Every few years, toothpaste resurfaces as a hack for banishing breakouts overnight. TikTok is full of people who’ve gone to sleep with their faces dotted with toothpaste, claiming the ingredients that polish pearly whites also dry out pimples. Our dermatologist founder Dennis Gross, MD, says don’t be fooled! The short answer is: no, toothpaste should not be used as a pimple treatment. This medicine cabinet remedy can actually make your skin situation way worse. Here’s why:
Ingredients that clean teeth are really harsh
Think of your dental enamel (hard, strong) and the skin on your face (soft, delicate). Toothpaste, which is formulated to remove plaque, must be abrasive enough to polish away that sticky film before it calcifies into the hard deposits known as tartar. But that’s ok because your teeth can take it! Your face, not so much.
Toothpaste contains a mixture of ingredients like:
- Detergents for foaming
- Flavoring like peppermint oil or menthol that freshen your breath but irritate skin when applied directly
- Thickeners to stabilize the formula (but that certainly aren’t non-comedogenic)
- Chemicals that can help whiten enamel because they’re strong enough to dissolve entrenched stains (you can imagine what they do on skin)
- Fluoride – if there’s a skincare product made with fluoride, we have yet to see it
- Baking soda, which by itself seems kind of benign, can disrupt the skin’s pH level and result in burning or a rash
Toothpaste ingredients that seem perfect for treating acne aren’t
Toothpaste may contain ingredients to kill bacteria, but they’re specific to the bacteria in your mouth, not to the bacteria responsible for your pimples (P. acnes would be the one to blame for that).
As if all that weren’t enough, the more you try using super-strong ingredients to shrink your blemish, the more you risk overdrying your skin. This, in turn, spurs the skin to produce even greater quantities of oil, creating a seemingly never-ending cycle of pimples.
The face mask that mimics a toothpaste treatment (in a good way)
Part of the appeal of using toothpaste to erase a pimple is the idea that you can apply it before bed and your breakout will magically dry out while you sleep. While we’ve established that toothpaste is not an effective solution to this problem, there is a spot treatment that works overnight and is formulated specifically for skin: Dr. Dennis Gross DRx Blemish Solutions Clarifying Mask. This purifying powerhouse sucks the oil out of a pimple using a mix of clays like bentonite while colloidal sulfur zaps P. acnes bacteria and dissolves pore blockages — all without overdrying your complexion.
Skin-safe, breakout-busting actives to keep in your arsenal
There are a host of ingredients that won’t do a thing for your teeth but are really excellent at getting rid of blemishes. Keep these acne prevention and treatment products on hand!
This beta hydroxy acid (BHA) actually targets P. acnes bacteria, eradicating that breakout-causing component. And since salicylic acid is also a chemical exfoliant, it helps break up the gunk that’s plugging your pore.
This active derived from rose petals also helps dissolve the mix of dead skin cells and oil that are stuck in your pore. And it’s an antibacterial. And it’s extremely gentle. And it may help control sebum flow. Clearly, there’s a lot to love about farnesol.
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