Tips for Whitening Teeth and Nails

how-to-whiten-teeth-nailsWhat are the best products and practices for whitening nails and teeth? Reader L wonders…

I’m an elementary school principal. I love your blog! I would love a post about teeth whitening products and nails. I work with staff, families, district personnel, and community people/businesses. I feel that the first thing they notice when talking with me, is teeth and nails. I would love ideas for quick and inexpensive ideas. Thanks!

Interesting.  I’m really curious to hear what readers say here!

Teeth whiteners:  Personally I’ve done the Crest white strips before, for my wedding — they’re a bit labor intensive (back then you had to wear them for 30 minutes, morning and night, for something like 2 weeks), but they definitely work. Note also that the lipstick color you choose may make your teeth appear to be brighter (see this article). The New York Times covered teeth whitening just last month in its Well blog (and 100+ readers chimed in in the comments as well).

Nail whiteners:  I’m less familiar with nail whiteners — there are a plethora of products, as well as DIY home treatments. I really suggest talking to your dermatologist or doctor about their suggestions, as your nails can take on a yellowish color simply from your polish or because of medical issues. If you want to keep your nails low maintenance but still “done” you can also investigate a polish/whitener like Christian Dior’s ($27) or Julep’s ($18). (You can also just cover your nails with a weekly manicure, of course, whether at the salon or DIY.)

Ladies who suffer from yellowed teeth and/or discolored nails, what do you recommend? Which products do you like? 

Pictured: Crest White Strips and Julep


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  1. Piggybacking on yesterday’s comments about changing your name when you get married, does anyone know of a source for tips on this process? I know that it will be cumbersome, but I’m not really sure on where to even get started. (Though my wedding is still a couple months away.)

    • You arent supposed to post that on this post.

      For nails (polish, I didn’t read the reader as wanting to whiten nails) Sally hanson has a new no light gel polish that for me so far has worked great. I bought a light pink almost white color and the top coat and its lasted the whole week so far which never happens for me with regular polish.

    • It’s really not that bad. Took me awhile to do it, but it’s not like everything has to match all at once. Start with your social security office and go from there to the DMV for your Driver’s License/ID and then just start changing the rest like bank accounts, health insurance, etc. and go down the line from most important to least important.

    • Wildkitten :

      I was looking to change mine outside of marriage in DC and found the transgender community had the best resources.

    • Anonameous :

      This post feels like Kat/Kate are just phoning it in….

  2. teeth & nails :

    For teeth, the OTC white strips seem to work well (and work better as you pay more: the 30-minute strips are better than the 10-minute strips, but I can use the 10-minute ones when I get ready in the morning).

    For nails, I keep mine short (former fiddle player) but I get a buffing board to make mine shiny. It is the ultimate poor girl manicure (that never chips!). I also really condition my cuticles (burt’s bees is good) and keep everything short and tidy.

  3. Anonymous :

    I had no idea that nail whitening was a thing.

    • Add it to the list. . . . also, armpit softening and hairless arms.

      • Omg what is armpit softening?

        • Have you seen all the recent ads for antiperspirant/deodorant that softens armpits while it works? Apparently they must be soft and presentable at all times.

          • Unreal. “I found her attractive except that her armpits were kind of coarse” said no one ever.*

            *not intended to endorse the proposition that if some someone else finds an aspect of your body unattractive you must “fix” it

          • Anonymous :

            Frankly, I’ve been self-conscious of my armpits since I started shaving and noticed that mine weren’t as smooth as other peoples. It had nothing to do with the new products and ad campaigns.

  4. I keep rereading this and don’t see this asking about “whitening products for teeth and nails.” I read it as “teeth whitening products” and then seperately, well kept nails.

  5. This post reads so strangely. Like the question doesn’t seem real, and the answer is so sparse/barely researched.

    • Anonymous :

      yeah. like who doesn’t know about crest white strips?

      • And if you are going to respond with “Crest White Strips” at least look online to figure out how they work now and don’t just say “I used them a decade ago but idk.”

    • Is it still april fools day?

  6. Carrie... :

    I dislike the trend of everyone bleaching their teeth to this artificial white. It falls into the list of trends that includes removing every trace of body hair so that we are more like some unsustainable, barbie doll ideal.

