At this point, we can pretty safely say that charcoal has taken over the beauty world. Its widely-touted benefits include removing dirt, oil, and "toxins" from your skin, and the star ingredient can now be found in everything from bar soap, to masks and more.
But active charcoal isn’t just relegated to skincare products — it’s also a popular find in toothpastes. As Drake once said when questioned about his brushing habits, "I have a pink diamond in my tooth…I brush with activated charcoal before any club night." Honestly, the idea of actually putting charcoal in my mouth deeply intrigued me, so I did just that with Hello Products’s Activated Charcoal Fluoride-Free Whitening Toothpaste.
Charcoal factor aside, I became even more excited to try it when I learned the toothpaste is also free of ingredients like dyes, sulfates (which can cause irritation), artificial sweeteners, preservatives, microbeads, and triclosan. And it doesn’t hurt that the paste comes in a very Instagrammable (and BPA-free) tube.
The novelty of it gave me immediate gratification from the second I put the paste on my toothbrush. Even though I knew it would be considerably inkier than my usual dental routine, it was still fun to actually see something so non-toothpaste-looking come out of the tube. And then there was the look of it on my teeth, which was, well, interesting. It’s a tad disconcerting to smile in the mirror and see a mouthful of jet-black goop. FYI, there were some stains left behind when I spit back into my sink, but that just means I need to clean it more often (soap and water does the trick).
As for the taste, it actually featured fresh and minty notes — possibly even more so than my other mint toothpastes. And that was a conscious choice by Hello Products. “We think that anything that goes in your mouth should taste awesome, so our charcoal paste features a delicious blend of mint, spearmint, and peppermint,” founder Craig Dubitsky tells Teen Vogue.
But, you ask, what about the effectiveness? Craig says they specifically formulated this toothpaste to be “gentle on the enamel, especially when compared to highly abrasive toothpastes and peroxide.” I actually quit using whitening toothpaste after my dentist repeatedly told me it was too harsh on my tooth enamel, so it’s not like I was making that drastic a change when switching to Hello Products, but I certainly didn’t experience any irritation (I’ve been using it for almost two weeks now).
While charcoal is widely touted as a natural whitening agent (Craig said theirs “is made from sustainable bamboo, which has incredible whitening properties to remove surface stains”), I can’t say I’ve seen a noticeable difference in the whiteness of my teeth at this point, but I also recently got a clean bill of dental health and a “your teeth are plenty white” report from my dentist, so it’s possible I just didn’t have far to go on that front. And this certainly isn’t an exact science. “Results are dependent on factors like diet and brushing habits,” Craig says. “Some users have told us they see results after their first use, but typically you should start to see initial results within the first 10 days of brushing."
It is worth noting that not all dentists are too keen on using charcoal on your teeth — the American Dental Association (ADA) warns that it could be too abrasive. But other dentists say it’s okay when used properly. “It’s recommended to avoid any type of whitening toothpaste or charcoal toothpastes if patients have a ton of tooth recession [or] sensitivity,” cosmetic dentist Lawrence Fung, DDS, founder of Silicon Beach Dental in California, tells Teen Vogue. “My recommendation on charcoal toothpaste is to use it like everything else, in moderation.”
Hello Products’s Activate Charcoal toothpaste is also fluoride-free. The ADA does say that fluoride is a key ingredient in fighting cavities, although Craig notes that Hello Products uses erythritol and xylitol, which he says “prevent harmful bacteria from sticking to the surface of the teeth,” in its place.
Dr. Fung, for one, believes it’s okay to go without fluoride in your toothpaste. “As long as a patient is brushing at least twice a day, keeping a low sugar diet, healthy habits are enough to keep decay away,” he says. “In most cities, tap water has enough fluoride in it to provide anti-cavity protection.”
Of course, if you’re not sure of the best course of action for your teeth or you just want more information before changing things up, get in touch with your dentist. I personally enjoy switching things up between my original fluoride toothpaste and this $5.99 tube of fluoride-free, charcoal-packed paste.
"Every mouth is unique, so your smileage may vary," says Craig.
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