Welp... it's been a week.
One week ago I made a quick and seemingly innocent stop into my local Target - to pick up some snacks for my son's lunch, some dishwasher detergent for my Twinkle kitchen, and some toothpaste.
I worked later than I wanted to that day so we were running late for dinnertime (school nights are a race against the clock to get in bed on time... moms please tell me you can relate!) so when I saw that they were out of my usual cruelty free & vegan toothpaste go-to (Dr. Bronner's,) I debated running into Sprouts or Natural Grocers to try my luck there, but it was getting late, I was hungry, it was freezing outside... so I grabbed the only option (and when I say only, I'm serious you guys... it was the one and only option from the only brand in the little natural section and everything else was out of stock... ALL. EMPTY. SLOTS.) that I knew to be vegan, and read the ingredients, which I do with everything, because A) I'm a curious product formulator myself and B) I have a lot of weird allergies, and noted that it listed goji berry extract as one of the ingredients.
Goji berry is a nightshade, and I'm pretty sure I'm allergic to nightshades...
I should have put it down and gone to another store.
But I was curious...
What would happen if I brushed my teeth with goji berry extract? If nothing happened, would it disprove my theory that I am allergic to nightshades? If I had a reaction, would it be further proof?! Yes, I know what they say about curiosity, but this kitty cat lives life on the edge... with her vegan exotic fruit infused activated charcoal toothpaste from Target... can you tell how hard I'm rolling my eyes right now?
So since I've been sharing my some of the details from my elimination diet with you guys in my instagram stories, I got the grand idea to share this funny little anecdote about my goji berry toothpaste experiment as I brushed my teeth and got into bed.
Well, the next morning, I woke up to discover that I had been visited multiple times in the night by the Instagram Vegan Police. (I'm using this term in the most affectionate way possible because I heart you all, but it honestly felt like I had made the biggest faux pas of my life and I hate to break it to you but I have done much, MUCH worse things than buy ambiguously vegan toothpaste in my 35+ years on this planet. Someday we'll have to get drinks and chat...)
Anyway, apparently this brand that I thought was vegan had actually been sold to a parent company who tests some of the ingredients used by other brands in their portfolio (but not this one as they are still vegan certified) on animals when required by law in other markets.
So, ok... it's a gray area. I gotcha. Whoops? Did I know that they had been sold? Perhaps I vaguely remember hearing that but totally forgot about it because I'm not a usual customer of this brand so I thought it wouldn't affect me? And does it even really matter?
Apparently to a lot of people, it does matter. And, yeah, I was also a little disappointed because I thought that it was an independent brand but now I'm just a slave to the machine I guess. (Never mind the other items I purchased for my son's lunchbox and the dishwasher detergent... this story is about toothpaste ONLY. LOLOLOL.)
Well, we can all rest easy. I won't be buying the toothpaste again because I think I did have a reaction to the goji berry extract and it also made my gums feel kind of irritated. But who's to say if it was the goji berry or the magnolia acuminate bark extract or the pomegranate extract and why the heck are there so many fancy ingredients in this toothpaste? Is that really necessary?! (NO!!!)
Basically, I opened up a whole can of worms and ended up spending pretty much the entire day talking to people on instagram about toothpaste. I love talking to you guys, but as a one woman business, this doesn't always feel like the best use of my Monday... you know? I got a lot of recommendations for products that unfortunately like I said were not in stock that night in Target. So, um, thanks, and I'll try to be more prepared next time?!
But on the bright side, I learned that you guys are absolutely riveted by the topic of cruelty free toothpaste, which, as a retailer, is news that I can use.
That night I hopped onto the online indie wholesale marketplace where I source a lot of my beauty tools and accessories for the shop and did a search for vegan toothpaste. Bingo! Up pops Terra & Co., a small, independent, woman founded business, producing toothpaste with clean ingredients in the US.
