples Under The Skin
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