Toothpaste isn’t a product I’ve ever felt the need to experiment with, since almost every brand looks the same and feels the same to me, so I was intrigued when I saw Lush’s tooth products, which are completely dry – which totally confused me until I remembered that you brush your teeth beside a tap, and saliva exists, so it’ll end up wet anyway.
Lush have two tooth cleaning products: Toothy Tabs and Toothy Powder. Both products are dry, so they’re handy for travelling (no leakages or liquid allowances to worry about!).
Are Lush’s Tooth Products Too Abrasive?
First up, a bit of clarification: I’ve heard the rumour that Lush’s tooth products were too abrasive and could cause excessive tooth wearing, but once I actually Googled it, it turned out to easily busted thanks to some figures posted by Lush.
Teeth are made up of hard enamel and softer dentin, so a toothpaste’s abrasiveness is rated using its relative dentin abrasivity (RDA), with a higher RDA translating to greater abrasion, with the FDA-approved limit set at 200. The RDAs of some common toothpastes are listed here, with most whitening toothpastes at around 150-200 RDA. Lush’s Toothy products are on the low end of the scale (31-96). (I’m so glad they posted these numbers – I had a whole bunch of Moh’s hardnesses pulled up for some comparison work but this is much better data!)
Onto the products in action…
Lush Toothy Tabs
Toothy Tabs are small powdery tablets that come in a 100% recycled and recyclable plastic bottle. They used to come in a cardboard box, but I’m guessing the box got wet easily and all the tablets got ruined (contrary to my gut feeling, cardboard is usually less environmentally friendly than reused plastic!). You break a tab up between your teeth, do your best not to swallow it, then take your toothbrush and brush your teeth normally. Toothy Tabs comes in a range of flavours, including 6 new ones:
- Sparkle – lemon, grapefruit and pepper
- Miles of Smiles – triple mint (2 types of peppermint and wild mint)
- Limelight – lime, lemon, baobab fruit
- Oral Pleasure – rose oil, vanilla, daisies, passionfruit
- Dirty – spearmint and neroli
- Bling – orange and frankincense
- Boom – sea salt, aniseed, pepper, cola
I tried Sparkle and Miles of Smiles. I was a little wary of the un-toothpaste-like flavour description of Sparkle, but after using it twice I got used to it quickly. Miles of Smiles is in traditional mint territory, though it’s a lot more minty and less sweet than my usual toothpaste. My teeth felt squeaky clean after brushing.
Lush Toothy Powders
Toothy Powders work on a similar concept – you dip your wet toothbrush into the powder to pick some up, then brush normally. I found this a bit less convenient than the Toothy Tabs, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to drop the whole tub onto the floor some day. These also come in a range of interesting flavours:
- Tooth Fairy – strawberry
- Ultrablast – mint, watercress and wasabi
- Atomic – coffee, cardomom, cinnamon and clove
I’ve heard good things about Tooth Fairy, but I found that the strawberry flavour was a bit too weird and artificial for me. I enjoyed Ultrablast a lot more – it’s minty and refreshing, but not quite like a traditional toothpaste flavour. I haven’t tried Atomic yet. My teeth felt clean after brushing, but not quite as clean as with the Toothy Tabs. I suspect it’s because it’s slightly harder to use, so it’s harder to distribute the powder evenly over my teeth.
