Teeth discolouration has a nasty habit of creeping up on you. Years of coffee, juice, tea, wine and even some vegetables – not to mention tobacco use, medication and ageing – can take a toll on your gnashers, leaving you with stubborn yellow or brown stains that resist even the most vigorous brushing.
While there’s always the option of professional whitening, DIY kits can go a long way to improve your smile without the hefty price tag. Coming in multiple forms, these typically include low percentages of hydrogen peroxide.
As at-home kits can’t use any concentration stronger than 0.1 per cent of hydrogen peroxide, while dentists can use six per cent, the effects won’t be as dazzling as dental treatment. However, for those on a budget, they can provide a much-needed confidence boost.
During our testing, brightening our teeth was of course our number one priority, but a close second was minimising sensitivity.
Hydrogen peroxide can cause hypersensitivity when eating or drinking anything hot or cold, so for anyone already struggling with this we recommend opting for peroxide-free formulas or something that relies on ingredients such as activated charcoal.
From strips and LED products to toothpastes and gels, we’ve found the most effective at-home options.
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Spotlight Oral Care teeth whitening system set
Best for: Immediate results
Both the toothpaste and the strips in this kit contain hydrogen peroxide, aka the key to dazzling teeth. While it’s up to you how you balance the two products, we used both in tandem over the course of two weeks. The toothpaste works exactly how you’d expect it to and helps maintain the results of the strips, which need to be applied to dry teeth for an hour at a time. We admit that wearing strips for so long was irritating at first but more than worth the discomfort – these were the best we tried, giving us the beginnings of a glowing smile after two days without any sensitivity. After a full fortnight’s use, we barely recognised our smile.
Buy now £39.95, Beauty Bay
Pro Teeth Whitening Co. premium dental whitening strips
Best for: Easy to use
We were sceptical at first that any strips could noticeably whiten your teeth, but how wrong we were. After making sure your teeth are as dry as possible, you apply the two strips onto your upper and lower teeth and wait 30 minutes before removing and cleaning off any residue. While they felt uncomfortable for the first couple of minutes, the time flew by and it was easy to comfortably go about our evening.
A week in, our teeth looked whiter than they had in years, and the effects only improved over the second half of the 14-day treatment. By the end of it, our tester was even inducing envy in a friend who had previously undergone professional whitening. Activated charcoal is the secret ingredient here and they’re also free of any peroxide.
Buy now £20.00, Boots.com
SmileTime teeth whitening kit
Best for: LED teeth whitening
While most teeth whitening products require a minimum of 14 days of use, this kit promises results in less than half that time. Six doses of gel are applied over the teeth before putting on the mouth tray – which is attached to an LED light – for 15 minutes at a time. While there was no immediate difference, our teeth were brighter and whiter after four consecutive days of use. It didn’t quite live up to the higher end of the predicted results (a lucky few claim to see their teeth lighten by eight shades) but with additional courses of treatment, we think we could have definitely got there. Top-up doses of gel currently cost £17.99 and are as vegan-friendly as the main kit.
Buy now £39.99, SmileTime
Regenerate enamel science advanced toothpaste
Best for: Whitening toothpaste
Whitening toothpaste is the easiest way to treat your teeth as it slots into your daily routine without creating an additional step. Its consistency is more like a gel than your average toothpaste and, other than feeling slightly warm as you brush, works exactly the same and leaves your mouth minty fresh.
Regenerate’s patented “NR-5” technology prides itself on recreating the mineral that makes up tooth enamel, which in turn reverses the erosion process and protects against cavities, acid and decay. The effects are a slow-burn – we didn’t realise our teeth were getting whiter until we compared two pictures two weeks apart – but the ease of use makes it worth the wait. As an added bonus: it also helped ease our tester’s notoriously sensitive teeth.
Buy now £6.67, Boots.com
Rio Smile white advanced teeth whitening kit
Best for: Removing deep-set stains
Deep-set stains are the hardest to remove so are best targeted with a more direct treatment. Enter blue light activation technology – combined with a whitening gel, it’s scientifically proven to whiten teeth without damaging enamel. It sounds complicated but this kit is super easy to use. Simply apply the pre-treatment spray first, coat the teeth tray in gel and plug it into any USB outlet or smartphone for 15 minutes at a time.
