• Thu, Dec 12 - 10:00 am ET

I Whiten My Teeth With Charcoal And It’s Surprisingly Awesome

natural teeth whitening

Yes, I actually put a picture of myself looking like this on the internet.

I am always looking for ways to whiten my teeth. Who isn’t? Even though I don’t drink coffee, I did smoke off and on for about ten years, so my teeth aren’t exactly the pearliest of whites. Far from it, in fact.

But god, whitening treatments. I can’t afford professional whitening—Hell, I can’t afford to even go to the dentist at all—and whitening toothpaste doesn’t really seem to work and Crest Whitestrips are so annoying, what with the sticking and the peeling and you end up tasting them and ugh. I’ve tried swishing with hydrogen peroxide (effective, but kinda gross), oil pulling, and all kinds of “natural” whitening treatments to no avail.

One day, I was poking around on Reddit’s /r/naturalbeauty subreddit, as I do (Because it’s awesome and also because that’s the kind of internet nerd I am) when I came across a post about natural teeth whitening. In the comments, people were discussing using activated charcoal to whiten their teeth. Intrigued, I did a little Googling.

Here’s the deal. According to my fave natural beauty guru Crunchy Betty, you basically just take a little bit of the black activated charcoal powder and a smidgen of water and swish that shit around in your mouth for awhile. She posits that activated charcoal, which is formulated to absorb impurities, basically sucks up all the gross tannins and other stains on your teeth. In fact, activated charcoal apparently used to be a popular ingredient in toothpaste.

I had some activated charcoal capsules on hand because my boyfriend and I use it as a hangover preventer (Try it—it’s amazing!) so I thought I would give it a whirl and see what happened. And lo and behold, whitening your teeth with charcoal actually works. I’ve been doing it for a few weeks now and I can definitely see a difference. Like, at least a few shades of difference. This isn’t the first time I’ve had luck with a somewhat unconventional approach to beauty hygiene, but it is the first time I saw results the very first time I did it. As Crunchy Betty says, the difference is immediate.

I do the method Crunchy Betty espouses in her post—making a slurry and swishing for a few minutes, then rinsing—but I’ve also actually brushed with the charcoal a few times, as in the photos above. Beware, because this stuff stains and is very difficult to clean off of bathroom sinks, even if you rinse really, really well. Usually I do it in the shower to cut down on mess. I’ve taken to doing it like three times a week and so far, so good.

If you’re interested in trying this, you can get activated charcoal tablets at any health food or organic grocery store. You just pop open the tablet and pour the powder into your mouth, then mix either with water or with a toothbrush.

Photo: Carrie Murphy

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  • Danielle Ezzo Trafficante

    So I’m curious about the taste??

    • Amanda Lee

      I’ve eaten charcoal before for the poison absorbing aspect. If it’s anything like that, IT TASTES AWFUL.

  • Elizabeth

    I’ll have to try this! I usually do white strips once a year, but they’re so expensive!

  • Yar Zuk
    • Amanda Lee

      Why are you patronizing her? I don’t think she would swish around charcoal in her mouth without researching it. Not to mention, I saw no point in your link. Hardly any side effects except for gastrointestinal blockage. FYI she’s not eating it. And you would have to eat a lot for that to happen, not a toothbrush full.

    • Ces

      I think this commentator may have been referring to how her and her boyfriend take them to prevent hangovers. I was wondering if there were any negative side effects so I’m glad someone posted a link.

    • Amanda Lee

      Still not seeing the point of the link.

    • Ces

      Hmm I don’t know. Maybe this one?

      Alcohol interacts with ACTIVATED CHARCOAL

      Activated charcoal is sometimes used to prevent poisons from being absorbed into the body. Taking alcohol with activated charcoal might decrease how well activated charcoal works to prevent poison absorption.

      Also a side effect is dehydration which can’t be good before a night out drinking. But I’m neither a chemist nor doctor. Just good to get the risks, even if they’re low, out there.

    • SuperDaisy

      But they’re not using activated charcoal to absorb anything other than alcohol. Activated charcoal is absorbing the alcohol (I think), that’s why it’s less effective when in the presence of alcohol: it’s already working.

      As for the dehydration, if her hangover preventer usage is anything like my hangover preventer usage, she takes the pill with a ton of water before she goes to sleep. It doesn’t sound like it’s for pre-drinking use or for use in the absence of standbys like water intake.

    • Ces

      Well then it sounds safe. I just think that putting a link with possible side effects isn’t patronizing. It’s smart.

  • Charmless

    Brilliant! I’m going to try this because those white strips hurt like hell. It’s not worth being unable to drink cold beverages for three days just to get rid of tea stains.

  • Celia

    I wish you’d have shown a before and after, this looks really interesting.

  • :/

    natural doesn’t always mean healthier….

  • Dananjaya Madhushanka

    this method used since centuries ago in Sri Lanka and some other Asian countries. I’m also used this at my childhood. I guaranteed this is a best thing for your teeth. This will help you not only to white. It also help to get rid from some mouth diseases and help to improve the lustiness. the best active carbon that can get by burning woods. but do not use “petroleum” things with this.

  • FF4life

    Dude. You lament the taste of crest whitening strips and are ok with activated charcoal?

    I’ve actually had to drink a TON of that shit in the emergency room. It is so gross… so crunchy… ugh. Bad memories.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jelly.andrews.7 Jelly Andrews

    Wow! How cool was this idea. I never heard about using
    activated charcoal before for whitening teeth. And I am quite tempted to try
    it. But how does it taste?

    Dental-Mart.com