Locations:
Search IconSearch

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.

Advertisement

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With the original reasoning behind the toothpaste-as-spot-treatment guidance now outdated, it’s time to put the myth to rest!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

Advertisement

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

A person's back, covered in moles and freckles, with their hand reaching over their shoulder
July 22, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
What To Expect During a Full-Body Skin Cancer Screening

During an annual exam, your provider will check for any moles or spots that have changed in size, color or shape

Person grimacing while scratching an itch on their arm
July 19, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Why Am I So Itchy? Common Causes and How To Know if It’s Something Serious

Dry air, harsh soaps and even some medications can bring on an itch, but in some cases, itchiness can be a sign of an underlying condition

Person in towel in front of bathtub, with shelves of lotions, holding jar of moisturizer, applying to face
June 17, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
14 Natural and Home Remedies for Psoriasis

Moisturize often, take oatmeal baths, use Epsom salts and follow a healthy diet to help reduce your symptoms

Person in towel standing in bathroom, with milk pticher on edge of bathtub
June 13, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Take the Plunge: 4 Reasons To Try a Milk Bath

Adding a little milk to your bath can leave your skin smooth, silky and refreshed

Blister on bottom of big toe
June 11, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
5 Ways To Avoid Blisters (and the Best Way To Treat Them)

Wear properly fitted shoes, break them in ahead of time and wear moisture-wicking socks

Older hands rubbing in lotion
June 10, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Have Crepey Skin? Here’s How You Can Address It

Topical treatments — and even some cosmetic procedures — may help reduce the appearance of this crinkled-paper look

Older person applying skin cream to their face
June 7, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Benefits of Ferulic Acid as Part of Your Skin Care Routine

Ferulic acid can help make other antioxidant products more powerful

Glass of beer on table at beach with beach-goers
June 3, 2024/Skin Care & Beauty
Why Experts Say To Avoid Beer Tanning

You’re putting your skin at risk of sunburn and even skin cancer when you pour on the beer

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims

Ad