​Could Toothpaste Be The Cause Of Your Sensitive Skin?

getting the facts from the founder of cleure®

Aug 18, 2022

From strong, peppermint flavorings to artificial colors and detergents, its turns out what goes in your toothpaste could be the root to certain skin irritations – especially on and around your mouth. We investigate…

Seriously overlooked when it comes to skin sensitivities, toothpaste and oral care products are often packed with ingredients that have the potential to irritate your skin. Around 70 percent of women and 60 percent of men have some degree of sensitive skin (1) and although studies suggest that just 0.1-0.3 percent of the population show symptoms of specific toothpaste contact dermatitis (2), minor irritations can occur at any time and can be serious business if they’re not dealt with accordingly.

So, what are the signs of toothpaste sensitivities and what can you do to avoid unnecessary skin flare-ups on and around your mouth simply as a result of trying to take good care of your teeth? Well, lucky you, because we recently grilled someone who knows everything about the connection between sensitive skin and oral care. Meet Dr. Flora Stay, D. D. S., a university professor in Los Angeles, California, and founder and developer of body and oral care brand cleure®.

1. What are the main concerns with oral care and sensitive skin?

“Firstly, it’s worth remembering that the entire body is connected so it should always be considered as a whole,” explains Dr. Stay.

“People with sensitive skin are more prone to allergic reactions across many factors in life, whether these be environmental triggers, household products, skincare formulations, or oral care.

“Concerning the skin on and around the mouth, a condition called perioral dermatitis can be a real concern, causing a rash that not only circles the mouth but may also travel up to the eyelids and nose. The exact causes of perioral dermatitis are not entirely clear, but many ingredients in oral care can have a negative effect/additive impact on the symptoms.

“Other conditions caused by certain ingredients in toothpaste include cheilitis, a form of eczema that affects the lips, and stomatitis which affects the gums, tongue and inside of the cheeks,” she adds.

“Research also shows that poor oral health can trigger acne breakouts on the face thanks to bacteria found in gum disease and tooth decay traveling through the bloodstream to the skin.”

“Of course, there are many other health conditions that can affect the mouth, including lupus erythematosus, inflammatory bowel disease, lichen planus and psoriasis, so avoiding common irritants and allergens in toothpaste and oral care products is an important issue for a large percentage of the population.”

2. What are the most common irritants in oral care products to avoid – especially for those with sensitive skin?

“Interestingly, toothpaste is the second most common cause of oral allergies after lipstick,” says Dr. Stay.

“At cleure®, our goal has always been to formulate products that are completely free of the most common skin irritants and allergens to help reduce the symptoms associated with skin problems. Our list is pretty extensive, but the most important ingredients to avoid in oral care products are:

  • Flavors such as spearmint, peppermint, menthol, anise, and fennel
  • Propolis
  • Hexylresorcinol – which is often used for plaque control
  • Azulene  – an anti-inflammatory
  • Parabens – which offer preservative properties
  • Artificial Dyes
  • Abrasives
  • Detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)
  • Fluoride salts

“Alcohol in mouthwash is also a no-no and botanicals should also be given a wide berth. It’s become a bit of a fad to add plants to toothpaste, but most are useless and can even be harmful.”

3. So, what are the symptoms of a toothpaste allergy or irritation? 

“The main symptoms to look out for are abnormal redness, burning, pain, cracking, blistering, peeling and/or white patches or lines on or around your lips. Any combination of these can indicate that something in your oral care products is upsetting your skin. Usually, one of the irritants as mentioned above.”

4. Should other oral care products such as mouthwash and floss be considered as much as toothpaste?

“Absolutely. Floss, for example, can be flavored with common irritants like mint and cinnamon. It can also contain rosin which is a sap from pine or spruce trees that many people like to keep away from. Regarding mouthwash, alcohol should always be avoided at all costs.”

5. If someone has a skin allergy or sensitive skin how can they ensure their oral care products are safe?

“If you have a list of ingredients you know you’re allergic or have a reaction to, always ensure you read your products’ labels thoroughly so you can make educated decisions on the formulations you use and, most importantly, avoid.

“Patch testing is also an extremely important way to find out if your toothpaste or mouthwash is irritating your skin. The best way to do this is to apply a small amount of your product to the inside of your elbow, wrist or on the side of your neck. Cover it with a bandage, wait for 24 hours, and if you see or experience no adverse reaction, you’re most likely fine to carry on and use it. Should you break out in any way, however, there’s a chance something in your oral care product is not compatible with your skin, so you should stop use immediately and contact your doctor or a dermatologist for further advice.”

 6. What should someone do if they think they're allergic or have a sensitivity to their toothpaste?

“It’s extremely important to stop using it immediately and wait until all your symptoms have subsided,” advises Dr. Stay.

“This may take just a few days but could take up to two weeks. In the meantime, use only water and your toothbrush to clean your teeth, then try a different toothpaste free of the most common irritants (SLS, parabens and flavors).”

“Our Original flavor-free Toothpaste checks all these boxes. It’s SkinSAFE 100% Top Allergen Free, and the number one recommended toothpaste by dermatologists across the US which makes it a fantastic option for anyone with sensitive skin. During its formulation, it was thoroughly tested at a major university oral products laboratory to ensure it was non-abrasive and effective as well as non-irritating. It was a real challenge to nail, but we got there!”

7. What's next for the brand's oral care range?

cleure® has grown dramatically over the past 20 years and now includes an extensive line of oral, hair, skin, and body care products. For oral care, we are currently looking into a breath-freshening spray and a chewing gum that’s effective, flavor-free, and still has a great taste. Watch this space!”

8. What are your top oral care tips for people with sensitive skin? 

“Oral care is extremely important for everyone and my advice is always the same. Floss first to loosen food from between the teeth, then gently brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush and flavor-free toothpaste. Mint is in around 98 percent of marketed toothpaste, but it’s a very common skin irritant, so choose a flavor-free toothpaste if you frequently break out around your mouth or experience tingling or burning sensations whenever you clean your teeth.  

“Work on one tooth at a time to ensure you clean every side and every single surface, then brush your tongue and follow with alcohol- and mint-free mouthwash like cleure® Mouthwash which comes in cinnamon and cranberry flavors. These steps should be repeated twice a day but especially at night when saliva decreases and your mouth becomes drier – the ideal environment for bacteria.”

“I always recommend replacing your toothbrush every three months, unless you have a cold during that time in which case you should replace your brush immediately. Never share your toothbrush, limit sugar and soda, avoid tobacco and visit your dentist regularly.

“It’s also prudent to wash your face after, rather than before brushing your teeth. This helps remove bacteria from the skin’s surface that may have accumulated while brushing.”

Are you experiencing skin issues on and around your mouth? Think your toothpaste might be the cause? Then try cleure® Original Flavor-Free Toothpaste. It’s one of the very few kinds of toothpaste to bear our SkinSAFE 100 Percent Top Allergen Free marker, giving you guaranteed peace of mind that it’s free of common allergens and irritants and kind to your skin. For an added layer of confidence, look for the SkinSAFE Trusted Choice mark on products. These have clinical and safety data validated by SkinSAFE scientists.

Additional Resources:

(1)   https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31157225/

(2)   https://journals.lww.com/dermatitis/Citation/2019/01000/_Fresh_Breath__on_Toothpaste__Peppermint_as_Cause.8.aspx

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