Toothpaste on Pimples [Dermatologist's Opinion]

a women applying toothpaste on her pimples

If you landed on this page, chances are you’re dealing with a frustrating (perhaps even painful) pimple and want to know if toothpaste could help heal it...and quickly. Urban legend has it that toothpaste is a good, “DIY” alternative to other acne spot treatments to help zap a zit in a pinch overnight.

But does it work? Does toothpaste help get rid of a pimple? Read on to find out!

Does putting toothpaste on a pimple work?

While toothpaste works wonderful at cleaning your teeth and helping remove bacteria in your does not work the same way on your skin. In fact, applying toothpaste to your skin—especially if you have acne-prone skin—can actually further irritate your existing blemishes and cause more breakouts down the road...yikes! Besides, due to the other active ingredients present in most toothpaste, applying it to your skin can actually leave behind skin discoloration (a lighter or darker spot). There are plenty of other spot treatments available to help heal a blemish much more safely and effectively.

Why do people use toothpaste on pimples?

Toothpaste has been used as a home remedy to spot treat a pimple for decades. So while we now know that this is not an effective (and actually quite risky!) acne treatment, you’re probably wondering, “why did people start to use toothpaste on their pimples in the first place?” Well, many types of toothpaste are used to contain an ingredient called “triclosan,” an antibacterial and antifungal agent used in some consumer products, including toothpaste. However, due to increasing evidence of its health and environmental toxicities, in 2016, the FDA concluded that it was not GRAS/GRAE (generally recognized as safe and effective), meaning it has effectively been banned.

Therefore, some kinds of toothpaste containing both triclosan (to kill acne-causing bacteria and fungi) and baking soda and alcohol (for a drying effect) did have some benefit in treating individual pimples. And while some kinds of toothpaste still have these two ingredients, they are not the most effective way to spot treat, can result in side effects, and will not prevent future acne from forming.

Can toothpaste cause pimples?

Woman nervously applying pimple to acne pimples

The “drying” ingredients in some kinds of toothpaste — baking soda and SLS—are the reason why some people still use toothpaste to spot treat pimples today, even without the triclosan, which was the main reason people started using the toothpaste trick, to begin with. The issue using today’s kinds of toothpaste on pimples? Well, the concentrations of baking soda and SLS is much higher, and dental products than would ever be recommended for use on the skin. Therefore they can be very irritating and even cause a chemical burn.

What are the worst kinds of toothpaste to apply on pimples?

The worst kinds of toothpaste to apply to pimples

The worst kinds of toothpaste to apply on pimples are the ones with added fluoride and whiteners. You’ll find many of these kinds of toothpaste and distinguishable by that classic, multi-colored appearance. However, other culprits are less easily identifiable and require some label reading. If you reached this point in the article, you should have put down your toothpaste tube and abandoned this spot treatment myth already!

How should you treat a painful big single pimple?

Woman applying a pimple patch as a spot treatment

So, if toothpaste is out as a spot treatment...what can you use instead? Let us start by saying that if you are regularly experiencing breakouts, then spot treatments are not the best option for you. While they can help treat single blemishes, they will not prevent future breakouts and, therefore, distract you from the real important mission—get your acne under control.

The best way to control your acne is by using a medical-grade acne treatment system. Most importantly, and night cream with anti-acne medication, applied to the whole face (not just single pimples) to help treat existing blemishes and prevent new ones from forming. These creams usually contain as active ingredient benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.

In addition to an ongoing acne treatment program, you can use certain spot treatments to treat individual pimples.

  • Pimple Patches: These seemingly magical small patches absorb fluids from the pimple, reduce inflammation, and create a barrier to encourage the wound repair process. While there are various patches on the market, our favorite is the Single Pimple Master Patch, which is ultrathin and transparent, blends with all skin tones, and can be used in the daytime overnight. You can apply the pimple patch on single pimples for 3-4 consecutive nights until the pimples turn white and decrease in size.

  • Drying lotions: Another option is to dry out pimples is with a targeted acne spot treatment. These often appear pink (there are several brands available!) and are applied with a q-tip.

  • Anti-Acne Spot Treatments: Several over-the-counter spot treatments can be a great addition to your acne treatment products. Look for options that contain benzoyl peroxide, zinc oxide, sulfur, or tea tree oil.

Woman preparing to apply ice cube to painful pimple to reduce inflammation

For larger, painful pimples, you can also help reduce the pimple's size by wrapping an ice cube in a clean towel and applying it for 5 minutes to the pimple (up to 3 times a day).

Is it OK to pop a pimple?

Woman trying to pop a pimple

Popping pimples is generally not a great idea as it spreads the bacteria and infection to other parts of your face, causing more breakouts (not what we want). Additionally, it increases the pimples' risk of leaving behind dark marks that take months to fade and even life-long scars.

When is it OK to pop a pimple?

You should never try to squeeze a pimple that does not have a yellow/whitish pus-filled point in the middle. Otherwise, you will simply irritate the pimple further and cause bigger (literally) issues.

What is the safest way to pop a pimple?

While we don’t recommend popping pimples, we know that when a pimple finally comes to a head, that’s all you’re going to want to do. So instead of telling you, “no, no, no!” here are some tips to help minimize the risk of further damage to your skin;

  1. Wash your hands well with soap.

  2. Sterilize a fine sewing needle or a straight pin with a match or a lighter and allow it to cool and finish by cleaning the needle with rubbing alcohol.

  3. Apply a bit of rubbing alcohol to your pimple with a cotton swab.

  4. Hold the needle parallel to the surface of your skin, and pierce the tip of the pimple’s yellow center.

  5. Take 1 or 2 cotton swabs and gently press around the pimple to release pus.

  6. Be gentle! If the contents don’t come out easily, don’t force it!

  7. Once you’ve gently removed the puss, apply a bit of Vaseline/Aquaphor to help heal the wound.

  8. Reapply the ointment after you wash your face or shower.

To find the right acne treatments for your unique skin, take the free skin assessment by clicking here.

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