Can Fluoride Cause Acne?

There are many health benefits to drinking water with fluoride. It can prevent tooth decay, strengthen your teeth and improve oral hygiene. However, some people have said that it also causes acne. 

Studies say that when you ingest too much fluoride, it can cause an overload of the sebum in your body, which creates acne breakouts. As a result, it can cause an outbreak of acne on the face, chest, and back for some people. 

If you have tried everything to get rid of your acne, but nothing seems to work, then it is worth looking into whether or not fluoride could be the reason why you are experiencing persistent pimples. 

While fluoride is unlikely to cause moderate to severe acne in most people, some individuals experience nasty effects from this ingredient. To help you understand the connection between fluoride and acne, we’ve put together some facts to help you decide!

What is fluoride, and why does it affect the skin?

Fluoride is a mineral found in water. It is commonly found in toothpaste, mouthwash, and tap water. It helps prevent tooth decay, strengthens your teeth, and improves oral hygiene. However, some people have said that it also causes acne. 

Studies say that when you ingest too much fluoride, it can cause an overload of the sebum in your body, which creates acne breakouts. 

However, there is some evidence that fluoride can help fight acne. Other factors may contribute to acne, which includes stress, hormones, and diet. 

If you think this may be happening to you or someone else in your family, contact a dermatologist today for a consultation! Explain to them that you believe fluoride could be causing your acne and ask for a skin prick test or whichever exam they do at their office that tests for an allergic response. 

How does fluoride affect your skin?

Some studies suggest that swallowing fluoridated tap water could contribute to acne breakouts, while others indicate no link between acne vulgaris and fluoride ingestion. 

This is mainly because fluoride is a topical treatment and only affects the skin when it comes into direct contact with elevated fluoride levels. To add to this, the skin’s sebaceous glands are not likely to be affected by ingested fluoride. 

Acne may be exacerbated in cases of excess fluoride ingestion, but this is mainly due to elevated fluoride levels on tooth and bone health. For people who already have acne vulgaris, it is unlikely that fluoride ingestion will worsen their condition.

Why are there high levels of fluoride in some water sources?

Fluoride is naturally present in water sources that are high in geology. Many of the United States’ major cities, such as Reno and Las Vegas, supply fluoridated drinking water due to their proximity to several fluoride-rich geological compounds. 

The process of artificially adding fluoride into tap water began after scientists discovered a meager prevalence rate for tooth decay among residents living near a natural spring containing higher than average levels of fluoride minerals. 

After this discovery, other places with similar springs were investigated and found to have lower dental disease rates than those without nearby mineral deposits.

The effects of low levels of exposure to fluoridated water on the skin

The adverse effects of low levels of exposure to fluoridated water on the skin are minimal. While fluoride can irritate when applied topically, individuals will not likely experience any adverse reactions due to ingesting small amounts of tap water containing fluoride ions. 

What’s more, the studies on the effects of ingested fluoride and acne are poorly conducted since they do not account for individual differences. So, it is impossible to say whether the results of those studies could be applied to acne sufferers as a whole. 

Plus, acne can be caused by several different factors, such as diet and stress. Even so, before turning to fluoride as the root of your acne woes, it is essential to rule out all other potential causes.

The link between acne and exposure to fluoridated water

There is no link between acne and exposure to fluoridated water. While some studies suggest that there may be an association, it cannot be proven by the poor methodology of those studies. 

In addition, most people will not experience adverse effects from low levels of ingested fluoride because the skin’s sebaceous glands are unaffected by ingested fluoride ions. 

However, too much ingestion can lead to a condition called skeletal fluorosis, characterized mainly by bone pain and stiffness and increased risk for fractures due to weakened bones caused by excess fluoride intake, so try drinking bottled or filtered water if you have concerns.

How to avoid consuming Fluoride

If you are concerned about your fluoride exposure, try drinking bottled or filtered water. If that is not an option for you and there is a chance of high fluoride concentrations in the tap water where you live, consider installing a reverse osmosis filter on your tap if it does not already have one. 

These filters will remove most (if not all) traces of the mineral from your “tap” water supply and may be able to reduce any acne-promoting effect fluoride ingestion has on its own because they prevent ingested fluoride ions from entering the sebaceous glands as well as other parts of the skin surface. 

In some areas, your local water company may even offer a “reverse osmosis filter” service, which will allow you to experiment with different filtration systems and see if they improve your skin. 

However, be aware that while reverse osmosis filters reduce the concentration of fluoride ions in tap water, they do not remove other toxic compounds like chlorine or heavy metals.

Fluoride Sensitivity vs. Allergy

Some people may be experiencing acne due to a reaction to fluoride. Sensitivity occurs when hypersensitive reactions are triggered by contact with certain chemicals. Allergy is a hypersensitive reaction that occurs when the body’s immune system has an abnormal response.

Symptoms of allergies may include swelling or itching, whereas symptoms from sensitivities can vary depending on the chemical being used. 

You’ll need to visit your doctor to see what type of reaction you’re having and how to avoid it in the future if this is the case.


It’s not easy to tell if you’re sensitive to fluoride, so stop using products containing this mineral if your skin doesn’t respond well when applied topically. 

