Truth: Having a blazing-white smile like some sort of award-winning horse has always taken a back seat to more immediate self-care concerns, like remembering deodorant and occasionally brushing my hair. And my smile was, for most of my life, sort of OK, there in the yearbook and family photos. But selfie culture—and a few decades of drinking non-tooth-friendly staining substances like coffee and red wine—has made me a little self-conscious. Could my teeth be whiter IRL, as if I had FaceTune in all my daily affairs?
That’s what HaloSmile promises. The new product from a Midwestern oral care company is made to be brushed over your teeth and left to dry like nail polish, to create a white smile that lasts about a day. And since it’s made from food-grade additives, it is nontoxic and won't thin the tooth enamel and cause increased sensitivity (a common complaint about peroxide-based whiteners). So I gave it a spin—because having whiter teeth just for the span of a day is better than no whiter teeth at all, right?
I prepared by watching a handful of surprisingly entertaining and fast videos on HaloSmile’s website about how to apply the stuff. First you slide a huge plastic mouthpiece around your lips and then dry your teeth and put a rolled-up piece of paper towel under your lips (because, saliva). That’s the first trick to getting HaloSmile to work—the minerals embedded in the paint (hydroxyapatite) need absolute dryness to grip to the teeth.
The second tip is to really watch your brushwork. This is no Bob Ross paint-how-you-feel-it experience. You need to have just the right amount of tooth paint on your brush so as not to make your teeth look splotchy (too little paint) or messy (too much paint). Also, if you have too much paint on your brush, it’s going to get on your gums—a dead giveaway that you’ve painted your teeth. (Or you could say you’re fighting gum disease, whichever causes you less embarrassment.)
I don’t have the widest smile in the world, so I opted to paint just the teeth visible in front. Going over my bottom row of teeth, I felt a bit conflicted: Why was I wasting time on these bottom teeth when the last time I was happy enough to display them was in 2014? Maybe this was like The Secret—if my bottom teeth were prepped for a closeup, perhaps the universe would send me a winning lottery ticket. You know, to really smile.
These and more Deep Thoughts occurred to me as I waited the interminable 60 seconds for my teeth to dry. Yep, you have to sit around not salivating for a full minute while your lips are stretched around a mouth guard so your tooth paint can dry. (Note: HaloSmile says you can cut the wait time in half by using a blow-dryer on low, but that just seemed so existentially weirdthat I opted out.)
Next, a quick minty swipe of the setting polymer, which needs no drying time, and I was ready to go. My teeth didn’t feel any different. How did I look? I could see that my teeth were whiter, but during the day there were no huge “Wow, you look terrific!” moments. Then again, there were no worried “Did something happen to your teeth?” reactions either. When I looked into the mirror, I thought my whole face seemed brighter, like when I wear a new pink lipstick that suits me or actually get eight hours of sleep.
Even better, when I had my usual 4 p.m. cup of coffee, I didn’t have to worry about staining my teeth, since the whitening agent acts as a natural barrier. While the ten-minute application time is a bit involved for me to do every day (plus the expense—the stuff costs about $10 per application), I’d definitely put it on for a special event. Because you can’t count on everyone to whiten up your smile on social media.