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Why You Should Never Use Toothpaste for Acne

You may have heard of toothpaste as an over-the-counter acne spot treatment, but this old-fashioned home remedy will actually do you a disservice.

Toothpaste on pimples has been medically reviewed and the research demonstrated that, at best, toothpaste has little to no impact. At worst, it can actually contribute to further breakouts. This is due to a number of ingredients that can dry out, irritate, and throw off the pH balance of your sensitive facial skin.

Although toothpaste has some properties that seem to potentially reduce acne, when you take a closer look it becomes clear that it was really just meant for cleaning teeth, and there are many better alternatives to clear up breakouts than putting toothpaste on a pimple.

Toothpaste on a toothbrush
Toothpaste is full of ingredients that are great for your teeth, but not so great for your acne.

Why Even Recommend Toothpaste for Acne?

Have you heard that toothpaste can cure acne? Maybe you have even tried it yourself in the past, albeit with little to no improvement. Before 2016, toothpaste could contain triclosan, an ingredient that is mildly effective against acne, but dangerous in the long term.

In the U.S., many products for personal care, including toothpaste, once contained triclosan. Triclosan is a strong anti-bacterial agent that has been medically reviewed to work well against many pathogens, including acne causing bacteria, called P. acnes.

However, triclosan was banned by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2016 due to medical data that demonstrated its potential harmfulness to humans in the long term. The antiseptic is a hormone modulator and it can encourage bacterial resistance, doing more harm than good.

If, after this, you’re still a fan of using toothpaste to dry out pimples, don’t get too comfortable. It still contains ingredients that can irritate the skin and cause pimples to increase.

Toothpaste Ingredients

Most toothpaste formulas include these ingredients:

  • glycerin

  • sorbitol

  • sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)

  • fluoride

  • sodium hydrogen carbonate/bicarbonate of soda (baking soda).

Glycerin and Sorbitol

Glycerin and sorbitol are alcohol-based compounds, which means they may have a drying effect. This means that for people whose pimples are largely caused by excess oil, toothpaste can seem to help as a spot treatment.

However, their safety in chronic, long-term use has not been medically reviewed, and there are better ways to treat acne. The powerful combination of acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide in the Exposed Skincare regimen will be more effective and are combined with soothing herbal blends to avoid excessively drying out your skin.

The Exposed Skincare Ultimate Kit
The Exposed Skincare Ultimate Kit.

Glycerin and sorbitol can cause real problems for sensitive or dry skin. One of the side effects of harsh, alcohol-based ingredients is irritation, which can lead to a bigger pimple problem.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)

SLS is a surfactant, which is a chemical that binds to something, then foams up in order to remove it. In toothpaste, SLS binds to plaque, then foams up to lift it from the teeth. It works well at keeping our teeth healthy, but even if you don’t actively use toothpaste for your acne, it can still cause breakouts around the mouth.

If you’ve noticed persistent acne near your mouth, even after your other pimples have cleared up, you may want to change your toothpaste. The foam often makes its way to the corners of the mouth during brushing, and if SLS stays in contact with your skin too long, it can start to cause irritation.

Fluoride

Some websites recommend using toothpaste for skin problems because it contains fluoride, which is known to kill bacteria. Since bacteria are one of the main causes of acne, this could make sense, but only if the bacteria in your mouth and the bacteria primarily associated with pimples were the same.

Fluoride has shown action against some microbes in the mouth, but there is no research to show it can reduce acne-causing bacteria.

The benzoyl peroxide found in many acne-fighting products, such as the Exposed Acne Treatment Serum, is a much more effective and well-proven ingredient to decrease P. acnes, the bacteria associated with acne. It can also be used as a spot treatment.

Baking Soda

Bicarbonate of soda is another common toothpaste ingredient that can affect acne negatively. Don’t ever use it on its own on your skin; it almost definitely won’t work and can even be harmful to pimples.

On the pH scale, which measures how acidic or alkaline a substance is, bicarbonate of soda has a pH around 9, which is mildly alkaline, and the skin has a natural pH around 5, which is mildly acidic. The difference means that baking soda can throw off your skin's natural pH levels.

Typically, alkaline ingredients are not used in acne treatments at all, as ingredients like salicylic acid and tea tree oil, both acidic and found in Exposed products, are much more helpful.

How To Get Rid of Acne Without Toothpaste

Exposed Skin Care really takes care of your skin while fighting acne. We have carefully developed products that combine scientific and natural anti-inflammatory ingredients in order to give your skin everything it needs to fight acne.

Before and after pictures of Exposed user Jade
Jade cleared up her acne using the Exposed Skincare kit.

Our Expanded Kit is a full acne treatment system that can kill bacteria, reduce oil, clear pores, remove dead skin cells, and moisturize all at the same time. Key acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid, tea tree oil, and benzoyl peroxide are combined with soothing ingredients like green tea extract and aloe vera for effective long-term treatment that is guaranteed to work–unlike toothpaste.

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