Product Smackdown: Teeth Whitening



ProductSmackdown_teeth_introIllustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
Now that it's officially the holidays, the ladies in the R29 beauty department were craving a boost — and not just from a nice glass of Champagne (although, duh, we would not exactly turn that down). No, we had come to terms that the whiteness of our teeth needed a bit of a boost in time for holiday Instagrams, so we decided to test out three different teeth whitening methods for this month's installment of Product Smackdown: Crest 3D White Whitestrips 1 Hour Express, Zoom Whitening, and the Glo Brilliant Personal Teeth Whitening Device.

To measure our success, we visited Dr. Timothy Chase at Smiles NY, who offered to measure the shades of our teeth both before and after our treatments — and, in one lucky editor's case, actually performed her pro treatment. As it turns out, all three of us were starting at the same point (shade B1) — click through to see how white and bright we all ended up!
ProductSmackdown_teeth_1Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
Who: Sharon Yi, assistant managing editor
The Method: Zoom Teeth Whitening at Smiles NY

"I'm what you'd call a teeth-whitening junkie. I'm like the tanning mom for teeth — they can't be white enough. It began in my freshman year of high school when I was finally saying goodbye to my junior-high-brace-face days. I was ready to be rebirthed into my new, popular-girl identity, but the braces had left behind yellow teeth that kept me on house arrest. So, my mom finally obliged and had my teeth professionally whitened the summer before entering high school. After just a few laser zaps, my teeth were pearly white beacons of light. I was hooked."

"Since then, I've tried every whitening process known to man, with Zoom being the only professional treatment that didn't trigger my sensitivity. This time, when I went in for my whitening, the orthodontist measured my teeth shade as B1. So, my teeth were already pretty white. But, of course, my whiteorexic self was determined to go even lighter."

"As a seasoned teeth whitener, I nodded along to the spiel as the practitioner explained how some patients experience pangs of pain that last throughout the day, which she referred to as 'zings.' Ha, I scoffed. 'No worries here, I'm a veteran,' I said."

"Then, she did something I wasn't expecting. To keep my mouth open for the duration of the treatment, she indelicately shoved a rubber wedge into my mouth that felt like leg stirrups at the gyno. Not. Comfortable. Then she covered my (receding) gums with a hardening gel that would keep the bleach just where you'd want it: on the enamel."

"Zoom works by subjecting your bleach-covered teeth to an ultraviolet lamp for three 15-minute intervals. The result is chompers that can be up to eight shades brighter — in just 45 minutes. All you have to do is lie there and not freak out. But, inevitably, I started getting antsy, jerking around and trying to read my email on my iPhone around the UV contraption. But, it wasn't until I felt my first "zing" when I decided to call it quits. The zing is like a tiny zap of pain that runs through your teeth for a few seconds, expanding in pain, until it disappears as quickly as it came. My teeth were glow-in-the-dark white (two full bleach shades, technically), and I was paying for it with zings that continued on through the rest of the day and night. I was popping Advils like they were little bits of candy, but the onslaught of zings didn't stop till the next day."

"Would I do it again? Probably. But, not until my teeth are in serious coffee-stained need. Those zings are not to be taken lightly."

The Result: Two full shades whiter.

$750-$1,200, Zoom Whitening for locations.
ProductSmackdown_teeth_2Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
Who: Gabrielle Korn, beauty assistant
The Method:Crest 3D White Whitestrips 1 Hour Express

"I've never whitened my teeth before. I do the opposite: drink lots of coffee. Before whitening, I felt...not so great about my teeth. I never really thought about the whiteness of my teeth until there were pictures of me on this website, and now I definitely notice that they're not as sparkly as they could be."

"I was SO EXCITED to try my treatment. I've been really wanting to try out these Crest strips, but I never had an hour of alone time where I wasn't eating, getting ready to go to work. or heading for bed. I've thought about doing it on the subway, since I spend two hours on it every day, but I didn't want to be That Girl. I was so pumped to have an hour where I was forced to just sit and whiten."

"During the treatment, it felt totally weird to put sticky strips on my teeth. I drooled all over myself the whole time, which was really special considering I was in the waiting room of a fancy dental office (keepin' it classy). And, it tasted horrible. My tongue felt tingly with chemicals. All in all, though, it wasn't a bad experience — just kind of slimy, drooly, and weird-tasting. It went by quickly, as 'me time' tends to. Removing the strips was kind of gross, because the stickiness stayed in my teeth and (sorry) I had to pick it out. If you've never tried to pick an adhesive-like substance out of your mouth, I envy you."

"The final results were definitely impressive, despite the fact that I technically only got about half a shade lighter. My teeth felt a little bit sensitive, but not in a bothersome way. They were definitely whiter. It only lasted a few days, but I would definitely do this again before a photo shoot or a fancy event."

The Result: Approximately one half shade whiter.

$49.99, available at Target.
ProductSmackdown_teeth_3Illustrated by Ammiel Mendoza.
Who: Tara Rasmus, assistant beauty editor
The Method: Glo Brilliant Personal Teeth Whitening Device

"My only other experience with teeth whitening was when I was around 16 or 17 years old. I did the classic Whitestrips: You wore the strips for an hour, twice a day, for two weeks (oh, how things have changed!), and they really worked. I hadn't whitened since then, and I had been meaning to try a new method, so I was psyched to try the Glo kit."

"Before beginning the treatment, the state of my teeth wasn't a dire situation by any means, but I definitely had some discoloration on my teeth that I was looking forward to lightening. Yet, I have to admit that I was apprehensive about starting (and committing to) this kit. Since I was the editor on this story, I passed off the two one-hour methods to my lovely colleagues who had volunteered to be my guinea pigs, and took the challenge to embrace this at-home, ten-day whitening odyssey myself. Honestly, the idea of committing that much time to any beauty treatment was just overwhelming to me. I may be a beauty editor, but I am not big on time-consuming beauty treatments — heck, I barely have the patience to blow out my own hair!"

"Real talk: Using the Glo kit is not easy. This process, as I had suspected, is a true commitment. To start, you really, really need to read the full directions, and follow them closely. First step: Charge the iPod-like device that powers the whitening tray (this takes four hours). Step two: Brush on whitening gel from one of the little pods. Step three: Plug the mouthpiece into the iPod-like device, turn it on, and pop the mouthpiece into your mouth. Proceed to wear the glowing, blue thing in your mouth for the next eight minutes."

"And, here's where it gets real: After eight minutes, the mouthpiece turns off. You must spit, rinse the mouthpiece, apply more gel, put the mouthpiece back on, and wear it for another eight minutes. After eight minutes, you repeat the process again. And then, again. Until you have worn the device for 32 minutes total."

"This is the thing. I could handle the 32 minutes. I could deal with feeling like I was killing the romance in my marriage (what, you wouldn't be turned on by seeing your spouse wearing a huge, glowing blue mouthpiece in bed?). What I could not deal with was getting up from whatever I was doing every eight minutes to do the spit/rinse/reapplication routine. Having to run to the sink every eight minutes was what made this treatment feel like it was lasting for an eternity. And, hey, feeling like I was officially repulsing my man forever didn't help.

"The end result? I did end up getting one full shade whiter, so the kit did work — and it is a relative steal at just about $200. If you have a big event coming up, like a wedding, I would recommend this kit as a decent substitute for a professional whitening. Again, just make sure you read the directions carefully — and maybe aim to do it when your better half is out of town, if, like me, you'd like to avoid your man having dreams that you've morphed into a glowing blue alien."

The Result: One full shade whiter.

$199, available at Glo Science.

Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page!


Photographed by