    Once when I felt guilty after a prior dentist keep bringing up “your teeth are PERFECT for our whitening procedures”…. I asked a friend of mine who was a dentist about my teeth and he said… “they’re fine. They are the color of TEETH. They are not supposed to be white…”

    How easily we forget.

    • TO Lawyer :

      Off topic but this reminds me of the Friends episode where Ross whitened his teeth and they were like neon white and it creeped everyone out.

    • Wildkitten :

      Of all the unreasonable beauty standards imposed upon me by the patriarchy I find teeth whitening to be the least cumbersome.

      • Fascinating. I find deodorant and tidy products for my menstrual cycle to be the least cumbersome.
        This should be its own thread!

        • Wildkitten :

          Agree on a thread! Deodorant is daily and I can feel the difference if I forget it once. I have an IUD now but found menstrual products very cumbersome – you have to have it on hand at the right times and they’re especially cumbersome if you forget to have them the day you need it.

          Teeth whitening I can do when I feel like it, and if I skip for a while it’s not something people actively notice.

    • Must be Tuesday :

      Artificial white… reminds me of the Friends episode with Ross’s teeth.

    • I actually read somewhere that your teeth shouldn’t be whitened any lighter than the whites of your eyes. No idea if this is true or not, but it seems like it would prevent that crazy fake white.

  7. Senior Attorney :

    I am totally out of the teeth whitening business after a crazy experience last summer. I got one of the drugstore whitening products — Crest something? It was a gel you put in a rubber mold and leave on for 10 minutes a day. Anyway, on the second day I apparently had an allergic reaction to it and my face turned red and swelled up like a chipmonk. It was sore and swollen for a couple of days, fortunately over a weekend. Freaked me out so bad I will never do anything like that again!


      Just kidding. I’m glad you’re ok. I didn’t know that could happen.

  8. Diana Barry :

    I feel like the nail question was not really about nail whitening but about nails in general – but maybe it was poorly written?

    I did the crest whitestrips once. My teeth are pretty naturally white but this was after I had maybe been drinking more diet coke and coffee than usual? It worked pretty well, but I have never felt the need to do it again.

    • Wildkitten :

      I agree that the question is about nails generally and teeth whitening specifically.

    • Oh, well, that makes me feel better about the world, though maybe not since the nail whitening products still exist.

  9. nails-generally :

    If I don’t have time for a full-on mani (and I don’t do salon manis just because I don’t have (or choose to otherwise distribute) the $$ for them on the regular) at home, I use sally hansen nail rehab. It is a strengthening treatment, but when it dries, it is a satin finish (not super-glossy, and not matte) neutral beige. It really does make a difference in the way your nails look if you don’t have the time/effort/whatever to get a real mani in. The finish lasts a few days, and then I usually either put on another coat, or a top-coat of some sort, after about day 3-4.

    Anybody have good rec’s for teeth-whitening for sensitive teeth? The thing that I don’t like about the older-school strips (I haven’t used any kind of retail product in probably 5-8 years or more) was that they seemed to make my teeth more sensitive.

    • I used the strips every other day, which helped a lot with the sensitivity.

  10. Seventh Sister :

    Sally Hansen sells this nail pencil corrector that I’ve used since high school. It can be a little hard to find on the West Coast, but I like it since my nails are often bare and my natural nails are not a bright white. It makes clear nail polish look a little more finished/French-manicure-y.

  11. anon a mouse :

    I drink a lot of coffee, so I use teeth-whitening products to help combat that. I did not notice much of a difference with the Crest strips. I paid to have custom trays made at my dentist (maybe $150?), and I buy the whitening gels very cheaply on Amazon. You can buy them in many strengths – I use Zoom White at 14%. The 22% was too strong and hurt. I also use a remineralization gel to help alleviate some of the sensitivity from whitening.

    My teeth are not even that white (it looks like many of us are scarred by the Friends episode) but doing this 1-2x a week helps me not worry too much that they will be so noticeably yellow.

    • This idea is brilliant, thanks so much for sharing it! I got the custom trays and gels from my dentist over a year ago and liked the results, but stopped doing maintenance because getting the gels from my dentist took too much time and money. I would never have thought to check Amazon – love it!

  12. Did the OP actually ask about nail whitening? Or just nail products?

  13. random thurs :

    (Possibly OT) This post and others like it about grooming always make me curious..How much time and energy do you spend grooming yourself, and how much do you notice about other people’s grooming habits?

