Does putting toothpaste on pimples actually work?

Toothpaste might not necessarily be the best acne treatment hack.

Written by
Tori Crowther
Medically reviewed by
min read
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When acne strikes, we can be desperate to use any solution to rid it. But despite what our parents or grandparents (or social media) might’ve told us, toothpaste might not necessarily be the best acne treatment hack.

Although there are many effective acne treatment hacks out there, this one still proves to be one of the most popular. 

So what’s the deal, will toothpaste get rid of pimples? Here’s what you need to know about toothpaste and pimples. 

Does toothpaste help get rid of pimples?

The simple answer is that no, toothpaste is not going to get rid of your pimples (as much as we wish it was that easy!). In fact, putting toothpaste on your pimples can make them worse instead of being the hero acne spot treatment you're after.

The act of putting toothpaste on spots is a widely believed one [1] and comes from the idea that it dries spots out and kills acne-causing bacteria. Although this sounds like a great idea, putting toothpaste on pimples does neither of these things. 

One of the main reasons people use toothpaste on a pimple is because they say that it dries their spots out.

Now, this is true — the ingredients in toothpaste are pretty drying for the skin but drying out your spots might not be the best route to ridding them. Drying your skin out can actually make irritation worse, leading to a prolonged breakout that could potentially cause acne scarring

The reason pimple patches work so well is because one of the benefits is keeping the spot from drying out and risking irritation. 

Toothpaste formulas weren’t made for our skin or spots — simple as that! Ingredients like fluoride, abrasives, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and triclosan can aggravate spots rather than make them better. 

Unlike ingredients targeting pimples, these won’t unclog pores or target acne-causing bacteria.  

Because of this, although it may feel like toothpaste is helping your spots, it’s not targeting any of that bacteria or preventing it from returning; it’s just potentially damaging the skin barrier instead.

The risks of putting toothpaste on pimples

Here are a few important ones to remember.


Toothpaste is abrasive and isn't designed to be used anywhere other than your teeth and gums, which means you can risk burning your skin with repeated use of the minty paste on your skin. 


Sadly, toothpaste can lead to acne scarring or worsen existing scars caused by spots. Using a drying product like toothpaste on your skin can lead to post-acne hyperpigmentation.

Perioral dermatitis 

One of the main risks of using toothpaste on a pimple is perioral dermatitis. This type of dermatitis is predominantly found around the mouth and nose and can be triggered by the fluoride in toothpaste.

Perioral dermatitis is a skin condition that’s notoriously difficult to get rid of and presents with small, uniform spots in clusters. It causes sensitive skin that becomes fussy even when easy to manage previously. This is why it’s never worth the risk to shift one spot, as you may end up with a dozen more acne-like spots.

What to use instead of toothpaste

Time to put the toothpaste down and try these acne remedies instead.

Benzoyl peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide is a great ingredient for acne as it helps kill bacteria causing these pimples to come to a head. It’s typically used in moderate to severe acne but can’t always be used with other acne-fighting ingredients so be sure to check before using products together in your routine.

Be prepared though, benzoyl peroxide can stain bedsheets and towels whilst using. 

Salicylic acid 

Salicylic acid (a beta hydroxy acid) is fantastic for unclogging pores and balancing oil production, which can both treat existing breakouts and stop them from occurring in the future.

Software's Salicylic Foaming Wash is a great way to rid dead skin cells, unclog pores and control serum production, therefore helping to treat acne.

Acne patches 

Pimple patches are particularly great if you’re a skin picker and often make breakouts worse by squeezing.

Software's AHA/BHA Pimple Patches contain micro darts that target the pimple with alpha hydroxy and beta hydroxy acids to reduce inflammation and rid acne-causing bacteria. 


Retinoids (a vitamin A derivative that you may know as retinol) are a gold-standard ingredient in combating ageing. While it might not be your first thought as an acne-fighting ingredient, retinoids are brilliant for helping manage breakouts.

It works to help unclog pores, control sebum production and increase cell turnover.


It’s worth noting that if you’re regularly getting breakouts, consistency with an acne-friendly routine using something like Software’s Acne Kit is going to deliver results.

This kit contains 4 acne-fighting products, including the Salicylic Foaming Wash, Ceramide Repair Balm, Aha/BHA Pimple Patches and the Acne Supplement, which works to prevent acne-causing bacteria from developing into pimples, eliminating the temptation to use toothpaste as one of your acne treatments in the first place.

With hardworking ingredients like these, you won’t need to resort to hacks you see online. 

Leave them alone 

Possibly the most annoying answer you can get but sometimes if you’re in a pinch and have nothing to hand, leaving pimples is the best course of action to avoid making them worse.

There's nothing worse than picking at your pimples, which leads to skin irritation, doing more harm and potentially causing acne scars. If you’ve got some ice or a cold spoon to hand, this can help to reduce initial inflammation, redness and soreness. 

Can you get rid of a pimple overnight?

Getting rid of a pimple overnight depends on a few factors. Although you might not always be able to rid it altogether, you can normally reduce its size while you catch up on beauty sleep. 

You’ve got to ask yourself 2 things: are you using the correct treatment and is your pimple severe? 

The first depends on your skin type and the ingredients you know work for pimples (the list above is a good place to start).

You don’t need to go overboard here — stick to pimple treatment with simple but effective ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, or use a pimple patch with ingredients that work to reduce the size of the spot overnight. Make sure you cleanse your skin so it’s free from leftover makeup and grime from the day. 

The other factor to consider is how severe your breakout is. If your pimple is more of a cyst or nodule, it’ll take longer to reduce in size, meaning this might not happen overnight. Smaller spots are more likely to go down quicker and possibly reduce dramatically overnight with less inflammation and redness

If you have a big event coming up and can see a dermatologist, you can get a cortisone injection to help reduce the size of a cyst or larger spot. 

Reserve your toothpaste for your teeth and your targeted acne treatment for your pimples. These highly effective ingredients lead to healthy skin and are better than any home remedy out there, we promise. And if your acne feels unmanageable or you’re not sure on the best treatment, you might like to consider Software's personalised science-backed acne formulas, which are made-to-order based on your skin goals.

Photo credit: Pexels x Linda Prebreza

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