Toothpaste: Wild Times at Your Pearly Gates

Firstly, I apologize for my spell of absence from BuildingMyBento.  I had business to take care of out of the country, far too detached from the pleasures of blogistan.  Hopefully, this issue will not rear its unwelcome self again.

I was taking a stroll through my photo archives and noticed that there was a bit too much of an emphasis on dental products throughout my travels.  Part of the reason may be that I consistently forgot to place toothpaste in my checked luggage, in the seminal years of the persnickety TSA (the dour security agents at many USA airports).  Thus, arrival somewhere meant that I had to rush to the nearest convenience store/apothecary/capsule hotel and pick up a tube/carton/barrel.  Imagine (very) briefly that on each floor of the hotel you stayed at rested a communal barrel of toothpaste.  Right next to the ice maker that perpetually leaked.  Well, some airlines used to stock in economy class handy toothbrushes and small packets of toothpaste which, depending on which airline it was may have contained sugar (I’m looking towards you, Made in China).  The handle of the brush was often shorter than your pinky, and at one point in your brushing-on-planes career either the brush or the paste prematurely invited itself into the rubbish bin, but at least you scratched the surface of effort…

Let’s take a gander through the confounding world of oral hygiene and see what el mundo has in store (or on the ground, as you’ll notice later):

Optima Womens Toothpaste

Optima Womens Toothpaste

Already I’m left out of the loop and mostly confused.  I’ve seen women only train carriages in a few countries (Japan, Japan and Japan, to name one),  women only hotel floors and airline lavatories (come to think of it, I first encountered all of these options in Japan), but what’s the deal with the toothpaste?  Something added to help fend off osteoporosis/Japanese men?  No.  Rather, upon searching for the above brand online, two extra ingredients listed, black cohosh and dong quai, have both historically been used to treat menopause symptoms.  Sly move, Optima.

Doha, Close Up- Cola Splash

Doha, Close Up- Cola Splash

The public opined, and Close Up listened– Nothing says what’s the point more than cola-flavored toothpaste.  Why not flavor the bristles of the toothbrush too, and create a special dye to put on your teeth that easily comes off once brushed, to let kids feel like they actually are accomplishing something?

Shenzhen- Darlie Toothpaste

Shenzhen- Darlie Toothpaste

If Colgate-Palmolive didn’t assume partial ownership of this brand, (sharing it with Hawley & Hazel Group of Hong Kong), it would still be called Darkie (the Chinese reads “Black Person’s Toothpaste).  Even after that US-based company stake its claim in 1985, it still took a few years for them to relent and change the name to Darlie, as well as alter the image to a racially ambiguous man.  The product was created in the 1930s and may have been influenced by the contemporary actor Al Jolson and his equally concerning performances in blackface.  Darlie is still popular in East Asia, although there has been a mostly quiet toothpaste-based opposition brewing over the past few years.

Bagan, Ruby Toothpaste

Bagan, Ruby Toothpaste

Located this Colgate knock-off on the ground in Myanmar.  Back before you could get Coca-Cola or attempt to use an ATM in the country, say, four years ago, Ruby is a symbol of how things were.  And how things still are, I reckon, at least until someone starts smuggling in name-brand merch.  No I didn’t mean mirch, the Hindi word for chili, there’s plenty of that in Myanmar.

China, Colgate and Cteeth

China, Colgate and Cteeth

Colgate phony #2.  From where you expect to see it.  No these weren’t sold together (as wondrous as that might be).  The yellow triangle in the upper left says “new breakthrough,” most likely referring more to the packaging than any beneficial quality to the actual paste…probably patting themselves on the back for finding a near match to the red background of Colgate boxes.

