Does Using Toothpaste on Pimples Work?

Putting toothpaste on a pimple may seem like an acne home remedy worth trying, but there's no evidence that it actually works. A number of treatment alternatives, most of them widely available over-the-counter products, are more effective.

Toothpaste on a pimple, quite apart from offering no real benefit, may actually cause harm. Some acne treatments share bacteria-killing properties with toothpaste, but they're two different products designed for separate uses.

This article explains why toothpaste is a poor choice for acne treatment, and it explains how toothpaste may cause problems when used on skin. It also discusses triclosan, an ingredient found in many toothpaste formulas.

toothpaste on pimples isn't effective
Verywell / Emily Roberts

Does Toothpaste Heal Pimples Faster?

Toothpaste is often thought of as an inexpensive spot treatment for blemishes. The idea may be linked to ingredients in many brands of toothpaste that kill bacteria in the mouth, but that doesn't make them the right product for treating acne-causing bacteria.

Although some people swear toothpaste dries up their pimples quickly, the fact is most people will find the toothpaste leaves their skin red and irritated. This tends to make an already red, swollen blemish even worse.

Toothpaste wasn't designed to be put on the skin, and the ingredients in it aren't meant to control acne-causing bacteria.

Triclosan in Toothpaste

Triclosan is a common ingredient in toothpaste as well as acne skin care products. Some studies have shown that specific formulas with triclosan can kill Propionibacteria acnes, the bacteria that causes acne.

Triclosan effectively kills bacteria. However, in its 2017 final ruling, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of triclosan in hand soaps and body washes without a premarket review.

The decision was due to concern over its long-term safety and the lack of evidence that antibacterial soaps containing triclosan offered clear benefits, even as their use may contribute to antimicrobial resistance.

Triclosan is still allowed in toothpaste, though, because it's been shown to be effective at reducing plaque and gingivitis.

Toothpaste and Triclosan Exposure

Triclosan has been so widely used in personal care products and other goods that roughly 75% of the United States population has been exposed to it. In 2017, the European Union banned its use in all antibacterial hygiene products for humans, but it remains in use in various products, including toothpaste, in the U.S. Some researchers have called for additional study of triclosan due to concerns about possible health impacts.

Toothpaste Irritates or Burns Skin

Here's the biggest reason to forgo the toothpaste on your pimple: besides being unlikely to really work, toothpaste will probably burn and irritate your skin—especially your face.

Some people develop a chemical burn, or a nasty rash called contact dermatitis, after applying toothpaste on a pimple. Your skin could be feeling sore for days afterward, and toothpaste can make your pimple look worse instead of better.

Use Approved Acne Spot Treatments

If you're looking for a way to make a blemish heal quickly, there are much better options than toothpaste. Try an acne spot treatment instead. These products contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, all of which can help to reduce redness and speed healing.

Acne spot treatment products are milder for your skin than toothpaste, and they're inexpensive. You can find many spot treatments at your local drugstore or online.

If you're already seeing a dermatologist for your acne, speak to your provider before using any spot treatment. Keep in mind that what you think is a pimple may be another condition, like sebaceous hyperplasia. Your dermatologist can diagnose and treat the condition.

A Word From Verywell

Toothpaste is not an effective treatment for pimples. If pimples are a regular problem for you, consider an acne treatment regimen. Over-the-counter acne products and prescription acne medications help to prevent pimples and heal existing ones. Using these treatments consistently can help keep your skin clear.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do dermatologists get rid of big pimples quickly?

    If you have large cystic acne, your dermatologist may suggest using cortisone injections to shrink them. They may be an option to help a nodule or cyst heal if it's not responding to other treatments.

  • What home remedies can get rid of acne?

    To get rid of pimples quickly, you could try tea tree oil. A 2020 study found tea tree oil effective for killing acne-causing bacteria and could be a possible substitute for antibiotic therapy. If you decide to try it, use a small amount on your skin at first and stop if you notice any adverse reactions.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Dall'oglio F, Tedeschi A, Fabbrocini G, Veraldi S, Picardo M, Micali G. Cosmetics for acne: indications and recommendations for an evidence-based approachG Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2015;150(1):1-11.

  2. US Food & Drug Administration. 5 Things to Know About Triclosan.

  3. Weatherly LM, Gosse JA. Triclosan exposure, transformation, and human health effects. J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2017;20(8):447-469. doi:10.1080/10937404.2017.1399306

  4. Zhang J, Walker ME, Sanidad KZ, Zhang H, Liang Y, Zhao E, et al. Microbial enzymes induce colitis by reactivating triclosan in the mouse gastrointestinal tract. Nat Commun. 2022 Jan 10;13(1):136. doi:10.1038/s41467-021-27762-y. 

  5. Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. Does Putting Toothpaste on a Pimple Make It Go Away?

  6. Esmael A, Hassan M, Amer M, et al. Antimicrobial activity of certain natural-based plant oils against the antibiotic-resistant acne bacteriaSaudi J Biol Sci. 2020;27(1):448-455. doi:10.1016/j.sjbs.2019.11.006

Additional Reading

By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.