Mackenzie Dunn
Updated June 09, 2020
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Pepto-Bismol, HelloGiggles

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When it comes to viral trends, oftentimes it’s the whackier, the better. Even the weirdest of trends get picked up and somehow end up on the discover page of our Instagrams or the “For You” page of our never-ending TikTok feeds. The latest: a DIY face mask made out of Pepto-Bismol. Yes, you read that right: People are smearing the famously pink antacid on their faces in the hopes that it will give them clear, glowy skin.

Apparently, the trend isn’t even all that new. A simple YouTube search will show that the beauty “hack” has been tested on social media for years. But hold up—can something that’s advertised as a medicine to soothe an upset stomach really be good for your face? We asked a dermatologist to break down the trend.

Why Pepto-Bismol?

Aside from the visually appealing bright pink color, Pepto-Bismol contains subsalicylate, which is related to the very popular skincare ingredient salicylic acid.

As Tess Mauricio, M.D., a Beverly Hills-based board-certified dermatologist explains, “Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) which is used to help exfoliate the skin and prevent the plugs that form whiteheads, blackheads, and acne. It also helps remove dead skin and can improve skin texture,” she says. Since subsalicylate is a cousin of salicylic acid, it is thought to have the same benefits. Additionally, Dr. Mauricio tells us that Pepto-Bismol contains bismuth salts (hence the “Bismol” part of the product name), which are said to help absorb excess oil on the skin.

The idea is that by applying these ingredients topically, you’ll be able to shrink pores and reduce skin inflammation and oiliness, resulting in a brighter, clearer overall complexion.

Does the Pepto-Bismol face mask really work?

If you watch the Youtube, Instagram, or TikTok videos of people applying the thick pink liquid to their faces (usually by dipping a brush in the bottle, painting on, then letting dry), they often rinse it off and comment on having smoother skin. Sometimes, they’ll denote a difference in the size of their pores, but a lot of times, there will really be no noticeable change.

According to Dr. Mauricio, while applying the mask could result in some immediate results (like temporarily smoother skin), there’s some risk involved, too. After all, you’re putting something that is not tested for the face, well, directly on your face.

First of all, if you have sensitive skin or are allergic to aspirin, you can develop irritation and/or an allergic reaction, so if you are aware of this type of allergy, you should steer clear of trying this. Additionally, because the product has not been tested on skin, Dr. Mauricio warns that skin can become excessively dry, red, itchy, and swollen. You may even develop an irritant dermatitis or allergic dermatitis, a common immune reaction that happens when your skin comes in contact with a substance you’re sensitive to.

Finally (and this you may notice on those TikTok before-and-afters), there is a possibility of temporarily staining the skin with the medicine’s pink-red dye. Dr. Mauricio assures that this staining eventually goes away but warns that your skin could be discolored for a couple of days.

Bottom line: “With so many safe and proven topical treatments to treat blackheads and whiteheads, oily and acne-prone skin, there is no reason to try Pepto-Bismol other than curiosity and for notoriety,” says Dr. Mauricio.

Try these salicylic acid face masks instead:

1Clinique Acne Solutions Oil-Control Cleansing Mask

Sephora

Made with both oil-absorbing clay and salicylic acid, this mask heals breakouts, soothes redness, and keeps skin shine free.

2The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Masque

Sephora

If lackluster skin tone is your main concern, this charcoal-infused salicylic acid mask shrinks pores and enhances smoothness. It banishes dead skin cells on the surface to reveal brighter skin overall.

3Indie Lee Clearing Mask

Sephora

This powerful mask targets problem pores, dryness, and redness with a combination of glycolic and salicylic acids. These ingredients, in addition to clay and colloidal sulfur, help draw out impurities while hyaluronic acid plumps and nourishes the skin.

Just a word to the wise next time you want to try some off-beat skincare trend you found on the internet: “It may be tempting to try something that looks cool on video by influencers, but be careful,” says Dr. Mauricio. “I’ve treated people who have experienced skin irritation, allergies, burns, and even scarring from following viral face trends. If you have skin issues, consult your dermatologist instead—you have a much better chance to actually improve [your skin], and you’ll be doing so safely.”