The Scary Reason You Should Never Use Toothpaste to Treat a Zit

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I first heard about it at summer camp. Apparently it's the treatment Jessica Simpson told Seventeen magazine she swore by. Next thing I knew, my whole cabin was slathering Colgate Total Whitening Toothpaste on our faces and waiting for the magic to happen.

You’ve probably heard of this at home remedy as well: put toothpaste on a zit overnight and the next morning the zit will be gone. Where did this little trick come from, and is there any truth to it?

Accidentally On Purpose



Dermatologists agree that this is probably one of those accidental discoveries. Someone probably brushed their teeth, got some toothpaste on a zit near their mouth, and noticed the zit had diminished when they washed it off. They spread the word, someone wrote an article, and boom- it’s the summer camp miracle cure.

Triclosan: the Ingredient of Your Nightmares

The truth is there are certainly ingredients in toothpaste that can be helpful for acne. Baking soda- a common ingredient in toothpaste- is both antibacterial and drying. In fact, it’s probably a little bit too drying for your skin.

The other ingredient that could have been helpful? Triclosan. And that’s not great because triclosan is, well, really not great. Triclosan in an anti microbial ingredient that used to show up in all kind of personal care products: antibacterial soaps, skincare products, and toothpaste. Applying toothpaste that uses it to your skin could have helped to kill the bacteria that causes acne.

Colgate, Sticking with the Bad Stuff

However, the FDA now recognizes triclosan as a known hormone disrupter and has actually banned its use in soaps. The crazy thing though? Colgate fought and won to keep using triclosan in its toothpaste. They argue that it’s better than fluoride for killing bacteria that causes gum disease, despite the powerful evidence of just how dangerous it is for human beings.

So, while toothpaste may indeed help treat a zit, at the very best it will be overly drying, while at the worst, if you use certain Colgate products, you could also be messing with your hormones.

Stick to Clean Skincare (and Toothcare)

The good news is that in our modern era of amazing over the counter acne remedies, nothing you’ll find in toothpaste is going to hold a candle to products meant to target your actual skin problems.

For instance, a glycolic acid face wash will both exfoliate dead skin and treat acne, while being gentle and non-drying, unlike baking soda. And Alder New York’s Clarifying Face Mask uses activated charcoal to target acne, while willow bark and rosemary extract act as antibacterial agents that won’t disrupt your hormones.

So when it comes to skincare, definitely ditch the Colgate. And for that matter, ditch the Colgate when it comes to your teeth too!


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