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I suffered from regular whiteheads around my lips and chin for many years. They rear their little white bumps at night and grow up to be full white heads in the morning. Seeing them in the mirror after I wake up annoyed me, on top of having to purchase skincare products to combat a seemingly persistent issue.

I decided that there had to be a cause and looked at the potential reasons:

  1. Poor diet
  2. Going to bed late
  3. Insufficient sleep
  4. Poor sleep quality
  5. Inconsistent sleeping hours
  6. Dirty pillow/bed sheets
  7. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
  8. Skincare products
  9. Using three-bladed disposable razors

Poor diet

For some time, I ate salads for lunch. The chin whiteheads still appeared.

Sleep

Experimenting with sleep patterns, sleep duration, or consistent bedtimes yielded the same results. Whiteheads still appeared.

Dirty sheets

Changing the sheets changed nothing. I don’t suffer from regular facial breakouts. I do not sleep with my face down either. Hence, I find it really baffling if the lack of sheet contact could somehow cause whiteheads around my lips.

Skincare products

I tried a variety of facial washes, masks, creams, and lotions over the years. I do not suffer from facial breakouts except for the occasional zit. Whiteheads still popped up around my lips and chin.

Disposable razors

Shaving would turn out to be one of the causes. Like most men, I bought into Gillette’s Mach 3 system. For over a decade, I got whiteheads and pimples around the mouth. I even experienced skin redness during shaving. I thought it was normal. I believed genetics were the cause of my acne, zits, and whiteheads.

My life changed after I learned of the Double Edge (DE) Safety Razor on the web in 2018. I kid you not.

After months of research, I theorised that the triple bladed Gillette irritated my skin. Not only did the blades tug at skin, they potentially cause ingrown hairs. I also learned that the canned shaving creams contained irritants. Later, articles and videos of men who shared their experiences with DE shaving convinced me to switch.

In mid 2019, I bought DE razors and shaving creams. The Ming Shi 3000s Adjustable Razor is now my main shaver. I will review it in the future. My chin acne took a turn for the better.

Yet, the overnight zits and whiteheads still remain. What would it take to boot them?

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Light research into the causes of lip and chin whiteheads revealed an ingredient in toothpastes as the culprit. It turns out, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) is an irritant. For as long as I could remember, I used Darlie Double Action Toothpaste. This toothpaste contained SLS. I must have lived with skin irritation for a long time too.

So, on 11 July, I purchased Sensodyne Repair And Protect Toothpaste (with Novamin). It claims to protect and whiten teeth–great for a coffee drinker like me. Time will tell if my teeth will turn white over time from a light yellowish stain. I actually bought the Sensodyne to combat sensitivity to cold drinks.

Now, it has been about 5 days since I used it. Whether through sheer coincidence or not, I have not had a zit or whitehead since. And my sleeping hours are now horrendous. I sleep late into the night and eat fried oily foods. Sometimes, I eat oily foods late at night. Yet, I’ve not had a breakout for days. Fingers crossed that SLS is the main culprit.

If I make it through an entire tube of Sensodyne without a zit popping up, I’d be confident in concluding that SLS causes skin issues for someone like me. If you also encounter lip whiteheads and pimples, check the ingredients on your toothpaste. Make the switch to a different toothpaste that does not contain SLS. This would be one of the first scientific experiments that I would conduct with a sample size of one. It’s looking promising though. I’ve also crossed my toes.

Update: 24 July. I woke up to find a whitehead on the upper-left side of my lip. Is this the result of a late night cup noodle snack? Stress? An insect bite? I don’t know. Time will tell.