Minty fresh zits treatment? | Science News for Students

Minty fresh zits treatment?

The same cleanser that works on your pearly whites may also clean up acne
Jan 22, 2016 — 7:15 am EST
toothpaste

Toothpaste may be for more than just your mouth. It also might help fight zits. 

masyusha / iStockphoto

What should you do about zits? When an acne outbreak seems impossible to control or makes you feel very sad and withdrawn, talk to your doctor. Depression is a serious disease and shouldn’t be ignored — especially if it’s triggered by something that can be treated. Sometimes working with a skin doctor, or dermatologist, is best. He or she can help come up with a plan to treat breakouts that works for you. They may even point you to medications or cleansers available without a prescription. Rita Pichardo-Geisinger, a dermatologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C, mentions one humorous acne cleanser: toothpaste!

Acne and dirty teeth have something in common: bacteria. These tiny germs live on every part of your body. In the mouth, a population of them that grows out of control can lead to tooth decay. On the skin, germs may play a role in acne. 

Toothpaste contains ingredients meant to kill the bacteria that grow in people’s mouths. Some of these ingredients also work against microbes on the skin. One such ingredient is baking soda. Fluoride, another common toothpaste ingredient, helps clean the teeth, but can sometimes irritate the skin.

Since not all toothpastes contain the same ingredients, Pichardo-Geisinger cautions that “you have to pick the right one.” A toothpaste with low fluoride or no fluoride is the safest bet. Also, solid white-colored toothpaste works better than gels. The solid white kind will suck oils out of the skin. This can help to dry out pimples and reduce redness and swelling. 

Although toothpaste works for mild acne, you shouldn’t slather it on unless you’ve run out of regular acne products. Toothpaste may dry out or irritate skin. If you do decide to try this home remedy, use a finger (not a toothbrush!) to apply white, low-fluoride toothpaste directly on top of each zit. Leave the paste in place for several hours or overnight. Hopefully, you’ll see an improvement in the morning. As a bonus, your face may smell minty-fresh the next day!

Power Words

(for more about Power Words, click here)

acne    A skin condition that results in red, inflamed skin, commonly called pimples or zits.

depression  A mental illness characterized by persistent sadness and apathy. Although these feelings can be triggered by events, such as the death of a loved one or the move to a new city, that isn’t typically considered an “illness” — unless the symptoms are prolonged and harm an individual’s ability to perform normal daily tasks (such as working, sleeping or interacting with others). People suffering from depression often feel they lack the energy needed to get anything done. They may have difficulty concentrating on things or showing an interest in normal events. Many times, these feelings seem to be triggered by nothing; they can appear out of nowhere.

dermatology  The branch of medicine concerned with skin disorders and their treatments. Doctors who treat these disorders are called dermatologists.

fluoride    A chemical, such as sodium fluoride, that contains the element fluorine. In small doses, fluorides can help prevent tooth decay.

microbe    Short for microorganism. A living thing that is too small to see with the unaided eye, including bacteria, some fungi and many other organisms such as amoebas. Most consist of a single cell.

Further Reading

K. Hulick. “The truth about zits.Science News for Students. January 22, 2016.

T.H. Saey. “How this vitamin can foster pimples.” Science News for Students. July 9, 2015.

Learn more about acne from the National Institutes of Health.

Original Journal Source: P. Dharmik and A. Gomashe. “Anti-acne activity of toothpaste — an emerging pimple treatment.” International Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Analysis. Vol. 1, August 2014, p. 149.