Does Toothpaste For Burns Really Work? This Isn't The DIY Hack You Think It Is

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When it comes to saving a dollar on skincare, many turn to well-known home remedies for easy DIY solutions. However, more often than not, these out-of-date home remedies have the possibility of back-firing. Take putting toothpaste on a burn, for instance. For years, it's been suggested that putting toothpaste on a burn could actually soothe the damaged skin. Unfortunately, this isn't often the case. In fact, toothpaste can actually do more harm to your burn than good.

Modern toothpaste is often filled with harsh whitening chemicals and pungent breath refreshers like peppermint or menthol. While these ingredients might do wonders for your teeth, they aren't the best for applying to damaged skin. These strong ingredients, when applied to the skin, may cause irritation or a chemical burn, according to Lipstick.com. In the article, dermatologist Ranella Hirsch reported that applying toothpaste to the skin, especially on darker skin tones, can result in long lasting red or brown patches.

In an interview with Bustle, Dr. Brian Wagers, emergency medicine physician, echoes these same concerns. “Home remedies such as butter, toothpaste, milk or other substances should not be used on a burn,” he says. “These substances do not help and can increase the risk of infection in injured skin. The abrasives and other chemicals in toothpaste can actually cause more damage to the skin which makes it more susceptible to infection or permanent discoloration.”

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The Canadian Red Cross reported that using toothpaste on a burn can actually seal in heat, and prevent the burn from cooling or healing, eventually making the burn worse. Instead, their article recommends immediately flushing the burn with cool water to help ease the pain and relieve the burn.

Lastly, according to Dr. Ankur Bhatnagar in an interview with the India Times, toothpaste can only aggravate the damaged skin. "As toothpastes contain harmful chemicals like calcium and peppermint, it increases the risk of contracting infections and also affects the tissue of the skin," reported Bhatnagar.

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If you're looking to heal a burn quickly, the best solution is to use cold tap water immediately. Just run to the sink, and submerge the area in water until the sensation stops. From there, assess the damage to the skin and consult your doctor. “Your doctor may prescribe antibiotic creams/ointments or other medications if your burn is not severe. For severe burns, other treatments are needed that may require hospitalization,” Dr. Wager says. “It is important to note that burns evolve over time and can require more treatment than initially thought. Any burn that goes around a limb, finger/toe, is extensive, or crosses a joint should always been seen by a physician as these represent special circumstances.”

While toothpaste can be a great home remedy for dozens of other problems (cleaning your sneakers or shining your bathroom sink), acting as a burn salve isn't one of them. Consider your skin's health by skipping the DIYs for this one and turning to your doctor for help.

Additional reporting by Syeda Khaula Saad.

This article was originally published on June 22, 2016 and was updated on June 27, 2019.

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