We Tried It: Oil Pulling (Because Gwyneth Paltrow Told Us To)

Curious about the oil pulling craze? Read one editor's experience

Courtesy Brittany Talarico

What it is: An ancient Ayurvedic dental remedy that involves swishing coconut oil (you can also use sesame or sunflower oil) for 20 minutes to boost oral health, whiten teeth, detoxify the body and improve your complexion (Sounds too good to be true, right?)

Who Tried It: Brittany Talarico, Associate Style Editor

Why She Tried It: One of my best friends told me about it, and as soon as I heard “all natural teeth whitening” I was game. (I’m a sucker for teeth whitening.) Plus, Gwyneth Paltrow told me she’s an avid oil puller (Shailene Woodley loves it too), so I knew I had to try it. (Seriously, if GOOP says so …)

How crazy is it on a scale from 1 to Ridiculous? I’d give it a 7.5. Not gonna lie, it’s tough and time consuming. You definitely feel a bit “cuckoo” while you’re swishing (more on that below)

I want to start by sharing an excerpt from an actual conversation I recently had with Gwyneth Paltrow about oil pulling. (Seriously. This happened last week.)

Me: Have you heard of oil pulling?
Gwyneth: Yes, I do it!

Me: I’m going to try it out with some editors at work. I’m nervous about the whole ’20 minutes’ thing.
Gwyneth: I do it as soon as I wake up. It’s the first thing you stick it in your mouth. So I’ll make my kids’ lunches while I’m swishing around or meditate or whatever. I’ve noticed my teeth have gotten whiter. It’s really weird. Apparently it really pulls toxins out of your skin. It’s amazing.”

So after Gwyn’s glowing recommendation and positive results, I eagerly went to Trader Joe’s, picked up my jar of organic coconut oil ($5.99!) and was bragging to my fiancé all about this new health craze I was going to try. Now, let me take you through my first three days.

DAY 1: My excitement level was at 12, and as soon as I woke up I skipped to the kitchen, scooped a tablespoon of the oil into my mouth and began to move it around. Two seconds in I felt like I was going to gag. Five seconds in I started to heave, and at 10 seconds I had already spit the coconut oil into the trash (not the sink! More on that below). I felt defeated.

I took a few deep breaths, rinsed my mouth out with some warm water and prepared for round two. This time I let the oil sit on my tongue for a little bit to help it dissolve, before moving into a steady swishing routine. (NOTE: The swish is less vigorous than with mouth wash, and you have to pull it in front of and behind your teeth.) I continued to concentrate, slowly breathing through my nose (which helped A LOT!). With the timer set on my iPhone I sat on the couch, checked some emails and just tried to stay calm. I made it to 10 minutes!

DAY 2: Still not sure how to feel about the whole thing, I started the day a bit more nervous. But this time I was able to overcome my gag reflex and didn’t spit out the oil. I also hit 15 minutes, and maybe it was just in my head, but I felt my teeth were already starting to look whiter.

DAY 3: This time I tried it out in the shower, which totally helped me relax. And I hit the 20 minute goal. I was so proud of myself that I couldn’t stop bragging to my poor fiancé, who by now thinks I’ve gone insane. (I’m still trying to get him to try it, but the closest he’s come is videotaping my demonstration below.)

And here’s a peek at my process. (And yes, the meditation is my own little shout out to my new BFF Gwyn.)

  • If you’re as eager as I was to try the trend, a few things to keep in mind:
  • Buy cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil
  • Pull in the morning on an empty stomach. This is also when there’s the most bacteria in your mouth
  • Don’t spit in your sink: And if you do, have Drano nearby. The oil can cause major clogs when it solidifies
  • Have two separate toothbrushes: one for right after swishing and a separate for daily/nightime brushing routine
  • Swish with hot salt water immediately after (I started doing this on day three to get all the oil out of my mouth)

Verdict: Alright, I’m hooked. I feel like I’m in better control of my gag reflex, and the morning swishing routine gets easier each day. (Today was day 6!) As for the results, while I can’t say I’ve noticed an overall skin change yet — and I’m not exactly sure how to gauge the removal of toxins — my teeth definitely look brighter. And not only is it the cheapest teeth whitening remedy I’ve come across (coconut oil jars cost between $4 and $10), but it also doesn’t cause oral sensitivity like a lot of the teeth-whitening kits out there.

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