Should You Be Washing Your Face or Brushing Your Teeth First? A Dentist and a Derm Weigh In
Kara Jillian Brown
WELL + GOOD
October 13, 2022
Photo: Getty Images / Sellwell
Everyone has their own flow in the morning. Some make their bed first thing while others pop up and brew their coffee before anything else. But there's one part of your routine that requires a very specific order of operations: brushing your teeth and washing your face. Dermatologists and dentists agree—brushing your teeth should always come before washing your face.
"Toothpaste residue can irritate the skin," says Richard Lipari, DDS, cosmetic and general dentist in Chappaqua, New York. "Everyone’s skin is different so the degree to which the skin may be affected depends on the person. You should always wash your face after brushing your teeth."
This is especially true if you're already managing skin-care concerns and sensitive skin. "The fluoride can also aggravate rosacea and acne," says Mary Lupo, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New Orleans. Plus, many kinds of toothpaste contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS).
"SLS is the prototypical sulfate ingredient that has been removed from sulfate-free products," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "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." As it foams it can get on to the skin surrounding the mouth, leading to irritation, inflammation, and severe dryness. This dryness can lead to a surge in oil production that results in pimples.
But, the easy way to prevent this is to wash your face after you brush your teeth to get rid of any residue. Even if you don't experience irritation, getting toothpaste residue on your clean face can make your skin-care routine less effective.
"Many people spend a lot of time, money, and effort applying creams and serums to keep their skin healthy and youthful," says Dr. Lipari. "You want to avoid making the mistake of brushing your teeth and potentially having abrasive toothpaste 'contaminate' the skin you just spent so much time cleaning. "The best thing you can do is brush your teeth, floss(!), and then wash your face. That way, your skin will be free of any potential irritants when you head into your skin-care routine.