Many people have tried using toothpaste as a spot treatment for pesky blemishes, but it could do more harm than good.
This particular home remedy has no scientific support, and it is difficult to pinpoint its exact origins.
Toothpaste might seem to be an effective spot treatment because it contains drying agents and antibacterial compounds. However, the ingredients in toothpaste may have more risks than benefits when it comes to skin care.
Read this article to learn more about the risks of using toothpaste as a treatment for pimples. We also provide some ideas for alternative remedies and treatments.
Historically, toothpaste contained an antibacterial agent called triclosan. However, in 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned triclosan as an ingredient in antiseptic washes after finding evidence to suggest that it can decrease thyroid hormone levels and potentially contribute to antibiotic resistance.
As of early 2019, commercially available toothpaste no longer contains triclosan.
Toothpaste contains many ingredients that benefit dental health, such as:
- calcium carbonate
- sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
- sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
However, many of these ingredients are too harsh to use on the skin. People may find that toothpaste irritates or dries their skin out. This effect could be particularly dangerous for those with dry or sensitive skin.
Having overly dry skin can stimulate excess oil production, which could, in turn, trigger further breakouts of spots and pimples.
Having a new pimple pop up the night before a big event or experiencing a stubborn breakout that lingers for weeks on end can be frustrating. However, before people reach for their toothpaste, they may wish to consider the following alternative pimple remedies instead.
People who experience frequent breakouts can try using over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription strength acne treatments.
Although these treatments can be highly effective, they may also lead to side effects and might not be right for everyone. A person should work with a doctor or dermatologist to find the best treatment for them.
OTC treatments usually work well for mild-to-moderate breakouts of acne and pimples. These treatments come in various forms, including gels, creams, and cleansers, and they generally contain the following ingredients:
- salicylic acid
- benzoyl peroxide
- alpha hydroxy acids
Doctors can prescribe topical or oral treatments for people who have severe acne. Some of these medications include:
- oral isotretinoin
- oral minocycline
- topical tretinoin
- topical or oral clindamycin
- oral antibiotics
- oral birth control pills
In a 2019 comparative study, researchers found that herbal extracts were equally as effective in treating acne as a solution containing 2.5% benzoyl peroxide. In this particular study, those using the herbal extracts were also more satisfied with the treatment. Below are some examples of natural remedies for pimples and spots:
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil comes from the Melaleuca alternifolia tree. Compounds in tea tree oil have powerful anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which may help kill acne-causing bacteria and soothe irritated skin.
In a 2016 pilot study, researchers asked 14 individuals between the ages of 16 and 39 years with moderate acne to use tea tree oil products twice a day. The tea tree oil products reduced the number of acne lesions by 54% after 12 weeks.
Four of the participants experienced minor side effects, including minor itching and moderate scaling, peeling, and dryness. However, these side effects cleared up within a few days.
In a 2018 randomized trial, 60 individuals between the ages of 14 and 34 years with mild-to-moderate facial acne received one of the following treatments:
- natural acne treatment containing 3% tea tree oil, 20% propolis, and 10% aloe vera
- acne cream containing 3% erythromycin
The researchers concluded that the natural treatment containing tee tree oil was significantly more effective than the other two treatments.
The anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial compounds in aloe vera may help fight blemishes.
In one 2019 study, 60 participants with mild-to-moderate acne received either a natural gel containing aloe vera, mangosteen peel, and camellia tea extracts or a 1% clindamycin gel. The participants used these products twice daily for 28 days.
The participants using the natural gel experienced significant reductions in skin redness, hyperpigmentation, and the number of acne lesions compared with those in the group using the clindamycin gel.
However, some people may experience adverse skin reactions to pure aloe vera and commercial products containing it. It is advisable to perform a skin patch test before using aloe vera on the face.
Prebiotics and probiotics
Many of the trillions of microbes living on the skin play vital roles in wound healing and fighting infection. Researchers have found evidence linking imbalances in the skin microbiota to numerous skin conditions, including eczema, psoriasis, and acne.
In a 2018 study, researchers found that the balances of bacterial genera were different in people who had severe acne. These individuals also had lower levels of beneficial gut bacteria than the participants without acne.
The increasing awareness of the gut and skin microbiomes and how they influence people’s overall health has led many researchers and manufacturers to believe that manipulating the microbiome could improve skin health.
Prebiotics are dietary fibers that feed beneficial bacteria. Probiotics are strains of live bacteria that can help increase the number of beneficial bacteria on the skin and prevent the growth of acne-causing bacteria.
In a 2013 study, researchers found that oral supplementation with a probiotic strain called Lactobacillus paracasei reduced skin sensitivity and improved the skin’s natural barrier function.
In 2014, an 8 week trial involving 34 individuals found that fermented cypress, another probiotic, appeared to be more effective than tea tree oil in reducing the number of acne lesions and decreasing oil production.
These preliminary findings suggest that prebiotics and probiotics may be effective alternatives to current acne medications.
It is not a good idea to use toothpaste as a treatment for pimples and acne. Although toothpaste contains ingredients that keep the mouth clean and prevent dental disease, it does not follow that it will benefit the skin in the same way.
The chemicals in toothpaste can irritate the skin, causing dryness that can stimulate the oil glands in the face. Excess oil production may result in new or worsening breakouts of acne.
Instead of toothpaste, people who struggle with pimples might want to consider using an OTC acne treatment or an herbal extract, such as tea tree oil or aloe vera.
People who have severe acne can speak with a dermatologist about other prescription treatment options.
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