How Turning My Teeth Black Actually Made Them Whiter

It's dark magic. (But not really it's toothpaste.)

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Growing up, not needing braces felt like my crowning achievement. While my peers were stuck with mouths of metal, my pearly whites were left alone. For a while, keeping my sacred smile pristine was a priority...until I discovered the paradigm-shifting wonders of coffee.

To this day, you couldn't pry a cup of coffee from my cold, dead hands if you tried. And, unfortunately, my love for a good cup of joe has inevitably changed my smile forever. Over the years I've used whitening toothpaste, strips, you name it I've tried it, but I felt like my teeth would never return to their former glory.

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That's when I read about the white-washing powers of activated charcoal. And as crazy as it sounded (your teeth turn black at first, you guys), I had to try it out for myself. I had high hopes of upping my RiRi Woo lip game.

As far as getting my hands on activated charcoal powder, it was actually quite a challenge. Scanning the aisles of my drugstore left me empty-handed, and even the everything-beauty-and-beyond beauty shop that is Ricky's NYC had nothing. I found myself on a hunt that finally led me to the place where you go when you have nowhere else to look: Amazon. I went with My Magic Mud Whitening Tooth Powder ($25) as it was non-GMO, and had the only packaging that made me feel like I wasn't about to perform an 8th grade lab experiment.

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My confidence/excitement/determination wavered a little bit when I was finally in front of my bathroom sink. I mean, charcoal is literally carbon and ash—it's burned in barbecue grills. And here I was, about to swish it around in my mouth like it ain't no thang?

Because charcoal is the real secret to pearly whites💀 @marieclairemag

A photo posted by Lauren Valenti (@lauren_valenti) on

First, I enlisted my sister to do it with me, because all questionable endeavors need a sister accomplice. Then I bought a new toothbrush (I thought the charcoal might stain my regular toothbrush and *ding ding* I was right). I wet my toothbrush under the sink, then dipped it into the jar of charcoal so that the bristles were completely covered. When I finally put the brush in my mouth, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was virtually tasteless. But after brushing, my mouth was like a scene from American Horror Story: my teeth, gums, and tongue were coated with black sludge. Here's the thing, though: It was kind of fun? And I took selfies I refuse to share here but totally sent to my friends?

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Both my sister and I agreed that afterwards, our teeth were noticeably whiter—at least two shades whiter if we had to use one of those shade strips. While exciting, my mind immediately raced: What was this magic? It had to be too good to be true.

So I did the thing that, ahem, I probably should have done in the first place. I really researched it. And while my DIY whitening job isn't hazardous, it's not totally expert-endorsed either—charcoal isn't the safest substance I could potentially ingest.

As addicting as it is to see my teeth get whiter and whiter, I'm not going to risk it too much. Coffee, on the other hand...that's gonna stay.

If you're tempted to try, these are good places to start:


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The Lipstick Colors That Make Your Teeth Look Brighter

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