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Illegal tooth whitener sales exposed

Potentially harmful products on well-known sites

Which? has uncovered the widespread selling of illegal and potentially harmful tooth-whitening products on Amazon, eBay and Google.

When we surveyed members of the public* to find out about their experiences of internet-bought tooth-whitening products, 28% were dissatisfied, with three out of five experiencing side effects lasting for more than a few days.

Stuart Johnston from the British Dental Association told Which?: ‘High doses of hydrogen peroxide can burn the lining of the mouth if it’s not adequately protected by, for example, a well-fitting mouth guard.’ 9% of those surveyed experienced white spots on gums and lips, indicating chemical burns.

Website action

After reviewing our evidence, the websites all agreed to remove tooth-whitening products containing more than 0.1% hydrogen peroxide – a powerful bleach also used in hair dye and bomb-making.

However, as we went to press, sellers on eBay and Google were still advertising products with up to 44% carbamide peroxide – which contains nearly 150 times the hydrogen peroxide legal limit. 

Tooth whitening regulation

Which? policy adviser Rebecca Owen-Evans says: ‘Selling products that breach the cosmetics regulations is prohibited and there is a failure in policing.’

Professional body the Trading Standards Institute told us that the challenge for local Trading Standards teams is to stamp out this illegal selling in an internet market of 160,000 retailers.

If you see illegal tooth-whitening products on sale, report them to Consumer Direct.

Looking for advice on dentistry or cosmetic surgery? Our Campaigns section contains and a cosmetic treatments guide. We also have expert advice on how to buy the best electric toothbrush.


*Which? surveyed 1,821 members of the public in February 2010, of whom 32 bought an internet tooth whitening product,

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