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Listerine is perhaps the most widely used mouthwash nowadays, but it was originally created as a surgical antiseptic in 1879. (1)It helps kill oral bacteria to reduce plaque buildup inside the mouth and thereby fights bad breath as well as oral infections. (2)
But there is more to Listerine than just these uses.
Listerine contains alcohol, phenolic compounds, and a mixture of essential oils that exhibit antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties that can be utilized for a variety of purposes, rather than just oral hygiene.
Uses of Listerine Other Than as a Mouthwash
Listerine is helpful in treating the following conditions:
Note: Use the original brown formulation of Listerine for these remedies.
1. Fungal skin and nail infections
Dermatophytes are a type of fungi that naturally live on the skin, but if allowed to overgrow, they cause a highly contagious infection called ringworm or tinea.
Ringworm goes by different names, depending on which part of the body is affected. It is called athlete’s foot or tinea pedis if it affects feet, toenail fungus or tinea unguium if it affects the toenail, and jock’s itch if it affects the groin area. (3)
Listerine can help treat all these types of ringworm infections by killing the underlying fungus. Its antifungal properties can be traced back to its thymol content. Its antiseptic action keeps the infection from spreading or worsening while also promoting faster skin healing.
Plus, Listerine works as an anti-inflammatory agent, which relieves the symptomatic discomfort associated with such infections. The fungal overgrowth triggers inflammation in the infected tissue, which leads to redness, swelling, stinging, burning, and excessive itching. Applying Listerine to the affected area provides fast relief from these symptoms.
- First wash the infected area with an antifungal soap and then let it dry completely before applying Listerine to it either with a cotton ball or via a spray bottle, but not your fingers.
- In the case of athlete’s foot or toenail fungus, you can dip your toes or feet in Listerine for a few minutes. Leave the area to dry so that the Listerine is properly absorbed. You may experience a little burning sensation at first but it will subside soon and so will the pain and inflammation.
- For particularly stubborn or severe infections, consider mixing one part mouthwash with one part vinegar for stronger antiseptic effects, and apply it as mentioned.
2. Poison ivy rash
Poison ivy is a common allergenic plant that can cause a red, bumpy, itchy rash if it touches your skin. The plant contains an oil called urushiol, which triggers skin inflammation that manifests in the form of a rash.
Applying Listerine to the rash can help subdue the underlying inflammation, relieving the itching and skin irritation while also accelerating the healing process.
Simply soak a cotton ball in Listerine, and gently dab it all over the affected area. Its cooling effect will help calm the irritated skin almost instantaneously.
3. Mild cases of dandruff
Dandruff is either caused by fungal overgrowth on the scalp or scalp inflammation.
Listerinecan tackle both these causes. It has strong antimicrobial properties that help curb the fungal infection and cleanse your scalp. Plus, it helps bring down scalp inflammation to reduce the itching and flaking associated with dandruff.
A few times a week, rinse your hair and scalp with Listerine after shampooing, and you should start to see results.
4. Yellow nails
Yellow nail stains can be caused by various factors, but fungal infection is perhaps the most common one. Listerine can help remove such stains by killing the underlying fungus, thanks to its content of several antifungal compounds such as thymol, menthol, eucalyptol, and methyl salicylate.
Plus, the strong formula of Listerine helps dissolve any food pigment or nail paint settled on the enamel to whiten your nails.
Dip your hands or fingers in undiluted Listerine for 30 minutes every day for 1 week. If you have sensitive skin, dilute Listerine by mixing it with equal amounts of water.
5. Head lice
Listerine is one of the best remedies for head lice. The reason why it’s so hard to pick out lice from your hair is because they move so fast.
Listerine contains several compounds, including alcohol, thymol, and menthol, among others, that immobilize the lice so that they become easier to catch.
Moreover, its alcoholic content is toxic to lice and leads to their death. Listerine also helps loosen the nits clinging to your hair shafts for easy removal.
Tilt your head backward, and slowly pour Listerine on your hairline so that it flows down your scalp. Use a lice comb and move it from the scalp down the length of your hair to remove the stunted lice. You can wet your hair with water so that the comb moves more swiftly instead of tugging at your dry knotted hair.
Disclaimer: It is not safe to use Listerineto treat head lice in children because its high alcohol content can damage their delicate scalp and hair follicles. Also, children are fidgety and can accidentally get Listerine in their eyes, which can be quite painful and damaging.
6. Blisters and cuts
Listerine can be used as an antiseptic to sanitize minor wounds such as scratches, cuts, and blisters. Its antimicrobial effects will help prevent infections and speed up healing. It is especially useful if you have run out of your regular antiseptic solution/ointment.