I immediately knew that I liked
- the simple, clean ingredient list and the fact that it's made with activated charcoal because I have also found that to be an effective tooth whitener and mouth refresher
- the fact that it was clearly labeled as vegan
- the design of the packaging
- the fact that they also make a vegan floss (surprisingly difficult to find) in a biodegradable box, because I've been using a vegan floss in a biodegradable box from another brand and I HATE it so I'll pretty much try ANYTHING ELSE
The only thing I was iffy about was the price... could I sell $15-$25 toothpaste when I can barely sell my beautiful $20 natural perfumes I wondered??
But, eh... what the heck I wanted to try this toothpaste and floss myself (and like I said, the interest in toothpaste that I was getting from, you, my customers, was SO STRONG like if only you were this interested in natural perfume, I'd be a gosh darn millionaire already) that I went ahead and bought it.
4 days later, because the internet is AMAZING it was in my hands and I couldn't wait to try it!
I immediately brushed my teeth (yes I keep a toothbrush at work) and fell in love. I've tried a lot of natural and vegan/cruelty free toothpaste in the 8 or so years that I've been vegan (I don't technically count my pregnancy because I craved eggs the whole time GROSS) and I guess I am extremely picky about toothpaste. I've never really found one that I loved. I had my go-to because it was the best thing I'd found yet, but I always wondered if there was something better out there. I also always alternated it with activated charcoal tooth powders (or just sprinkling a little of my activated charcoal mask add-in on it) when I needed a little more freshness, and although I am planning to add some tooth powders to my shop for my hard core zero waste customers, I've never really been sold on using tooth powders as my only mouth cleaning option. Perhaps I am a bit hypocritical as someone who's top selling product is a powder facial cleanser, but in my mouth I just really prefer a traditional paste, you know?
Well, if you're in the same boat as me, I have a feeling you're really going to like this Brilliant Black toothpaste by Terra & Co.
It is a thick, black, clay based paste so you have to really squeeze to get it out of the tube (I have more to say about the packaging later so keep reading) and it doesn't really foam like traditional (toxic, tested on animals) toothpaste, but it actually feels great in the mouth! It's not an overly fresh burst of powerful mint - I can taste the tea tree oil and the peppermint oil that it contains - but it does definitely leave me feeling fresher than the last toothpaste I was using.
What I really love about it, is how it leaves my teeth feeling afterwards. They feel clean, and really, really smooth. I don't think I've ever actually experienced anything like it, but now I understand why it's $10 more expensive than my last toothpaste. My teeth feel luxurious you guys. I'm not joking. I actually look forward to using it and having fancy feeling teeth afterwards! Because it's black it does leave your sink a little messy, but it wipes up easily. I live with a 6 year old so globs of toothpaste in the sink are something that I wipe up daily anyway... NBD.
As far as the whitening properties go, this is not really a concern for me - my top upper teeth are permanently white veneers (before I started Twinkle Apothecary I was a commercial/TV actor... ok I was a perpetual audition-er who never booked enough gigs to make a career out of it so here we are) but I am confident that this paste will keep my bottom and back teeth white to match, despite my obsession with tea.
Admittedly, I knew that I was taking a risk buying a whole order of this for my shop without trying it first, but I had a good feeling about it and I'm happy to report that I was right. If I didn't love it, I wouldn't even be writing this post. I'd stick it on the shelf and when anyone asked me I'd be like, "Er... you can try it I guess if you want..." but know that I do love it, and I think you should try it because you'll be pleasantly surprised. It's probably too soon to tell if this will be my forever toothpaste, but so far so good!
I am sad to report that I received quite a bit of flack (from the Instagram Zero Waste Police this time) about the packaging. It appears to be plastic, and to be honest, I really don't know what it's made out of... it could very well be recyclable or even biodegradable corn... it doesn't say! But, I will reach out to them and find out what the deal is. To be very honest though, this isn't a huge concern for me. Because I exclusively use Twinkle Apothecary products in my personal care routine, having one plastic thing in my bathroom just doesn't feel like all that big of a deal. (Sorry?!) I am a long time vegetarian (since I was 13) and vegan, which most experts say is the single most important thing you can do as an individual to help the environment. I drive a hybrid, but live within a mile of my work and my son's school so I usually walk... I feel like I'm doing the best that I can in my life and my business, and I appreciate that Terra & Co. is crafting a great product that I have zero interest in formulating or producing myself.
