Some people swear by washing their face with toothpaste as part of their skin care routine. Proponents claim that toothpaste can help dry out pimples, reduce oiliness, make skin brighter, and more. But is washing your face with toothpaste actually good for your skin? Here’s a look at the potential effects, both good and bad.
What ingredients are in toothpaste?
To understand how toothpaste might affect your skin, it’s helpful to know what’s inside it. Here are some of the key ingredients commonly found in toothpastes:
Toothpaste contains mild abrasives such as silica or calcium carbonate to help scrub away plaque and surface stains on teeth. Popular brands like Crest, Colgate, and Sensodyne all contain silica.
Fluoride helps strengthen enamel and prevent cavities. Fluoride is added to many toothpastes, especially those marketed as cavity protection.
Detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) are responsible for making toothpaste foamy. They help lift debris from teeth.
Toothpaste is flavored with peppermint oil, sweeteners, menthol, and more to provide a pleasant brushing experience.
Preservatives like triclosan prevent bacterial growth in the toothpaste. However, triclosan is less common now due to health concerns.
Some toothpastes contain bleaching agents like hydrogen peroxide or baking soda to help brighten teeth.
Ingredients like strontium chloride or stannous fluoride help reduce sensitivity in teeth.
Tartar control agents
Ingredients like pyrophosphates prevent calcium build up on teeth.
Potential benefits of washing face with toothpaste
Given its ingredients, here are some of the touted benefits of using toothpaste as a facial cleanser:
The abrasives in toothpaste can provide gentle exfoliation to remove dead skin cells, dirt, and excess oil from pores. This helps deep clean the skin.
2. Reduced acne
Some of toothpaste’s ingredients may help dry out pimples. The abrasives scrub away bacteria and dirt while ingredients like triclosan have antimicrobial effects. Fluoride may also combat acne-causing bacteria.
3. Less oiliness
Detergents like SLS cut through oil and rinse it away. Fluoride has mild astringent properties to constrict pores and temporarily reduce oil and shine.
4. Brighter complexion
Whitening agents may help fade spots and discoloration for a brighter complexion. Fluoride may also remove dead skin cells.
|Abrasives like silica
|Abrasives, triclosan, fluoride
|Whitening agents, fluoride
Potential risks of washing face with toothpaste
However, dermatologists warn that putting toothpaste on your face comes with some risks:
1. Skin irritation and dryness
Toothpaste ingredients like SLS, abrasives, whitening agents, and flavorings may irritate or dry out facial skin. The skin on your face is thinner and more sensitive than your teeth. Using products formulated for teeth could disrupt your skin’s protective barrier.
2. Skin inflammation
Ingredients in toothpaste may trigger contact dermatitis, redness, swelling, itching, and inflammation in some people. Those with sensitive skin are most at risk. Fluoride has been linked to skin reactions in rare cases.
3. Clogged pores and acne
Thick toothpaste texture combined with oils and waxes could clog pores and worsen breakouts. While toothpaste may help dry out existing pimples, clogged pores can cause more acne.
4. Stained or discolored skin
Iron oxides used as coloring agents in toothpaste can potentially stain skin, especially around the mouth. Whitening agents may also irritate and discolor sensitive skin with repeated use.
|Skin irritation and dryness
|SLS, abrasives, whitening agents, flavorings
|SLS, abrasives, fluoride
|Thick texture, oils and waxes
|Stained or discolored skin
|Iron oxides, whitening agents
What dermatologists say
Dermatologists strongly advise against using toothpaste as part of your regular skincare routine. Dr. Rajani Katta, board certified dermatologist, warns “Toothpaste is not meant to be a face cleanser. It often has ingredients like whitening agents that are way too harsh for the skin. Toothpaste on the skin can cause irritation, dryness, rashes, and other problems.”
Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, board certified dermatologist, adds “I do not recommend using toothpaste as a skin product. Toothpaste is meant to clean your teeth, not your skin. It contains ingredients like whitening agents, fluoride, and abrasives that could be irritating when left on the skin.”
Overall, dermatologists recommend using gentle skincare products formulated specifically for the face instead of toothpaste. Dr. Levin says “You’re better off with a mild facial cleanser than toothpaste if you want to cleanse, exfoliate, or brighten the skin.” Look for products with ingredients like salicylic acid, alpha hydroxy acids, vitamin C, niacinamide, and retinol. Use sunscreen daily as well for bright, healthy skin.
Professional toothpaste facial risks
Some spas and salons offer toothpaste facials where they apply toothpaste on client’s faces, let it dry, and then wash it off like a mask. This professional toothpaste facial trend also comes with risks:
– Skin irritation and burns
Leaving toothpaste on for an extended time increases the risk of irritation and even chemical burns. The abrasives in toothpaste can damage facial skin when left on the skin.
– Severe inflammation and dermatitis
Extended contact between toothpaste chemicals and facial skin can cause severe allergic reactions in some people. Red, inflamed, itchy skin may result.
If the harsh ingredients in toothpaste burn, irritate, or inflame the skin, it can lead to scarring once the skin heals. Scars may last a long time or be permanent.
Toothpaste may make skin more photosensitive and prone to sunburn. Whitening agents are common culprits behind increased photosensitivity.
Fluoroderma is a rare skin reaction that can occur from high levels of topical fluoride as found in toothpaste. It can cause thickened, scaly, reddened skin.
So while a toothpaste facial at the spa may seem like an inexpensive way to brighten and exfoliate, it comes with serious risks given the harsh ingredients. The potential dangers outweigh any benefits.
What to do if you have a reaction from toothpaste
If you use toothpaste as a facial cleanser and notice any irritation, burning, redness, dryness, breakouts, or inflammation, stop immediately. Rinse your face with lukewarm water right away to wash off all the toothpaste. Then:
– Apply a cold compress to soothe burning or irritation
– Moisturize with a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer
– Avoid sun exposure until skin heals, as toothpaste may increase sun sensitivity
– Use a gentle cleanser instead of toothpaste
– See a board certified dermatologist if symptoms persist or worsen
With professional toothpaste facials, be alert for signs of skin irritation during the appointment. Ask them to remove it immediately if your skin becomes red, burned, swollen, or inflamed. See a doctor right away if you have a reaction. Get medical help to treat and prevent scarring or long term damage.
While toothpaste may temporarily dry out a pimple or reduce oil, dermatologists strongly advise against using toothpaste as a skincare product. Toothpaste is too harsh for facial skin and the risks include irritation, inflammation, acne, burns, scarring, discoloration, and sensitivity. Stick to gentle cleansers and moisturizers formulated specifically for the face instead. See a dermatologist to create a customized skincare routine with products that are safe and effective for your unique skin needs.
American Academy of Dermatology Association. Toothpaste as a skincare product? Why dermatologists say no way. https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/skin-care-secrets/face/toothpaste-as-skincare-product
Katta, R. (2020). Toothpaste on pimples and acne: Good idea or not? https://www.verywellhealth.com/toothpaste-on-pimples-and-acne-good-idea-or-not-1068843
Levin, M. (2022). Can I use toothpaste as a face mask or spot treatment? https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/toothpaste-face-mask
Singh, S. (2019). Chemical burns from toothpaste mimicking frambesia: A case report. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6751401/
Yale Medicine. (2022). Toothpaste as acne treatment? Why dermatologists don’t recommend it. https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/toothpaste-on-pimples