It's probably not the skin-care hack you're hoping it is.

By Rebecca Norris
May 15, 2020
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If you're like me, you likely get lost in the never-ending entertainment that is TikTok's "For You" page. You hop onto the app telling yourself that you'll only spend a few minutes scrolling before bed, only to look up and realize it's been actual hours.

The latest TikTok entertainment to completely consume my attention: Pepto-Bismol face masks. Yes, people are actually smearing the pink antacid on their skin in the hopes of achieving a clear complexion.

But FYI: Pepto-Bismol face masks aren't a "new" skin-care trend. From YouTubers to Victoria's Secret angels, plenty of people have been sharing pink-faced selfies touting the so-called skin-care "benefits" of Pepto-Bismol for years. But is the beauty trend legit? (Related: 5 Skin-Care Mistakes That Are Costing You, According to a Dermatologist)

To answer that question, first, you need to understand why people are putting Pepto-Bismol on their faces in the first place. The antacid, typically used for indigestion and heartburn, contains an ingredient called subsalicylate, says board-certified dermatologist David Shafer, M.D. "You might know its relative—salicylic acid," he notes.

Refresher: Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid, a common exfoliating ingredient used in many over-the-counter skin-care products, especially those geared toward oily and acne-prone skin types. "[Subsalicylate and salicylic acid] help to unclog pores and promote cellular turnover," explains Dr. Shafer.

What's more, Pepto-Bismol contains bismuth salts, a chemical typically found in similar digestive-relief supplements. But bismuth salts can also have a surprisingly beneficial, mattifying effect when applied topically to oily skin, explains Dr. Shafer.

So yes, technically Pepto-Bismol is made with some ingredients that could have some benefit for the skin. But derms say there's really no point in using Pepto over your go-to skin-care products. (Related: The Best Salicylic Acid Face Wash for Every Skin Type)

One major issue with Pepto-Bismol face masks: The creamy pink medicine can be incredibly drying on the skin, not to mention irritating for those with sensitive skin, explains Marisa Garshick, M.D., F.A.A.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.

Plus, Pepto-Bismol can quite literally change the color of your skin, adds Dr. Garshick. "Depending on how frequently it is used and how long it is left on for, it could theoretically leave the skin with a pink cast as it does contain red dye," she says. "This should be temporary and subside when the product is no longer used." (Related: The Best Face Masks for Every Skin Type, Condition, and Concern, According to Dermatologists)

Another concern: If you're allergic to aspirin, putting Pepto-Bismol on your face could cause an allergic reaction, as the medicine's bismuth salts are in the same drug class as aspirin. So, there's that.

TL;DR: Derms say you're much better off turning your attention to products that are actually formulated to help your skin, rather than a Pepto-Bismol face mask that might offer benefits, but probably at the cost of a really sticky, uncomfy situation.

"In general, for those with acne, it is best to stick with products designed for the treatment of acne and meant to be applied to the face," says Dr. Garshick. Her favorite salicylic acid skin-care products include cleansers such as La Roche-Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser (Buy It, $15, target.com), wipes such as Neutrogena Rapid Clear Treatment Pads (Buy It, $10, walgreens.com) or First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Acne Clearing Pads (Buy It, $30, sephora.com), and spot treatments such as Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment (Buy It, $9, walgreens.com).

Bottom line: There's no reason to use a product that's not designed and formulated for the face if you don't have to. "Doing so may end up exacerbating underlying conditions or unnecessarily compromising skin barriers," says Dr. Shafer.

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