Figuring out the cause of a breakout is a bit like doing detective work. Deep, cystic zits on your jawline? Those are your hormones talking. Superficial whiteheads on your nose or forehead? It may be time to reconsider your diet and/or your product lineup. But there’s one culprit that could be causing breakouts around your mouth that may blow your mind: your toothpaste.
“Sodium lauryl sulfate or SLS is public enemy number one in toothpaste that causes skin irritation,” explains Twice toothpaste founder Cody Levine, whose products are SLS-free. “This detergent is the most common ingredient used to make your toothpaste foam, just like your shampoo, soap, and laundry detergent. While we all love the clean feeling of bubbly foam, SLS is a proven irritant that can lead to dry skin, as well as canker sores in the mouth.”
According to New York City dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, this checks out. “SLS is the prototypical sulfate ingredient that has been removed from sulfate-free products,” he confirms. “It’s a known irritant, causing skin inflammation. It used to be used commonly in cleansers and toothpaste because it acts as a surfactant to help remove dirt from the skin and gunk from teeth.” Unfortunately, as it foams and that gets onto the skin surrounding the mouth, skin can become irritated and inflamed. It can also severely dry out skin, which then leads to a surge in oil production that results in pimples.
And, for what it’s worth, dentists agree that we could all probably do without the daily dose of SLS in our mouths. “As better products have become available, my preference has been to recommend a toothpaste that is SLS-free, such as the Hello Products Antiplaque and Whitening Toothpaste,“ says Cosmetic Dentist Dr. Jon Marashi. “It doesn’t really make sense anymore to use an SLS product when better alternatives, with equal or better efficacy, exist in today’s marketplace.”
The good news is that toothpaste brands have started to catch on to the fact that nobody wants to use a toothpaste that’s going to leave them with chin zits or mouth sores, and have started using alternative ingredients in place. Twice, for example, employs coconut-derived cleansers that “deliver the benefit of foam without the irritation.” Here, a few great products that will clean your teeth without showing themselves all over your face.
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