Does Using Toothpaste on Pimples Work?

You've just awoken to a zit that definitely wasn't there the night before. Of course, you want to banish it ASAP, but don't pick up that tube of toothpaste. When you learn what it really does for breakouts and your skin, you'll think twice before dabbing toothpaste on a pimple.

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. But this is one acne home remedy you don't want to try.

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 definitely is not what you want to do on an already red, swollen blemish.

The idea to use toothpaste as a spot treatment is probably due to the fact that many brands of toothpaste contain ingredients to help combat bad breath. And, the idea is, if they kill bad breath bacteria they'll also kill acne-causing bacteria. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

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

Maybe you have seen the ingredient triclosan in both your acne treatment product and your toothpaste. Triclosan effectively kills bacteria. It is actually a common addition to acne treatment products, although as a preservative and not an active ingredient.

Some studies have found that triclosan can kill Propionibacteria acnes, the bacteria that causes acne. But, it has to be formulated in a specific way to do this. Putting any random product containing triclosan, like toothpaste, for example, isn't going to do the trick.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the use of triclosan in hand soaps and body washes in 2016. Triclosan was used as an antibacterial agent, but no evidence showed that antibacterial soaps containing triclosan worked any better than plain soap and water. There was also some concern over its long-term safety.

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

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.

Many unfortunate souls have developed a chemical burn, or a nasty rash called contact dermatitis, after applying toothpaste to a zit. Your skin could be feeling sore for days afterward. Bottom line: 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 ways than dabbing on toothpaste. Try an acne spot treatment instead. These products contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid or sulfur, all of which can help reduce redness and speed healing.

Acne spot treatment products are milder for your skin than toothpaste ever will be, and they're inexpensive to buy. You can find many spot treatments at your local drugstore for less than $10. Of course, if you're already seeing a dermatologist for your acne, ask them before using any spot treatment.

If you have a particularly big blemish that won't go away, you may want to see a dermatologist. What you think is a pimple may not be at all, but rather a boil or sebaceous hyperplasia. And if it is just a big zit, your dermatologist has ways to shrink it fast.

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 that tea tree oil is effective in 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 discontinue if you notice any adverse reactions.

A Word From Verywell

Truly, toothpaste isn't the best treatment for a pimple. There are many better options that simply work better. So save the toothpaste for your teeth and you'll save your skin.

If pimples are a regular problem for you, consider starting on an acne treatment regimen. Over-the-counter acne products and prescription acne medications help heal existing pimples and, even more importantly, help stop pimples from developing in the first place. Using these treatments consistently can help keep your skin clear.

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4 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. Domínguez-Delgado CL, Rodríguez-Cruz IM, Escobar-Chávez JJ, et. al. Preparation and characterization of triclosan nanoparticles intended to be used for the treatment of acne." European Journal of Pharmaceutics and Biopharmaceutics. 2011;79(1):102-7. doi:10.1155/2014/276260

  2. 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.

  3. US Food & Drug Administration. FDA issues final rule on safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps. September 2, 2016.

  4. 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

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