As a manufacturer, I know first hand how difficult it is to find the right packaging... mine is an ever evolving process, but just as you trust that Twinkle Apothecary is committed to always improving, I trust that the brands that I bring into my store are as well. If you're committed to living a truly zero waste lifestyle, I think that's very commendable and fabulous, and I encourage you to do your own research and choose products that fit within your ideals, and I promise not to ever judge you for your Target run fails (because unless you're living completely off the grid in which case how are you even reading this? I KNOW YOU'VE BEEN THERE) too. 🙂
Now, let's talk FLOSS.
This stuff is the best thing since sliced bread. I've tried every vegan floss on the market (sadly there aren't that many because beeswax is ubiquitous) and have been begrudgingly using the only option that they ever have in stock at Natural Grocers (I've never seen any vegan floss at Target) for a while now, which also happens to be packaged in a biodegradable box. It always got stuck in my back teeth and really just didn't feel like it was doing all that much for the teeth that I could actually get it between. But, I continued to use it because you gotta floss. Really if you're not flossing all of the toothpaste in the world is not going to save your teeth so get on it.
The Brilliant Black floss blows my old floss out of the water. Finally! It feels like it's really getting my teeth clean, it glides in-between my teeth effortlessly, and it actually feels more comfortable on my gums. OH AND I can actually get it underneath my permanent retainer which I've never been able to do without a separate threading tool before so that is a MAJOR PLUS.
It's made from activated charcoal infused bamboo fibers which are also biodegradable, and I must say that it's oddly satisfying to floss on a black surface. I'm not sure that flossing with charcoal really provides that much added benefit but it definitely can't hurt, am I right?
I also got a little bit of instagram flack about the packaging - there were some questions about the wheel that the floss is wrapped around (again, this is not a huge concern for me but I do appreciate that it is for you...) but Terra & Co. responded to say that both the wheel and the wrapping around the floss are made from biodegradable corn. I still sensed a bit of skepticism even after their response, but honestly that's good enough for me. Zero waste floss wheel - CHECK. 😅
I've been oil pulling for a couple of years now, and lately I've been really good about using my Skinny & Co. peppermint oil pull (which I love but won't be reordering for the shop) every morning while I brew my tea, so I went ahead and added the Brilliant Black oil pulling to my order because I was curious to try a liquid version with activated charcoal!
Oil pulling comes from an ancient Ayurveda tradition - swishing with oil (like a mouthwash) first thing in the morning is said to "pull" bacteria from the mouth, which would obviously be helpful for a lot of different reasons, but I mostly do it because it makes my mouth feel really clean. It also provided a lot of relief when I was in need of a root canal a couple of years ago, and I think it might be improving my tooth sensitivity in general...
Anyway, so far I really enjoy the Brilliant Black Oil Pulling and I highly recommend this and oil pulling in general to anyone who's curious about it!
It's nice that it's already liquid, because honestly warming up a big glob of coconut oil in my mouth isn't always appealing first thing in the morning. This just feels like swishing with a (slightly thicker) mouthwash. I'm also curious to see if I find any added benefits from the activated charcoal!
And I'm happy to report that this comes in a glass bottle. It appears to be coated amber glass, so I'm not sure about recycling it, but you could totally reuse it for something.
And that was my week in review in addition to a toothpaste review. Ha!
I had NO IDEA that you guys were so interested in toothpaste, and it's honestly cracking me up that I keep getting responses to my instagram stories about toothpaste with people saying "this is so interesting!"
Is it really?!
I guess I'll keep the solid gold entertainment coming then.
(Who needs an acting career anyway? 🤣)
Love ya. Mean it.