I Tried Charcoal Toothpaste For Two Weeks & It Definitely Whitened My Teeth
Like most things I try in the name of beauty, I approached charcoal toothpaste with a healthy amount of apprehension. It's a powerful detoxifier that can be flung around like it's no big deal, but it is. Taking charcoal internally has proven to make at least 245 drugs less effective, including asthma medications, supplements, common pain relievers, and hormonal birth control. In New York City, the Department of Health even banned some foods containing charcoal due to how it interacts with other drugs. That's serious stuff!
But when used for teeth brushing, you aren't ingesting it, so the instead it's meant to clean & whiten teeth naturally. I did my experiment with Hello Charcoal's activated charcoal with fresh mint and coconut oil, the fluoride-free version, but Tom's of Maine makes a peppermint version that's easy on the teeth, and so does Schmidt's Naturals. I put it on my toothbrush and was immediately floored by the color—it was fully saturated, graphite gray! At this point, I realized that it wasn't a good idea to brush my Invisalign retainers with charcoal, so I continued to use the "normal" toothpaste for those in the morning with a separate, clean toothbrush.
The switch to charcoal required other logistics, including accommodating for the flecks of gray that can come out unless you're really careful, which I learned the hard way. Don't wear your nice whites when you're brushing, try contain your spitting, no matter how smooth you are; don't walk on your nice beige rug with a mouthful of charcoal; and make sure you're wiping your smackers on a dark-hued towel that will hide the charcoal residue. It's also worth noting that I have two veneers, one on either side of my two front teeth. Since whitening is the main benefit of using charcoal toothpaste, I was interested (and admittedly, nervous #vanity) to see whether they'd stay the same color or blend in seamlessly with the other whitened teeth.
I expected the mouthfeel to be crunchier than conventional toothpaste, but to my surprise, it was not! The textural differences were subtle, kind of like the differences between "wet" and "dry" oils. You know you're dealing with an oil, but the texture and slippage and way it interacts with your body varies by oil type—the same is true with toothpaste and teeth. The charcoal version didn't foam up, which requires a bit more vigilance to ensure the appropriate amount is spread around the nooks and crannies of the mouth. It wasn't dry but felt decidedly drier than any other toothpaste, probably because of the lack of lather. After a good brushing (including brushing my tongue) I felt orally refreshed, but I didn't get that squeaky-clean feeling. This was the biggest downside, mouthfeel-wise, and I'd grapple with it for the duration of my two-week experiment.
The first charcoal-infused toothy grin I flashed my husband (without warning) actually made him jump, which was amusing. I used charcoal in the morning and the evening for 14 days straight, no breaks, and was pleasantly surprised by the results. While I'm not sure whether it helped my gums and overall oral hygiene, it certainly lightened my teeth and delivered on its promise to whiten the teeth. My teeth were more pearly and polished than they'd been since I got them professionally whitened two years ago.
This will be my new trick for when I know I'll be photographed, because the gentle whitening worked so well. And the amusement value of charcoal toothpaste is high! If you're looking for something fun to do or try with your roommates, friends, or family, charcoal toothpaste might do the trick.
Lindsay Kellner is a freelance writer, editor and content strategist based out of Brooklyn, NY. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and psychology at New York University and earned a 200-hour yoga certification from Sky Ting. She is the co-author of “The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide to Ancient Self Care,” along with mbg’s Sustainability Editor, Emma Loewe.