    I feel like I do a bare minimum:

    Daily = Shower, wash hair, deodorant, brush teeth, body lotion, BB cream + blush + lip color, brush hair. (literally: brush it, no product, no styling, no curling, no drying).

    Every couple of weeks = trim nails. I wish I could get into the buffing habit but I just find it too time-consuming. So I trim my nails and try to file them so they are not raggedy.

    Every 6 months or so: Haircut (pretty healthy shoulder-length bob, superfine hair)

    1-2x a year as a treat: Pedicure

    And…that’s it. No plucking anything, no trimming any hairs not on my head, no whitening, etc…

    What do you do?

    • Daily – Shower (wash hair every three days) and shave (every day. I hate body hair), lotion, deodorant, brush teeth, make up (foundation, blush, fill in brows, eye liner, mascara, lip product). I blow dry my hair and curl it and then just touch it up/pin it halfway up the other 2 days

      Weekly – pluck eye brows; gel manicures (at home) – these sometimes last 10 days – 2 weeks

      Every 3 months – cut and color my hair

      1-2x year – pedicure

      I also had laser hair removal in my bikini area which minimizes shaving there.

    • Daily – Shower, rinse hair (it’s curly, so I don’t wash every day but I do rinse and apply product almost every day), lotion, deodorant, brush teeth, sunscreen, tinted lip balm

      Daily to a few times a week – Apply makeup (bb cream, powder, blush, foundation, eyeliner, mascara, lipstick), shave/nair in the summer (only if necessary in the winter, I hate hair removal!)

      Every 2 weeks- eyebrows/upper lip threaded, manicure (sometimes weekly, sometimes less often)

      Monthly (on average) – Pedicure

      Every 3 months – hair straightened and trimmed

    • Anonymous :

      I am very into grooming/beautifying and yes, I notice other people’s grooming habits.
      Every day – shave everything, wash and style hair, full makeup, full skincare morning and evening routine.
      Every two weeks – shellac mani, pedi, lash extensions refill.
      Every six weeks – hair color/cut.
      Every three months – botox (doesn’t last longer because I am only 30), other in-office dermatology stuff (peels, etc.)

  14. For a natural teeth whitener – try Garden of Life’s probiotic smile. I use it mainly to get correct the probiotic balance in my mouth, and it is amazing. No more tooth senstivity, no more sensitive toothpaste, no more pain. I do also rub theives oil on my teeth and gums after brushing, then swish a probiotic smile tablet around my teeth and gums until it melts. You can get them on Amazon. I am sure your teeth don’t get as white as they do with the not natural products, but it does help.

  15. It’s funny how you sometimes don’t realize the benefits of a treatment until after you do it.

    I’m a big coffee drinker and red wine fan. After I started making decent salary, I finally got invisalign (not primarily to straighten my teeth, but to correct another issue). In the run-up to my wedding, my dentist gave me a pack of zoom whitening for free. I was very specific about not wanting day-glo white teeth, so we talked about modifying my usage plan for zoom.

    In my wedding photos, my smile is a non-issue. Reasonably straight teeth with somewhat off-white coloring. Then, I uncovered a photo taken of me smiling pre-invisalign and was mortified. Dirty yellow snaggleteeth pointing every which way. I had never noticed until I had new results to compare.

  16. Re: teeth whitening, I found a product at a Whole a Food which I like: Eco-Dent, ExtraBrite. Don’t worry about the “extra brite” reference (no Ross). Does not cause any tooth sensitivity and it works as well as the Crest stripes.

  17. I just rinse with hydrogen peroxide every so often to help whiten my teeth.

  18. I have also used the Crest strips and I had good results. It is a bit annoying having to use them every day and night but at the end, it is rewarding. About nail whitening I have no idea.

  19. About teeth whitening, you can also use some natural ways like apple cider vinegar applied after each brush and olive oil applied before each brush. Also, eating strawberries help because they contain the active enzym malic acid.

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  22. A person should consult with some dentist for teeth whitening. Using chemicals for teeth whitening may cause serious problems. The lipstick color definitely give some different look to the teeth and most of time it looks brighter. Thanks for posting articles on regular basis. I love to read your articles.