December 21, 2022

Why You Should Never Put Toothpaste on a Pimple

It can actually make your blemish worse, not better

Squeezed toothpaste from tube.

If you’ve ever needed to get rid of a pimple in a pinch (and who among us hasn’t?), you may have thought back to the advice you heard back in high school. Some well-meaning friend told you, “Just dab some toothpaste on it and it’ll dry out overnight!” — and it’s stuck with you ever since.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

But is it true? Does it work? Dermatology resident Taylor Bullock, MD, explains why you should skip the toothpaste trick and what to put on your pimples instead.

Is putting toothpaste on pimples a good idea?

Toothpaste is made for your mouth, and in your mouth is where it should stay. When it comes to your skin, stick with tried-and-true spot treatments that are specially formulated to target occasional acne.

“The toothpaste advice sounds like an easy, quick solution using something already available around the house,” Dr. Bullock says, “but it’s not a good idea.”

Toothpaste used to be made with an ingredient called triclosan, a compound that was also thought to help acne by killing off bacteria. But triclosan’s effectiveness has long been debated, and in 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a rule to significantly limit its use. As of 2019, no toothpaste brands sold in the U.S. use triclosan.

With the original reasoning behind the toothpaste-as-spot-treatment guidance now outdated, it’s time to put the myth to rest!


Why you shouldn’t put toothpaste on pimples

Toothpaste will likely do more harm than good for your skin,” Dr. Bullock states, “so, what happens is that you end up with a redder, more irritated pimple than you started with.”

That’s because your toothpaste is full of ingredients formulated to help your teeth by reducing tartar and strengthening enamel. But those same ingredients can be too strong or harsh for your skin, leading to:

  • Redness.
  • Stinging.
  • Burning.
  • Irritation.
  • Inflammation.

Basically, all of the things you don’t want to deal with, especially when your goal is to zap an already-obvious zit.

Better pimple treatment options

When you feel a pimple coming on but don’t have a ton of money to drop on fancy products, what can you do? The good news is that plenty of spot treatments (the kind that are actually designed to go on your skin) don’t cost much more than a tube of toothpaste, and you can buy them at the drugstore.


“They’re easy to come by, they’re cheap and they’re much better, more effective spot treatments for a pimple,” Dr. Bullock notes. Look for products with these ingredients:

  • Salicylic acid, which helps remove the top layer of damaged skin by dissolving dead skin cells.
  • Benzoyl peroxide, which targets bacteria on the surface of your skin that can aggravate acne.

Spot treatments that contain these ingredients are designed to be dabbed onto existing pimples. Both salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are also common ingredients in face washes that aim to prevent acne in the first place.

So, leave the toothpaste to your teeth and give your blemishes the TLC they need. Your skin will thank you.

To learn from a dermatologist on related topics, listen to the Health Essentials Podcast episode, “Skin Care Tips, Tricks and Trends.” New episodes of the Health Essentials Podcast publish every Wednesday.

Related Articles

Closeup of pimple on person's lip.
June 7, 2023
Lip Service: How To Get Rid of Lip Pimples

Using salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide can help clear up breakouts near your lips

Person using mirror to inspect pimples close up.
May 7, 2023
How To Get Rid of a Pimple — Stat!

Benzoyl peroxide spot treatments are the gold standard, but they’re not the only game in town

Teen with facial acne.
November 9, 2022
The Best Acne Treatments for Teens

OTCs that can help treat teen acne, and getting into a skin care routine, can go a long way

An illustration of someone with pimples on their face trying to pop one
March 14, 2022
Pimple Popping 101: How to (Safely) Zap Your Zits

Clean hands and gentle pressure are critical — but it’s better to leave those zits alone

Illustration of person with pimples on their face
September 7, 2021
Do Pimple Patches Actually Work?

A dermatologist weighs in on whether zit stickers are worthwhile

Closeup of dotted line indicating where eyelid lift will take place
February 14, 2024
Blepharoplasty vs. Brow Lift: What To Know

The procedures take different approaches to eliminate saggy, baggy skin around your eyes

jar of coconut oil-based cream next to a cut open coconut on a bath towel
February 9, 2024
Stop the Itch: Home Remedies To Help Manage Eczema

Colloidal oatmeal, petroleum jelly and other around-the-home products can help provide needed relief

stress factors floating around person with eczema on arms
February 8, 2024
Eczema and Stress: What’s the Connection?

Your body’s natural response to stress can lead to painful skin irritation

Trending Topics

close up of keto gummies
Do Keto Gummies Work for Weight Loss? Are They Safe?

Research is inconclusive whether or not these supplements are helpful

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

Older person postioned sideways showing dowager hump.
Dowager’s Hump: What It Is and How To Get Rid of It

The hump at the base of your neck may be caused by osteoporosis or poor posture