Shenzhen, Toothpaste with Batteries

Shenzhen, Toothpaste with Batteries

Buy some AAA Double Deer batteries, get a free Colgate.  Originally, I thought it was the other way around, but after reading the Chinese, I knew that it was a bad purchase.  Why so, mate?  I walked into a Chinese store in Barcelona a few years ago, and needed to get some batteries.  Tthe ones I bought (AA) didn’t fit into their usual hiding place.  I made this fact known to the shop keep, who was unfazed, so I bought another pair that were extremely light.  It was at that time I realized neither my battery-requiring camera nor myself were a welcome addition to that store… back to the photo.  Maybe it’s not really toothpaste (could it be plastique?)  It’s not the most unusual duo though.  Wait ’til you see the next one…

Shenzhen, Toothpaste with Milk

Shenzhen, Toothpaste with Milk

Ah, so here, if you buy Colgate, you get a carton of (nasty) Mengniu milk.  Though, how is it a two for one bargain?  You’re not getting two toothpastes or two milks.  More importantly, are you supposed to gargle (here’s a bit of Chinese for you: 漱口 shù​kǒu= rinse your mouth; particularly useful in neon-lit buildings) with the milk, or mix them?  Is it because store clerks are never willing to lead you somewhere (instead they just point to a vague direction), so they’ve saved you the guff of going to the dairy (albeit unrefrigerated) section?  I seem to have lost a picture of the (yet again) Colgate-Dinner Knife combo, so if anyone is willing to add their photo to the collection, I”ll give you full credit.

Manhattan - Sheffield Toothpaste
In November 2013, I came across this Colgate cousin, right next to Colgate, at a US$0.99 store in Manhattan.  They had me at “cool-great flavor.”

What mysterious entries to the world of toothpaste have you noticed in your travels?  Which of the above are your favorites (in that you’d never use them)?

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16 Responses to Toothpaste: Wild Times at Your Pearly Gates

  1. expatlingo says:

    My, you do have many, many toothpaste pictures. My favorites are the “women’s toothpaste” and the toothpaste with the carton of milk randomly thrown in for free.

    • After posting this, I discovered that the women’s toothpaste photo was taken in Hong Kong, so 開心多多!
      More importantly, still no Chungking;)?

      • expatlingo says:

        Sigh… sad, but true. The closest I’ve gotten was taking visiting in-laws to BLT Steakhouse in Ocean Terminal to view the (rather boring) harbor light show. I’ll have to slot it in for my next evening out.

      • Oh, he’s got a BLT outpost in HK now? How was it? Have you tried L’Atelier De Joël Robuchon on the island (I forget where; probably in Central or Admiralty)?
        Since I refuse to eat Cantonese food unless some local takes me (and even then, it’s tough), the Indonesian ‘hood in Causeway Bay and the South Asian offerings in TST are my options, in addition to supermarket cut fruit. Wow, how is this directly related to toothpaste;)?

      • expatlingo says:

        I can’t complain. I don’t eat steak much, but it was delicious. As for other eating out options: I’m currently hunting out Sichuan places. I’m with you on the Cantonese food…

  2. strawberryquicksand says:

    Who would have thought that toothpaste would stretch to so many options! I have a waterpik (google that one) that I clean my teeth with. It means that rater than flossing once a decade as was my norm, I now have the easy option of flossing tri-daily with a water flosser. Love it!

    • Thanks for liking my post, strawberryquicksand! I’m quite familiar with waterpiks (the US might be behind in many categories, but I reckon dental hygiene isn’t one of them…), though it seems if you bought the battery-toothpaste combo that would come in handy! Just as long as the batteries fit.
      Have you seen the women’s toothpaste before?

  3. David Lloyd-Jones says:

    The toothpaste with batteries suggests that maybe cheap electric toothbrushes are spreading — a very good thing.

    Query: how often is water fluoridated in the developing world? In the industrial world fluoride is one of the hugest successes of the post-WWII era. In a single generation false teeth went from being standard for everyone to being a rarity for unfortunate athletes — who then became the first generation to have mouth guards in many sports. How’s it going elsewhere?


    • Thanks for your comment!

      Some countries in East/Southeast Asia do fluoridate their water, or if they do, only in certain sections of the country. Others scoff at it. I think Singapore was one of the first to fluoridate.

      As for the batteries, well those in the picture are a Chinese brand, which often means they don’t fit into the usual battery tray (by being a shade too small). It’s true that the electric toothbrush would be a logical reason for including batteries, except that plugging them into the wall to charge makes more sense. My guess is that there is sugar in the toothpaste (it happens sometimes), and the batteries are a consolation prize.

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