Whether you ask a toothpaste maker, pastry chef or rocket scientist, they’ll all tell you the same thing: ingredients matter. For us here at hello, that means thoughtful sourcing. Only the most thoughtful of stuff makes it into our toothpastes and mouthwashes. And sometimes, the ingredient conversation for us is just as much about choosing what we want to leave out of our products as it is about choosing what we want to put in them. That’s the case with today’s topic ingredient – carrageenan. We’ve decided not to put it in our products. But because it is commonly used in toothpastes made by other companies, we figure it’s an ingredient that you may be interested in learning more about. Afterall, knowledge is power!
What is Carrageenan?
Believe it or not, carrageenan is actually a natural ingredient derived from red seaweed – aka “Irish moss”. More specifically, carrageenan is the material that forms the structure of the cells of the seaweed. It was first discovered hundreds of years ago in the UK. Essentially, folks across the pond accidentally separated carrageenan from red seaweed when boiling the seaweed in milk (yum!). They realized that the seaweed boiling process thickened up the milk – because of the release of carrageenan into the milky liquid. This little tale brings us to carrageenan’s primary purpose in modern times: as a thickener.
Why Is It Used?
In the manufacturing of foods, medicines and toothpastes, carrageenan is usually used as a thickener and stabilizing agent. If you’ve eaten ice cream, any type of nut milk, deli meat or cottage cheese, chances are you’ve had carrageenan at some point. In the case of beverages, carrageenan is particularly helpful in keeping ingredients from separating while they sit on a store shelf. Picture a bottle of chocolate milk where the cocoa has become separated out from the other ingredients… not super appetizing, right? Adding carrageenan into the mix can help prevent this type separation from taking place. So: absolutely an ingredient that is helpful and that sees widespread usage.
Why Don’t We Use Carrageenan in Hello Products?
According to the FDA, carrageenan is considered to be safe for consumption. However, there are some scientific findings that claim carrageenan can cause intestinal inflammation in lab animals. And there are also anecdotal reports from humans who say that they’ve alleviated their digestive issues by removing carrageenan from their diet.
So while carrageenan is FDA-approved and widely-used, we’ve opted to thicken our toothpastes with xanthan gum instead. Have any other questions about what’s in our products? We’re an open book. Head to the ingredients section of our website here, or drop us a note. Thanks for reading, and thanks for caring about what you put in your body!