If redness appears around areas where you used fluoride and the acne appears in a linear pattern (it doesn’t matter if it’s white or blackheads), then an allergy is much more likely than sensitivity since ingesting too much of this chemical can lead to skeletal fluorosis, which causes increased blood calcium levels resulting from prolonged exposure over time.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you treat hormonal imbalance acne?

Hormonal imbalance acne is a type of adult acne caused by hormonal imbalances. In this case, women can be affected, and symptoms include blackheads or whiteheads around the mouth area, cysts on the jawline, chin, cheeks, and post-inflammatory erythema. Treatment options depend entirely on the severity of your symptoms and may involve topical medications to reduce inflammation and oral contraceptives to regulate hormones for mild cases. With more severe cases showing no signs of improvement after being treated orally, doctors will often prescribe isotretinoin instead to help control breakouts.

Can dental problems cause acne?

Dental problems, such as gingivitis or tooth decay, do not cause acne. However, these conditions can lead to other skin issues like cellulite and wrinkles in the eyes area. This is due to poor blood flow circulation after bacteria from the mouth enter tissues near your jawline, causing inflammation and an increased chance of developing PIE (post-inflammatory erythema) Plus, this type of acne may appear as deep, inflamed pimples or blemishes rather than the usual blackheads and whiteheads.

What’s an alternative to fluoride to help acne?

There are many fluoride alternatives that you can consider using for your acne treatment. For example, salicylic acid is one of the best options because it’s known to unclog pores by reducing sebum production, which may help reduce blackheads and whiteheads. It may also help prevent future breakouts simultaneously, so this would be a great choice if you are concerned with products containing fluoride related to worsening current conditions like oily skin or adult-onset hormonal acne. The only downside here is that you should not use these substances together since they will cancel each other out in terms of effectiveness.

Is it bad to swallow toothpaste?

It is not dangerous for a person to swallow their daily use of toothpaste in small amounts. Still, if they accidentally ingest more, yes, that can cause adverse side effects such as nausea and vomiting, depending on how much was swallowed. In some cases, though, fluoride found in toothpaste may cause acne breakouts in some people, especially those with a history of acne or oily skin. However, the amount found in toothpaste is not enough to affect sebaceous glands, which are mainly affected by fluoride ions present when drinking fluoridated water, so try to drink bottled or filtered water if you have concerns about this issue.

Originally Published: October 29, 2021

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sam wood is GoodGlow's Chief Editor
Analyzed by Sam Wood
Hi I’m Sam Wood. I’m the chief editor, lead acne expert, and health coach behind GoodGlow. I’m also an author of one of the top selling acne books on Amazon, a husband, father of two, and a pretty good cook!

I’m so glad you found GoodGlow and hope the information I have spent the last 10 years cultivating will help you clear your skin and improve your overall health.

I began experiencing acne breakotus as a sophomore in high school, but unlike most of my friends, my acne actually got worse as I got into my 20s. I exercised regularly, ate healthy (or so I thought) and spent hundreds of dollars a month on high end skincare products and supplements to help clear my skin. Despite these measures my acne breakouts and scarring only got worse as the years wore on.

This greatly wore on my self confidence and mental health. Simple things like taking pictures or going out with a large group made me feel self conscious. So I avoided these situations whenever I could help it.

As a last ditch effort I decided to try an extremely restrictive diet recommended by a close friend with an autoimmune disease. After following this diet for about two months my skin started to clear for the first time in over 8 years. The good news is that this restrictive diet is not actually necessary for 99% of people to permanently clear their skin, and over the course of a few months I was able to add back about 90% of my “normal diet”.

After clearing my skin I spent the next 4 years self experimenting on myself with different diets, supplements, skincare products to try and find a pattern for what was triggering my acne breakouts. I even tried different meditation, ice baths, and accupuncture to try and isolate the root cause of the breakouts.

In the end I realized that an extremely restrictive diet was not necessary for clear skin. The most important thing to do is to avoid inflammatory foods in your diet. Some common examples of this are fried foods, alcohol, sugar, and dairy.

Most impoirtantly I stopped reading trendy websites for skincare advice and began reading medical journals authored by dermatologists and nutritionists. Although the information in the articles was great the information was not easily understandable to most readers (including me). I spent hours dissecting individual posts and looking up terms I did not understand. Over the next 6 months I gradually began to understand these journals and started self experiemting some of the research on myself.

After experiencing quite a bit of success personally, I started sharing my research on forums and with close friends struggling with acne. When I shared the research it was in easy to understand, plain English. Everyone I talked to loved what I had to say and kept asking more and more questions. So I decided to start a blog so I could just send someone a link when they asked a question instead of rewriting something I had sent 100 times before 😅

While the same directional principles apply to everyone, acne is very personal and should be treated on an individual basis. That’s ultimately why I created GoodGlow. To help everyone reverse engineer the root cause of their acne and clear their skin permanently.

To date I’ve helped over 2,500 people clear their skin using a natural, holistic approach. If you are unable to find an answer to your question in any of the articles my team has written please reach out and I will do my best to guide you to the proper information and resources so you can make a thoughtful, informed decision. Read more of Sam's articles.

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