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So glad you asked! We’ve all heard of regular charcoal, the stuff you use when you’re throwing some steaks or veggie burgers on the grill – but activated charcoal is slightly different. Regular charcoal is created when wood or other natural materials are heated up in the absence of air. But activated charcoal takes things an important step further; it takes regular charcoal and makes sure it is “activated” via processing at a super high temperature – over 1000 degrees centigrade. The extra-high heat kills off any substances in the charcoal that are potentially harmful to humans. It also changes the internal structure of the charcoal, leading to a more porous surface texture (which means a surface texture with significantly more tiny holes called “pores”).
We’ll get to the importance of these pores in a second; the thing to remember about activated charcoal is that while it’s not well-suited for art projects or backyard cookouts, but it’s got some serious superpowers when used as a toothpaste ingredient. Let’s brush up on why people are embracing the dark side when it comes to their teeth.
Remember those pores we mentioned earlier? Well they’re a big part of what makes activated charcoal so effective in its particle-trapping duties. The pores are great at absorption, allowing them to capture odor-causing particles in your mouth, taking your (bad) breath away and leaving you feeling fresh and clean.
Activated charcoal’s fine-grained nature also allows it to safely scrub off surface stains on your teeth without employing any harsh chemicals or endangering your enamel and gums.
As an added bonus, activated charcoal can’t be absorbed by the human body, which allows it to get its tiny little hands on those odor-causing particles and then be spit right out right along with them. We know it may seem a little weird that black toothpaste can freshen and whiten so well, but it works.
We’ve talked about the activation process and activated charcoal’s benefits, but how about the material that is being “activated”? It’s perfectly normal to want some insight; it’s going in your mouth, after all! The raw materials used to create charcoal vary from brand to brand. At hello, we prefer to rock charcoal derived from super-sustainable, grows-like-the-proverbial-weed bamboo.
Did you know that bamboo can grow several feet in a single day?! It’s super impressive. We recommend you go watch it in action on YouTube. #NatureIsMagic! Bamboo’s super-fast rate of growth makes it a smart choice for activated charcoal derivation, as it means fewer natural resources will be required for regrowth. Plus, the highly-porous activated charcoal that bamboo produces makes it a smart, effective ingredient to put on your brush.
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When you’re deciding which activated charcoal toothpaste to buy, you should also look at what else is in the tube besides dark matter. Activated charcoal has absolutely no flavor on its own, so if you want your mouth to feel as clean as it looks, you’ll want a paste that adds in cool, natural flavors – like fresh mint. Coconut oil or another moisturizer is a nice bonus as well. And, if being able to decide between fluoride and fluoride-free is important to you, make sure you check the label for this option as well (at hello, we believe in a brusher’s right to choose and offer both fluoride and fluoride-free options. Friendly folks don’t judge).
We hope you find activated charcoal as minteresting as we do – or at the very least, that this article has left you feeling less in the dark on the subject (sorry, couldn’t resist). Happy brushing!
about the author
Connie is our Director of R+D, which not only means she created the formulations for our products, but that she has more degrees than a thermometer. One of her degrees is an MS in food biochemistry, and she was a research scientist in Pepsi’s Product Innovation Group before deciding to focus cavity prevention and optimized oral health. When she’s not climbing, hiking, ultra-marathoning, playing guitar or making awesome brownies with chickpea flour, she’s whipping up the most naturally friendly oral care products around. If you let us know you’re coming for a visit, Connie might be able to craft a custom paste for you….or maybe just rock some of her awesome brownies for you.
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