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how is charcoal toothpaste made?
by connie gregson, friendly head of r+d at hello products Published: February 5, 2019
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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.
Photo: charcoal lineup in bathroom
let’s start with the short answer: with super-thoughtful, high-quality charcoal, and a whole bunch of tlc.
but don’t get confused; when we say “charcoal,” we’re not talking about burning rocks you cook over, or your art teacher’s charcoal for drawing wonky-looking nudes or bowls of fruit. charcoal used in artistic masterpieces and backyard barbecues contains additives that are not meant for us humans to use, making it very different from the charcoal used in oral care products. the variety of charcoal found in our toothpaste is not only safe for use in your mouth, it’s actually really dope for your teeth!
the charcoal we use in our toothpaste is called “activated charcoal”, and we think it’s actively awesome. this magical, hard-working substance is made by processing charcoal at a temperature of 1000 degrees centigrade. and you thought your significant other was hot. the high heat of the activation process changes the internal structure of charcoal, rendering its surface incredibly porous – meaning it has thousands of tiny holes on it. acting like a sponge (a super-tiny, super badass sponge), these pores give the charcoal the power to absorb bad smells and chemicals commonly found in the mouth, ultimately helping to freshen breath and brighten teeth.
now that we’re square on what activated charcoal is (and is not), let’s have a look at how it grows up to be in toothpaste. heads up, we’re about to get a little science-y.
making activated charcoal toothpaste: from the ground up
the term “charcoal” refers to the carbon and ash residue left behind by removing water and other volatile properties from a number of plant substances. so when it comes to creating charcoal toothpaste, this means the first step is deciding on which organic matter should be used for coal. for some folks in the paste game, this means using charcoal derived from coconut shells. being the naturally friendly bunch that we are, we decided to go with a more sustainable option, bamboo. that’s right, bamboo. here’s why: coconuts take quite some time and effort to grow, and using them for charcoal puts a major strain on the environment when they need to be regrown and harvested for future batches. at hello, we’re big fans of sustainability (seriously, don’t get us started at cocktail parties), and that’s why we decided to rock charcoal derived from oh-so-beautifully-sustainable bamboo. bamboo can grow several feet in just a day, meaning it requires much fewer natural resources to replace, making it an effective, sustainable, perfecto ingredient for charcoal toothpaste.
Photo: charcoal mouthwash
here’s how bamboo turns into an awesome toothpaste ingredient. the bamboo is harvested and burned, reducing it down to small chunks of traditional charcoal. once that’s taken care of, it’s inspected for quality assurance and undergoes the activation process discussed above. after it’s been seriously hot-and-bothered, the activated charcoal is allowed to cool before being ground down to the proper size that’s specifically optimized for oral care. deciding on the optimal particle size is a super important aspect of the toothpaste-making process—the size of the particles impacts both the level of abrasivity, and hence the stain-removing effectiveness of the paste, and it also helps ensure the particles rinse away uniformly without getting caught under the gumline.
black, white and friendly all over.charcoal products
let’s get pasted
after the activated charcoal is ground to perfection, it’s time to combine it with the other ingredients needed to make a delicious paste. activated charcoal is completely tasteless, which means we get to have a blast when it comes to infusing charcoal paste with refreshing flavors that drive tastebuds wild. we like to add natural fresh mint to our charcoal paste to ensure your mouth feels fresh and friendly af after brushing.
beyond the magic of charcoal, we add coconut oil to the mix to soothe and moisturize. but wait, there’s more. we rock sorbitol to preserve moisture, xanthan gum to hold everything together, xylitol to help prevent cavity-causing bacteria from sticking to your pearly whites, and a couple of other essentials that you can learn more about here. we make sure our thoughtfully sourced ingredients are all as naturally friendly™ as possible.
at hello, we believe in a brusher’s right to choose, so our charcoal toothpaste can be found in both fluoride and fluoride free varieties. we think options are super-friendly.
Photo: woman smiling while brushing with charcoal toothpaste
all in good paste
you may be wondering what goes into our charcoal toopaste to make it, well, pasty. if activated charcoal’s the magic ingredient, why not just use it by its lonesome? you can read the full face-off if you want, but we’ll give you the highlights here. first off, we thought it deserved some friends. secondly, when used solo, charcoal powder can get stuck between teeth and along the gum line –which makes it really tough to rinse out of your mouth. and here’s where things can get even more unfriendly: dipping a brush head in a jar of powder isn’t the most hygienic thing in the world to do, and sprinkling powder on a brush head can make quite the ol’ mess-eroo. with charcoal toothpaste, you squeeze as usual, you brush as usual, and you rinse as usual…all we ask is that you please spit responsibly, and please clean the sink—it’s the friendly thing to do.
now that you know how it’s made, we hope you’ll venture forth and try activated charcoal toothpaste for yourself. #brushhappy