Gigi Hadid does it. So do Selena Gomez and Amanda Seyfried. Olivia Munn also used to apply toothpaste to pimples, but she’s come to her senses about this acne trick for a while now. Stars are like us, at least when it comes to falling for old beauty legends.
Putting toothpaste on a pimple may have been enough one day, but it also really irritates the skin. Today we have safe and scientifically proven treatments to combat acne. Specifically, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, which kill bacteria. They are sold in the same stores where you buy your toothpaste. You just have to keep them away from your fancy towels.
The idea of putting toothpaste on a pimple is not entirely unfounded. “Many toothpastes contain ingredients that can attack bacteria and help shrink and dry out pimples, such as alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda,” says Dr. Shadi Kourosh, an assistant professor of dermatology in the School of Medicine. Harvard Medicine, and Board Certified Dermatologist at Sadick Dermatology in New York. “It’s understandable that people might have tried this as a home remedy, especially in the days when there were no better acne treatment options.”
However, part of the toothpaste’s antibacterial effect may be due to triclosan, an antiseptic that was recently banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its possible negative health effects.
“There are also other ingredients in toothpaste, such as fluoride, sodium lauryl sulfate, and flavoring agents, that could irritate the skin and trigger allergies,” says Kourosh.
“It’s much better and more consistent to use something that actually has a mechanism of action, that has been studied and is based on data, not anecdote,” says Dr. Joel Cohen, board-certified dermatologist and metro area director of AboutSkin Dermatology. from Denver, Colo.
“An acne-targeted product like benzoyl peroxide will not only help kill the bacteria in pimples, but it will also work as an anti-inflammatory to curb swelling and redness,” says Cohen. He says the salicylic acid will also help open up your skin follicles, remove dead debris from your pores, and reduce some of your oil production. Can your toothpaste do that? No, you can’t. “These products cost only a few dollars and all the major skin care companies make them.”
You’ll find acne treatment products that contain benzoyl peroxide in amounts ranging from 2.5% to 10%. If you have sensitive skin, Kourosh says to start with the lowest amounts and increase as needed. Most salicylic acid treatments for pimples are 2%. Apply either product to pimples twice a day and moisturize the surrounding skin, not the pimple itself. “The drying effect is helpful for treating acne blemishes,” he says.
If you’re hell-bent on avoiding acne products and still want a home remedy, consider something like tea tree oil [también conocido como aceite de melaleuca] instead of toothpaste. In a 2014 comparative study, researchers found that this herbal extract was just as effective in treating acne as a solution containing 5% benzoyl peroxide.
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Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with the advertisers on this site. Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works with consumers to create a fair, safe, and healthy world. CR does not endorse products or services and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2022, Consumer Reports, Inc.