Anyone following skincare and beauty fads knows charcoal is having a moment. Facial scrubs and cleansers, hand and body soaps, face masks and shampoo are just some of the types of products infused with charcoal, touted as a detoxifier.
But if you’re brushing your teeth with a charcoal product, you might want to stop. It’s probably not helping much.
A study published in the British Dental Journal threw some shade on the trend, calling the black tooth goo a “fashionable, marketing ‘gimmick’ based on folklore.” While the key ingredient could possibly have some whitening effect since it’s an abrasive, it could also damage tooth enamel and gums, and thus lead to tooth decay or other problems.
It also makes a mess, apparently. “Normal brushing time may be extended in attempts to remove charcoal-discoloured deposits and stains. When the paste is spat out, using a ‘spit don’t rinse’ approach, it makes a mess of the basin. The tongue may also become blackened and this may require tongue brushing or scraping to remove,” according to the English researchers.
And if the dentifrice contains fluoride, the charcoal would absorb it, reducing any cavity-fighting properties, they warned.
One bright side: It could induce trend-followers who didn’t previously brush much to take up the practice. With English reserve, they noted: “It is to be hoped, however, that those new to regular toothbrushing with a charcoal dentifrice will sooner or later come around to the routine use of a toothpaste with proven efficacy.”