Toothpaste. You squeeze it on your brush, stick it in your mouth, rub it in to your pearly whites, tongue and gums, then spit it out as if it were nothing. Did you ever stop to think about the effort the manufacturers put in to make it look pretty just for you? How the bloody hell do they get the stripes in there? Science Gimp knows, and he’s telling you, so listen up.
The main reasons some toothpastes are stripy is purely for visual association purposes and aesthetics.
Although there are several varieties, the most commonly produced stripes in toothpaste are coloured white, red and blue. Again, in most cases we are informed by the manufacturers that these colours are representative of the 3 main benefit providing agents in the toothpaste: “cleaning agent”, fluoride and flavour (mint) respectively. However, there is no scientific requirement on the part of toothpaste manufacturers to physically separate these individual elements found in toothpaste. The reason they do it is simple. It is nothing more than marketing ploy to allow the consumer to visually distinguish between each individual element contained in toothpaste.
But how the bloody hell do they do it?
Well, this is is easier than most people think, and doesn’t involve many secret compartments of Copperfieldesque cunning. The main tube is filled with your bog-standard white paste, then a short distance before the nozzle you have the stripe gunk. The three colours are different consistencies and under normal circumstances don’t mix. The trick is, and here’s where some cheap 80’s magicians may have been employed, the trick is to let everything out separately but at the same time. The nozzle at the end of the tube is not simply a hole, it is a short tube itself and goes a small distance inside. Surrounding this tube is the stripe gunk and just before the nozzle there are a couple of holes. Squeezing the tube forces the white paste out the main nozzle, at the same time as it pushes the stripe gunk out the small holes, and everything comes out the nozzle together.
If none of that made sense, have a look at this cross section.
You can test this by squeezing a tube as normal, then squeezing right down by the nozzle. You’ll get a regular stripy bit of toothpaste, then pure stripe gunk (which being pure fluoride and mint should make it super healthy and tasty surely).
The visual differentiation provides the consumer with a direct physical association with the individual parts and benefits of the toothpaste, making it more appealing than the basic white toothpaste, which, through it’s lack of stripes may lead a consumer to conclude that it does not contain all the beneficial elements found in stripy toothpaste (or such is the thinking of the manufacturer). This physical association does help sales of stripy toothpaste over non-stripy – especially where the target groups include infants, those of an influentially susceptible mind and the French.
Even though 99% of all regular toothpastes (including the white ones) contain the same 3 elements, by visually distinguishing these elements, the manufactures are exploiting our inherent primitive psychological reaction (or in this case, attraction) to colour, variety, and visual association.
Which reminds me of an ancient Native American saying: “Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I will remember. Ask Science Gimp and I will understand.”