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Toothpaste and Acne

Updated on August 8, 2009

Toothpaste and Acne Breakouts

Toothpaste: An Introduction

Toothpaste is an essential part to our modern lifestyle in that it keeps our teeth plaque free and helps fight against cavities. It is possibly the least likely culprit in acne breakouts. However, a little bit of digging reveals that toothpaste can indeed exacerbate an existing acne condition or can cause acne-like breakouts around the mouth. In this hub, we will explore the ingredient makeup of toothpaste and pinpoint which specific additives may contribute to unsightly acne.

Toothpaste - Ineffective in Treating Acne

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate - SLS

Have you ever examined toothpaste labels while browsing the oral care aisle at your local store? Probably not. Not many people seem concerned about the chemicals that come into direct contact with the area in and around their mouth. One such chemical that has gone completely unnoticed to the satisfaction of skin care product manufacturers is sodium lauryl sulfate. This additive is a surfactant that is present in not only toothpaste, but shampoo, soap, and industrial degreasing products. SLS impedes soap from forming a precipitate when combined with hard water. It instead lathers to provide the cleaning effect which we desire.

While this may sound like a good solution to an otherwise expensive problem (further purifying hard water), it is more of a skin care, or rather more broadly, a health care nightmare. SLS has been consistently identified as a skin irritant. if you once again consider that it is used in industrial applications, you can imagine the sort of damage it wroughts on your skin. The Australian government actually exposed animals to SLS and found that the chemical triggered not only skin irritation, but eye irritation. This is a very scary thought given the fact that we allow shampoo and toothpaste to run down our skin without any sort of hesitation.

According to the FDA, SLS is safe for use in consumer products. This is rather comical considering the EPA, another governmental agency, has classified it as a pesticide. Concerns are also starting to raise about the carcinogenic nature of this additive. A component of the chemical has been previously linked to the formation of cancer.

The bottom line is that SLS is not something you want to come into contact with your skin. It will strip off moisture causing an uncomfortable dry and tight feeling. In the case of toothpaste, you will likely experience this feeling at the corners of your mouth. When your skin is this irritated, it is prone to breaking out. If you are constantly battling breakouts near your mouth, this additive may be in your toothpaste. Switching to an alternative product may prove highly beneficial.

SLS is Bad News


Fluoride is another chemical found in toothpaste that is used to increase protection against dental caries. It essentially strengthens tooth enamel. The problem with this yet again "miracle solution" is that it induces skin irritation. Fluoride alone generally does not cause acne, however a characteristically similar condition known as perioral dermatitis. This disorder appears in the form of reddened bumps near the mouth.

This condition is usually treated in with oral antibiotics such as doxycycline. Ironically enough, this same antibiotic is used to treat acne. If you have been prescribed this medication to treat acne in the aforementioned areas with little success, your toothpaste is more likely than not the culprit. The most effective treatment for this skin ailment is to switch to a non-fluorinated toothpaste. The product label of a specific brand should indicate whether or not it contains this chemical.

If you fear that a non-fluorinated toothpaste may jeopardize your oral health, it may be a good idea to consult a dentist. Arguments are constantly being exchanged over the efficacy of fluoride in preventing tooth decay. Remember that you can find this chemical in our water supply (if you live in the United States), so you will not be entirely without it.

Harmful Effects of Flouride

Whitening, Tartar Control and Other Additives

Toothpaste has become quite advanced in recent years. It combats cavities while providing whiter teeth and protection against tartar and other oral nuisances. With all this advancement comes new problems. The various additives used to provide these added conveniences can also lead to skin irritation. Try to avoid toothpastes that offer features which you don't need. The more basic a toothpaste, the less of a chance there is for problems.

Toothpaste Poll

Does your toothpaste contain SLS?

See results

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