Don’t put toothpaste on your skin.
I just wanted to make that clear, because for every article like this about not using toothpaste as skin care, you’ll probably find several hundred about why it’s the miracle cure for pimples and blackheads. Maybe you even have a friend who tried it and said it worked perfectly. But remember when everyone was going crazy for pore strips?[Related: 5 Mistakes to Stop Making on Your Skin… Right Now]
Put the tube down and forget the bulleted list that you read as an aside in a lifestyle magazine article about kitchen dermatology. This is for your own good. I’m only looking out for your face here.
Why Toothpaste is Bad for Skin
Perhaps not all toothpaste is totally detrimental to skin. After all, there are different formulations with ingredients that will cause nary a splotch of red on your delicate dermis. But unless you’re ready to research the ingredients in every tube of toothpaste, it’s simply not worth it to risk the irritation.
For one, many types of toothpaste contain sodium lauryl sulfate, the surfactant that gives shampoos, soaps, and toothpastes their suds. I think Dr. Leslie Baumann once said that it’s “a consistent irritator for the skin with an impaired barrier … it strips the natural lipids from the skin, disrupting the barrier and rendering it more susceptible to external irritants” (Cosmetic Dermatology). It can also cause chapped lips and skin irritation, sometimes even making perioral dermatitis worse (The DERMAdoctor Skinstruction Manual).
And it’s not just the sodium lauryl sulfate that’s problematic, either. Sodium fluoride is also a known skin irritant (MSDS), as is triclosan, which is put in toothpastes to serve as an antibacterial and antimicrobial agent (Acta Odontologica Scandinavica).
Several studies have been done on commercial toothpastes as a skin irritant and found that those with the above ingredients are the most irritating to skin (Acta Odontologica Scandinavica, Contact Dermatitis). Another study found that of 48 toothpastes studied in Finland, nearly half of them contained common allergens (Contact Dermatitis).
Additionally, the anecdotal evidence on forums is full of horror stories of dark spots that fade slower than acne and other skin irritations. Even if you don’t choose to put these on your skin for dermatological reasons, if you notice that your lips are chapped or that your mouth is irritated, consider using toothpaste without ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate.
Why Toothpaste Works Sometimes
There are a lot of theories about why toothpaste can be effective. Once upon a time, toothpaste included zinc, which has been shown to act as an antioxidant when applied topically to the skin (International Journal of Dermatology).
One of the other ingredients that can make toothpaste helpful in the case of oily, acne-prone skin is calcium carbonate. This is because it can help absorb excess oil and dry out skin (in this case, pimples). However, that doesn’t outweigh all the issues you can have by using toothpaste, particularly considering that there are, in fact, other skin care products with calcium carbonate.[Related: Acne: What Causes It and What to Do about It]
What You Can Use Instead of Toothpaste
Whatever the potential benefits of toothpaste are, there are products formulated specifically for skin that work better and don’t put your skin at risk for the same kind of irritation.
Blackheads are caused when the dirt in clogged pores oxidizes and darkens. Salicyclic acid helps to clean and smooth the skin as a kind of beta-hydroxy acid by loosening dry skin and increasing cell turnover (DermNetNZ).
Retinol also works to exfoliate the skin by normalizing the keratinization process.Specifically, retinol acts by stopping the cells lining the gland from becoming stuck together, which in turn makes for better exfoliation (The DERMAdoctor Skinstruction Manual).
Benzoyl peroxide is typically recommended for treatment of acne, with a more concentrated formulation for spot treatment (Livestrong, WedMd). Just don’t use benzoyl peroxide with retinoids (British Journal of Dermatology)!
Sulfur also helps to clean out pores as well as curb the growth of P. acnes (The DERMAdoctor Skinstruction Manuel).5 Types of Topical Treatments for Acne]
Toothpaste has been touted for dermatological purposes for a long time, but it’s not the best path to clear skin. By using it, you might actually do more damage to your skin and cause darkening that takes a long time to go away. Instead, it’s better to get products specifically formulated for the skin which won’t cause irritation and will achieve better overall results.[Read more: How to Treat Acne: 5 Treatments You’ve Never Tried]
Looking for the best skin care? FutureDerm is committed to having its customers find — and create — the best skin care for their individual skin type, concern, and based on your ingredient preferences. Learn more by visiting the FutureDerm shop!