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