Here at Works With Water, we get asked this question a lot! So, does toothpaste work on spots and pimples? Toothpaste can have a temporary effect on individual spots, but it’s NOT a recommended acne treatment and may cause more harm than you might expect.
Toothpaste has long been suggested as a quick fix to get rid of spots. Putting toothpaste on a spot in the hope you’ll wake the following morning with a clear complexion sounds too good to be true. And it is.
That said, toothpaste can have a short term effect in reducing the appearance of a spot.
Be careful though, there are some negatives to keep in mind which we’ll explain later on. Whilst this age-old beauty hack can temporarily help dry out a spot, reducing its size and appearance, the benefits are likely to be short-lived.
Why do people use toothpaste on acne?
Toothpastes can contain a variety of ingredients that have traditionally been associated with skin cleansing.
Whilst ingredients vary from brand to brand, most toothpastes contain a mix of silica, calcium carbonate, sorbitol, glycerol, fluoride, and sodium lauryl sulfate – along with antibacterial ingredients such as triclosan.
Some of these ingredients will sound familiar to those found in your beauty or skincare products – glycerol for example is used extensively in beauty products to give a silky feel to a product. And sodium lauryl sulfate is used widely as a detergent in products as varied as shampoos, shower gels, and even laundry detergent.
Of the ingredients commonly found in toothpaste, surprisingly it’s the abrasives (silica and calcium carbonate) that can have the biggest impact on spots and pimples. The drying effect of these ingredients can have a short term effect on different types of acne including blackheads and whiteheads. As the toothpaste dries out on your skin, it draws water and oils from the affected pore, temporarily reducing the size and appearance of the underlying spot.
You may also see a short term benefit due to the antibacterial action of ingredients like Triclosan. Triclosan is an antimicrobial agent originally developed about 20 years ago and is common in many antibacterial products.
Sorbitol can can also have a beneficial effect on skin, when used in skincare products, however it is unlikely to be of benefit to the skin when using toothpaste as a topical acne apot treatment.
What are the risks of using toothpaste on spots and pimples?
So, is toothpaste good for spots? No. Toothpaste is not designed for topical application to the skin and is not intended for use as an acne treatment.
Toothpaste formulations are designed to be used for a short period a couple of times a day. They are not intended to be left in contact in concentrated amounts either in the mouth or on the skin, such as leaving overnight as is commonly suggested for spot treatment.
Whilst the drying effect of the abrasive compounds in toothpaste may have a short term effect in minimising the appearance of a spot, there is a significant risk that you will make things worse long term.
Prolonged exposure to detergents, when used as topical treatments, will likely result in inflammation in the affected area. They can destroy the natural oils which normally help protect your skin – leaving you susceptible to further damage.
In extreme cases, this can result in significant damage to the skin, especially if you are prone to sensitive skin.
Can I use toothpaste on spots in an ’emergency’?
Our recommendation is always to avoid using products not specifically intended to treat acne. You should always follow the manufactures instructions, and be careful of any home remedies which advise otherwise.
If you do decide to go ahead, you should do what you can to minimise the risk of harm to your skin. Here are a few suggestions:
First, clean your skin with a gentle facial cleanser. Doing so can help prepare your skin for the aggressive impact toothpaste may have.
Then simply apply a small blob of toothpaste directly onto the spot. Try to avoid the surrounding skin and use a cotton bud for a more accurate application.
Lot’s of people do leave toothpaste on overnight, but we highly recommend you do NOT do this. It’s a fast track to putting your skin under a lot of stress and may even make your acne worse.
If it is the first time you have tried using toothpaste on a spot, clean the paste off with warm water after 20-30 minutes and check for any irritation of your skin. Once you are sure your skin is okay with the toothpaste treatment you can leave the paste in place for a couple of hours. Again making sure to clean off any paste thoroughly, potentially applying a calming agent like aloe vera or tea tree oil.
Toothpaste is at best only an ’emergency’ treatment for very occasional use. Regular use is bad news. Don’t do it!
Never use toothpaste as a whole face treatment. This will cause skin irritation and will result in overly dry skin. In extreme cases will this kind of treatment can stimulate the production of excess sebum (the lubricating oils that are essential for soft youthful skin). Excess sebum will result in an increase of spots and pimples – so, use sparingly and with caution!
Also, remember that by treating spots once they have erupted you are only treating the symptom not getting to the cause of the spot. You won’t prevent further skin outbreaks.
If you suffer from spots and acne on a more regular basis, try adding a supplement containing Lactoferrin to your diet. Pravenac help: clear skin® has been specially formulated to help treat acne and blemishes, and is clinically proven to help reduce the appearance of spots.
It’s also worth noting that if you get the occasional spot – and we’re not talking about acne here – it’s likely to go away within a couple of days, without covering it in toothpaste.
So keep the toothpaste for what it was intended for… That glowing smile!