Raise your hand if you’ve ever woken up on the day of a big event, looked in the mirror, and found yourself staring down a nasty rogue pimple. Yikes! Without any acne spot treatments on hand, will a dot of toothpaste really clear the sucker up? We’ve all heard this tip before, but we went to a top dermatologist to find out if it’s actually a legit skincare solution.
urns out, it used to be, says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai hospital in New York. “Toothpaste has been used as a home remedy to treat pimples because many toothpastes used to contain an ingredient called triclosan, which is an antimicrobial that helped kill acne-causing bacteria on the skin,” he says. The issue? Triclosan is a controversial ingredient—it’s been linked to hormone disruption in a handful of studies, according to the FDA. As a result, many toothpaste formulas these days are ditching it.
That said, toothpaste might still help your pimple in a pinch, says Zeichner, since most formulas contain drying agents like baking soda and alcohol. “Toothpaste may have a drying effect on a pimple, and may in fact decrease the size of a red angry zit,” Zeichner says. The issue is, the concentrations that work for your teeth are harsher than when these ingredients are formulated for your skin for your skin. “If you have access to a traditional acne medication, I advise using that product over toothpaste,” Zeichner adds. (We really like this pimple mud to soothe breakouts from the Women’s Health Boutique!)
If you want to try toothpaste to clear up your acne, make sure you’re using a formula that lacks added whiteners, mouthwash, or colors, all of which can irritate your skin and leave you with an angrier-looking red spot. The bottom line? Leave this as a last resort acne treatment.