Toothy Tab and Powder Ingredient Analysis
Here are the ingredients in Sparkle and Miles of Smiles Toothy Tabs:
Sparkle: Dicalcium Phosphate Anhydrous, Sodium Bicarbonate, Cream of Tartar (Tartaric acid), Sorbitol, Lauroyl Sarcosine, Kaolin, Lemon Peel Powder (Citrus limonum), Sicilian Lemon Oil (Citrus limonum), Limonene, Black Pepper Oil (Piper nigrum), Grapefruit Oil (Citrus paradisi), Fair Trade Organic Black Pepper Powder (Piper nigrum), Fine Sea Salt, Sodium Saccharin, Citral, Linalool, Flavour
Miles of Smiles: Dicalcium Phosphate Anhydrous, Sodium Bicarbonate, Cream of Tartar (Tartaric acid), Sorbitol, Lauroyl Sarcosine, Kaolin, English Peppermint Oil, Organic Peppermint Oil, Wild Mint Oil, Sodium Saccharin, Limonene, Linalool, Flavour
And in the Tooth Fairy and Ultrablast Toothy Powders:
Tooth Fairy: Calcium Carbonate, Beetroot Powder (Beta vulgaris), Sorbitol, Lauroyl Sarcosine, Snowflake Lustre, Arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea), Kaolin, Sodium Bicarbonate, Flavour, Hydrated Silica, Strawberry Extract (Fragaria vesca), Lemon Oil (Citrus limonum), Stevia (Stevia rebaudiana), Xylitol, Citral, Geraniol, Limonene
Ultrablast: Calcium Carbonate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Cream of Tartar (Tartaric acid), Sorbitol, Lauroyl Sarcosine, Garden pea powder (Pisum sativum), Kaolin, Peppermint Oil (Mentha piperita), Spearmint Oil (Mentha spicata), French Organic Lavender Oil (Lavandula angustifolia), Wasabi Powder (Wasbaia japonica), Fair Trade Organic Dried Spearmint (Mentha spicata), Coarse Sea Salt, Sodium Saccharin, Limonene, Linalool
A typical toothpaste contains abrasives and surfactants to clean the teeth. The abrasive is a powder which acts like fine sandpaper to remove surface stains and residue, while surfactants cause bubbles and help oily substances dissolve in water so they can be washed away.
All the Toothy Tabs contain anhydrous dicalcium phosphate and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) as their abrasives, and lauroyl sarcosine as their surfactant. The Toothy Powders have a similar composition, except with calcium carbonate as their main abrasive. Additionally, most of the products (with the exception of Tooth Fairy) also contain tartaric acid, which reacts with sodium bicarbonate to create carbon dioxide gas to give a greater foaming effect (it’s the same chemical reaction as the one in fizzy sherbet, primary school volcano models, rising cakes and bath bombs).
Comparison to Toothpaste
The big differences in formulation between traditional toothpastes and Lush’s toothy products are:
- Lush’s Toothy products are free from sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). Sodium lauryl sulfate foams amazingly well, but it’s also a very harsh surfactant that causes skin irritation. There are conflicting studies on whether SLS contributes to canker sores (mouth ulcers or aphthous stomatitis), but it does seem to at least delay their recovery and make them hurt more. If, like me, you’re in agony for a week and can’t talk or eat without pain every few months thanks to these miserable bastards, SLS-free products like these may be worth a try.
- Lush’s Toothy products don’t contain fluoride. This is my main gripe with these products! Fluoride is used to harden tooth enamel by transforming it from the natural hydroxyapatite to the harder, more acid-resistant fluorapatite, so you end up with less cavities. There’s fluoride in tap water, and in mouthwash as well, but I still feel like I’m missing out.
- Lush’s Toothy products don’t contain water and humectants, the main ingredients of toothpaste, which is why the size of the Toothy tab is smaller than the size of your usual toothpaste dollop. This makes it more convenient in terms of travel-related leakages, carry-on liquid allowances and weight.
Lush Toothy Tabs: According to the old boxes of Toothy Tabs that contained 40 tablets and were marked at 14 g, the current bottles should hold about 140 tablets. They cost $10.95, which translates to 7.8 cents per brushing. (I assume the Toothy Powder works out to be roughly the same – I end up using less than a tab’s worth of powder each time.)
According to Colgate, 1 cm3 = 1 mL toothpaste is used per brushing, which makes a 110 g tube of low-to-midrange Colgate Total Care ($3.85 at Coles) work out to be 3.5 cents per brushing. As another point of comparison, the most expensive toothpaste at Coles (Sensodyne True White Mint Toothpaste) works out to be 14 cents per brushing.
So while Lush’s Toothy Tabs aren’t the most expensive, they’re not as budget friendly either, considering that they don’t contain any whitening or sensitivity-improving ingredients or fluoride. I haven’t taken into account the wastage in a typical toothpaste tube though – it’s very easy to finish the Toothy products completely, whereas with a typical toothpaste tube, 1-13% of the product is wasted.
Depending on what you want in a toothpaste, Lush’s Toothy products might be worth the slightly higher price, or they could be a massive disappointment. They’re great for travel, don’t contain SLS and come in interesting flavours, but they also don’t contain fluoride and the powders can be messy. Being clumsy, I much prefer the Toothy Tabs!
Toothy Tabs are $10.95 for 55 g, while Toothy Powders are $10.95 for 35 g. Sparkle and Ultrablast can only be purchased at Lush stores stocking the extended range.
These products were provided for editorial consideration, which did not affect my opinion. For more information, see Disclosure Policy.