Will Toothpaste Make Blackheads Disappear?
Often labeled an urban legend, the toothpaste-as-acne-treatment tale continues to make the rounds in magazines and online advice forums. While science has yet to offer a definitive answer, most evidence suggests that although toothpaste may temporarily help dry up excess oil, it is unlikely to make your existing blackheads disappear.
According to Dr. Audrey Kunin in "The DERMAdoctor Skinstruction Manual," blackheads form in your skin's hair follicles. When dead skin cells don't shed properly, they clog these follicles. Your skin's natural oils then get trapped in the follicle along with the dead skin cells. Kunin notes that the trapped oil is likely to become a breeding ground for bacteria, including Proprionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus epidermidis. The combination of dead skin cells, sebum and bacteria cause the follicle to swell. As soon as oxygen touches the swollen follicle, it turns black, resulting in a visible blackhead.
Toothpaste as Acne Remedy
Toothpaste contains an ingredient that might help dry up excess oil -- one of the primary causes of acne. Author Joey Green points out in "Joey Green's Supermarket Spa" that the calcium carbonate in some toothpaste formulas acts as a drying agent to help remove excess oil, while the glycerin acts as a soothing agent to help calm inflamed skin. Green notes that you should avoid formulas with harsher chemicals such as tartar control formulas. Whitening formulas also contain abrasive chemicals that are likely to irritate your skin.
Toothpaste as Acne Cause
Although it's a popular home remedy, toothpaste is probably not the best way to treat your blackheads. If your toothpaste contains fluoride, it might be the cause of your acne, not the cure. According to author Paula Begoun in "The Complete Beauty Bible," several studies in the 1950s through the 1970s linked the fluoride in toothpaste to acne that erupts near the mouth. Although the link remains tenuous, it might be reason enough to reach for a standard acne treatment instead your toothpaste tube.
Retinoids for Blackhead Treatment
Dr. Audrey Kunin recommends topical vitamin A treatments such as prescription retinoids or over-the-counter retinol for blackhead removal. Retinoids, she writes, help prevent skin cells from clinging to hair follicles and causing further blockages. Retinoids loosen plugged follicles, providing a type of miniature chemical peel and priming your skin for exfoliation. Kunin suggests applying them to affected areas every other day, leaving them on for about 30 minutes then washing it off.
Internet acne forums abound with messages from people who experienced chemical burns following self-directed toothpaste acne treatments. Most of these burns happened when people dabbed toothpaste onto a blemish and allowed it to dry overnight. Because of the danger, doctors Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields, co-creators of the ProActiv skin care system, do not recommend toothpaste as a home acne remedy. In their book "Unblemished," they recommend using an over-the-counter product containing one of the four FDA-approved acne-fighting ingredients: benzoyl peroxide, resorcinol, salicylic acid or sulfur.
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