If you've ever searched through online health advice forums, you've probably seen toothpaste recommended as a home remedy for everything from acne to mosquito bites. While some people claim toothpaste clears pimples and helps stop itch, others experience painfully dry and irritated skin. If you want to try toothpaste as an itch fighter, always patch-test first to make sure your skin doesn't have an adverse reaction.
Toothpaste as Itch Remedy
It is possible that toothpaste can help soothe itchy skin. In "Bugs, Bites & Bowels," Dr. Jane Wilson-Howarth notes that cooling the affected area is your top priority in soothing an itch. She notes that white, mint-flavored toothpaste might do the trick, especially when treating the itch associated with bug bites.
Be careful which toothpaste you choose when using it as a skin soother. A 1997 study performed in Norway at the University of Oslo and published in the "Acta Odontologica Scandinavica" tested four types of commercial toothpastes on study subjects' skin. Colgate Total, one of the tested toothpastes, caused inflammatory skin reactions in 16 out of 19 subjects. The researchers believe the formula's propylene glycol and sodium lauryl sulfate were largely responsible for these skin reactions.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
Unfortunately, most drugstore toothpaste brands contain sodium lauryl sulfate. In "Alternative Cures," Bill Gottlieb explains why this ingredient is such a problem. He notes that sodium lauryl sulfate can dry out skin to the point where you get canker sores in your mouth. If used on the skin, the drying effect may be more irritating than soothing. Gottlieb recommends you use natural toothpaste, available at your local health food store.
Homemade Natural Toothpaste
Author Rosemary Gladstar writes in "Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health" that her favorite itch-fighting toothpaste came from France. The toothpaste contained peppermint oil, water, salt and green clay and worked well for fighting the itch associated with poison oak or poison ivy. She began making her own version using 1 cup green volcanic clay, 2 tbsp. salt, water and peppermint essential oil. To make your own, mix the clay with enough water to turn it into a paste. Add the remaining ingredients, then apply the paste to itchy skin and let it dry.
Alternate Use for Toothpaste
Toothpaste's skin-soothing properties also come in handy for minor burns. In "Joey Green's Amazing Kitchen Cures," author Joey Green suggests you use Colgate Regular Flavor Toothpaste to help soothe burned skin. He suggests squeezing the paste onto your skin as soon as possible after the burn. If you leave it on for a few hours, Green writes, the toothpaste blocks oxygen from the skin surface, which should lessen the pain, and dries out the burn surface, which keeps liquid from pooling under the wound.
- “Bugs, Bites & Bowels: The Essential Guide to Travel Health”; Dr. Jane Wilson-Howarth; 2006
- "Acta Odontol Scand".: Skin Reactions and Irritation Potential of Four Commercial Toothpastes; A Skaare et al.; Apr. 1997
- “Alternative Cures”; Bill Gottlieb; 2000
- “Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health”; Rosemary Gladstar; 2008
- “Joey Green’s Amazing Kitchen Cures”; Joey Green; 2002