This kit is more generous than most, providing enough gel for 20 treatments. This was more than enough time to see results. About five days in, our tester noticed that the stubborn yellow on her canine teeth was much less noticeable than usual. Our only issue was the tray itself – depending on the shape of your bite, it’s slightly uncomfortable. However, at 15 minutes a day, it’s easy to grin and bear it.
Buy now £39.99, Lookfantastic.com
Boots expert dissolvable teeth whitening strips
Best for: Dissolvable strips
Like any single-use product, whitening strips are useful yet wasteful. To fix this, Boots has designed these innovative dissolvable strips. They apply like any other strips, sitting for about 15 minutes before disintegrating. The taste was slightly more chemically than other strips, but not unbearable, and while they leave a hint of tackiness it’s nothing a quick dry brush can’t fix. Those looking for a quick fix might be disappointed – it took us two weeks to see even a gradual change. But thankfully the pack comes with 56 strips, giving you plenty of time to tackle discolouration.
Buy now £12.00, Boots.com
Kiki Health activated charcoal powder
Best for: All-natural teeth whitening
Activated charcoal is an age-old beauty hack, doing everything from exfoliating your skin to clearing your pores. When using it to whiten your teeth, there’s an inevitable moment where you will doubt your sanity (applying a thick, dark powder to something you want to brighten feels extremely counterproductive) but trust us, it works. We recommend brushing this Kiki Health powder onto your teeth with a wet toothbrush for as long as you would toothpaste. Once done, rinse with warm water. It takes a couple of weeks to see a real difference, but one pot will keep you going for a while.
Buy now £9.95, Cultbeauty.co.uk
White Glo coffee and tea drinkers formula
Best for: Tea and coffee drinkers
It’s tough to target discolouration caused by long-term consumption of coffee and tea, but White Glo is giving it a good shot. This toothpaste uses micro polishing particles to tackle yellowing on the enamel while also forming a protective shield against new stains. Like most whitening toothpastes, this requires some patience. It took over two weeks for our tester to notice a difference but our teeth only brightened from that point on. Unsurprisingly, stubborn stains took longer to lift.
Buy now £4.20, Boots.com
Smile Science Harley Street professional teeth whitening wands
Best for: Targeting treatment on small stains
Don’t let the mystical name put you off, this is all rooted in science. Each of the 14 wands are filled with liquid, with half targeting stains and the other half whitening. Used in that order, they work by rubbing over the surface of your teeth – sort of like a more precise toothbrush. The method didn’t seem rigorous enough to us at first but does the job. We especially liked how easy it was to spot treat more problematic areas, giving you a more even glow across your grin.
Buy now £12.99, Feelunique.com
Teeth whitening kit FAQs
Are teeth whitening kits safe?
To make sure your at-home teeth whitening is safe, follow the directions carefully. Don’t leave solution, be that gel or strips, on longer than the brand advises as this may irritate gums. If the latter does happen at any stage of the process, it’s recommended that you stop the treatment.
After whitening, avoid acidic drinks, dark or strongly coloured liquids, such as tea, coffee or red wine, and food with natural or added colourings. To be on the safe side, it’s recommended that pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding should not use teeth whitening kits.
How does LED teeth whitening work?
Light emitting diode (LED) is a type of light that works to activate teeth whitening agents, for example, gels, which is said to make them work faster.
How long will it take to whiten my teeth?
The amount of time it will take to whiten teeth will depend on the product and the amount of stain on your teeth. But, generally speaking, if you apply the solution regularly for a specified period of time, you’ll likely notice a difference after two weeks.
Are there any natural alternatives to teeth whitening?
Yes, there are more natural alternatives to using hydrogen peroxide, for example, activated charcoal. If you’re looking for one of these solutions we’d recommend the Kiki Health activated charcoal powder (£9.99, Cultbeauty.co.uk), which we’ve reviewed above.
The verdict: Teeth whitening kits
For an overnight transformation, we recommend the Spotlight Oral Care teeth whitening system set. The combination of strips and toothpaste is unbeatable. The Regenerate enamel science advanced toothpaste is also an easy solution to swap into your daily routine.
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