Soak a cotton ball, Q-tip, or paper towel in Listerine and gently dab it all over the wound.
7. Acne pimples
Listerine is not a cure for acne, but it can help reduce the severity of breakouts when used topically. It has strong anti-inflammatory effects that can shrink your pimples faster while also relieving the associated redness, pain, and irritation.
Listerine is also credited with antiseptic properties that can help fight the acne-causing bacteria and thus reduce breakouts.
Dip a cotton ball in Listerine and gently apply it to the affected area. Do this twice daily for best results.
8. Dry, cracked heels
Listerine can help exfoliate and clean dry, cracked heels, making them smooth and soft. It loosens the dry, hard, dead skin on top of the heels so that it sheds easily, revealing fresh new skin underneath.
Plus, Listerine works as an antiseptic that can remove germs and impurities settled in the area.
Prepare a Listerine foot soak by mixing equal parts of warm water and Listerine and a small amount of lemon juice (optional) in a bowl, bucket, or tub large enough to fit both of your feet. The solution should be enough to submerge your feet. Soak your feet in the liquid for 15–20 minutes.
9. Cold sores
Cold sores or herpes is a viral infection that causes inflammation around the mouth, leading to the appearance of small fluid-filled blisters along the border of the lips. The anti-inflammatory properties of Listerine can help dry out these blisters faster and soothe the associated pain, redness, and irritation.
Use a cotton ball or Q-tip to apply a small amount of Listerine to the blisters to relieve the discomfort and speed up the healing.
10. Oily skin and open pores
Listerine exhibits astringent properties (4) and can therefore be used as a facial toner, but only in diluted quantities. When applied to the face, Listerine helps remove the excess sebum, dirt, and dead cells from your skin while also shrinking your pores.
Mix one part Listerine with one part water, and cleanse your face with a cotton ball soaked in this solution.
11. Body odor
Listerine contains eucalyptol, thymol, and methyl salicylate, all of which are antimicrobial agents that can help reduce body odor. Body odor is essentially caused by the overgrowth of certain foul-smelling bacteria, and Listerine can help fight that.
Also, Listerine leaves behind a refreshing pleasant fragrance on the skin. Thus, it can actually work as an alternative to your deodorant.
Soak a cotton ball or paper towel in Listerine, and dab it under your arms.
Note: Don’t apply Listerine after shaving your underarms, as its alcohol content can make your skin burn.
Bruising occurs when the underlying blood vessels get damaged due to trauma or injury and start leaking blood that accumulates in the surrounding tissue. The pooling of blood under the skin forms a bluish-purple patch on the skin, which might hurt when touched.
Listerine when applied to the bruise helps increase blood circulation under the skin to disperse the accumulated blood and heal the bruise faster.
Soak a cotton ball in some Listerine and gently press it over the bruise.
Other Uses of Listerine
Listerine can be utilized to:
- Kill ticks and fleas
- Freshen laundry
- Clean the garbage disposal
- Clean and freshen the toilet
- Serve as a good alternative to a travel hand sanitizer
Side Effects of Listerine
Listerine contains alcohol and potent essential oils that can be too harsh on your skin when used in concentrated amounts. Excessive topical use may cause dryness, skin irritation, and even allergic contact dermatitis, especially if you have sensitive skin. (5)
For this reason, it is highly recommended to conduct a patch test before using any Listerine-containing remedy. Moreover, none of these remedies should be used on children.
Listerine is a common household item that does more than what it gets credit for. The antiseptic, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties of this solution make it useful for addressing a variety of common ailments along with other miscellaneous benefits.
This easily available and inexpensive product can get so much done, and it’s time that you make the most of it.
- DH; F. Listerine: Past, present and future–a test of thyme. Journal of dentistry. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20621240/.
- Alshehri FA. The use of mouthwash containing essential oils (Listerine®) to Improve Oral Health: A Systematic Review. The Saudi dental journal. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6112363/. Published January 2018.
- Ghannoum M, Isham N. Fungal nail infections (onychomycosis): A never-ending story? PLoS pathogens. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4047123/. Published June 5, 2014.
- Masadeh MM, Gharaibeh SF, Alzoubi KH, Al-Azzam SI, Obeidat WM. Antimicrobial activity of common mouthwash solutions on multidrug-resistance bacterial biofilms. Journal of clinical medicine research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3748664/. Published October 2013.
- Uter W, Werfel T, Lepoittevin J-P, White IR. Contact allergy-emerging allergens and public health impact. International journal of environmental research and public health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7177224/. Published April 1, 2020.
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