1. Read the label.
When it comes to OTC products, hydrogen peroxide is your go-to whitening ingredient, says NYC cosmetic dentist Marc Lowenberg. Look for it in toothpastes and bleaching strips.
“While it wasn’t fun to have the strips glued onto my teeth for an hour, followed by several minutes with the light machine, my teeth were definitely a shade whiter afterward.” —Suzanne Rust, Lifestyle Editor
“The fresh minty flavor lured me in, but it was the instant brightening that had me hooked.” —Dori Price, Beauty & Fashion Director
2. Consider an in-office treatment.
For long-lasting results (up to six months), try Zoom! Whitening. A high-concentration (35%) hydrogen peroxide is applied to teeth and then activated by a power light that breaks down stains in the tooth’s structure.
3. Go raw.
Crunchy fruits and vegetables—like apples, radishes, celery, kale and carrots—remove food and bacteria while scrubbing away surface stains.
4. Avoid serious stainers like coffee, tea, red wine, dark-colored soda and balsamic vinegar.
If you don’t want to give them up, drink out of a straw or swish with a glass of water immediately afterward, suggests Alex Rubinov, a dentist in the Rosenthal Apa Group in New York City.
5. Cover up.
Vaseline can act as a barrier between teeth and food, drinks and lipstick. Apply a thin layer on front teeth to prevent anything from sticking, says Achelle Richards, global artistic director for ELF Cosmetics.
6. Take the natural route with an activated charcoal–based toothpaste, says Lowenberg. The powerful ingredient washes away surface stains.
“I love that this is a natural alternative to toothpastes with chemicals—and it actually works! I noticed a difference in my smile after just two days. One word of caution: This paste is jet-black, which looks totally awesome, but it will stain a light-colored toothbrush.” —Lauren Kassien, Editorial Assistant
7. Reduce discomfort.
If you experience increased sensitivity, switch to a whitening sensitivity paste, like Sensodyne True White, says Lowenberg. Rubinov also recommends steering clear of cold drinks to prevent “zingers,” quick bursts of intense sensation that may occur after whitening.
8. Keep it clean.
Brush twice a day with a soft-bristle brush head for two minutes. Use an electric toothbrush with a timer to ensure that you fully remove plaque.
“This kit let me whiten while I brushed—the built-in LED light activated the formula. Plus, the timer made me a better brusher!” —Margaret Fisher, Intern
9. Outline and fill in lips with a nude liner to make them appear fuller, says Avon celebrity makeup artist Lauren Andersen. Bonus: Lipstick lasts longer.
10. Select the right shade.
A blue-based red or berry lipstick or lipgloss makes teeth look whiter by canceling out orange and yellow, says Richards.