We’ll drink our greens, stream our fitness classes, even try a fast for five days if we’re told it’ll keep us young and healthy. But according to Ojook founder, Youn Chang, finding longevity and good health starts in a place we often overlook- the mouth. “In Eastern wellness philosophy, oral health is so much more than just mouth and teeth, but the best indicator for general health and quality of living,” she says.
Former executive director at Glossier and global supply chain manager at Apple, Youn Chang launched her oral care brand OJOOK at the start of this year’s pandemic. OJOOK’s key product is a toothpaste that contains 13 ingredients that’s intended to bring a ritual to the start and end of our day.
While there’s plenty of well-known clean toothpaste brands out there, OJOOK is in a field of its own. The distinct salty-pine taste may be a shock to the tastebuds at first, the toothpaste provides a safe deep clean thats like no other – and the taste becomes rather addicting. With powerful ingredients like Korean medicinal bamboo salt and nano-hydroxyapatite, OJOOK toothpaste works as the perfect alternative to fluoride toothpaste.
In our most recent interview, we talked to Youn Chang about Eastern wellness philosophy, morning rituals and how sustainability –and her daughter– have made an impact on her brand.
What inspired you to create a brand with a focus on oral care?
OJOOK’s mission is to extend the life of our bodies and planet by transforming quotidian routines into sacred rituals. This mission is very personal to me. The pregnancy and birth of my daughter made me realize that I indeed have a finite life and I really wanted to make the best out of that precious time. That led me to think about launching oral care because in Korea keeping a full set of natural teeth into old age (80-90s) is predictive of a happy and long life. If you think about it, being able to chew food on your own literally means good nutritional intake and high quality of living. When I thought of oral care, what immediately came to mind was to modernize and elevate the oral care experience with Korea’s ancient medicinal salt Jukyeom (9x baked bamboo salt) and the nano-hydroxyapatite available in Japanese oral care.
How does Eastern wellness philosophy view oral care?
The core message of Eastern wellness philosophy is that everything is interconnected – between our physical body, mind, and the environment surrounding us. A problem on one part of the body might be an expression or indication of a problem elsewhere. Therefore the treatment often is about holistic lifestyle adjustment. It is to be implemented as consistent daily rituals in harmony with nature rather than one time fix. Like happiness, it’s not about achieving it once and for good but rather a delicate process of balance and maintenance.
On the contrary, I see today’s wellness focusing so much on the image of youth – too much about six-pack abs and a fad diet. Most wellness trends highlight the snapshot result, not the lifelong journey.
In Eastern wellness, the image of wellness is a mature person wearing wrinkles as a badge of honor. Quality of life has nothing to do with age in that perspective. She is busy, she is awake, and she understands the interconnectivity between her body, mind, and the environment and takes good care of them all every, single, day.
What gap did you see in the oral care market when creating OJOOK?
The typical oral care in the market focuses on just function – mechanical cleansing products. In Eastern wellness philosophy, oral health is so much more than just mouth and teeth, but the best indicator for general health and quality of living. I saw a big white space to talk about how oral care should be a celebratory, joyful, wellness ritual, not a mundane chore. It’s the first thing you do and the last thing you do each day, and we wanted to create a positive experience around that.
Another big opportunity of improvement I saw is that existing oral care products – natural and conventional mass products alike – are made with too many unnecessary ingredients. These sensorial focused ingredients – flavors and colors – have nothing to do with improving oral health.
The result is that OJOOK is the first brand to transform oral care into a wellness lifestyle. And OJOOK is made simple, only using essential and highest quality ingredients. OJOOK toothpaste uses 30%~50% fewer ingredients than the industry average (only 12 ingredients and water) without any flavors, sweeteners, or coloring. Our 2 hero ingredients, traditional Korean medicinal bamboo salt and nano-hydroxyapatite are listed upfront, which indicates how concentrated they are in the formula.
What makes bamboo salt toothpaste better for your oral microbiome?
This ancient medicinal salt is made with mastery and hard labor. Sea salt from the west coast of Korea goes through a rigorous process of roasting in bamboo culm nine times and gets infused with over 70 essential minerals and micronutrients in over 1700 celsius (3000 Fahrenheit) heat. The entire process takes up to 1300 days.
9 times baked bamboo salt is widely popular in Asian oral care due to its rarity and benefits from rich mineral contents and alkaline properties. The science behind it is that germs causing cavities and bad breath seek an acidic environment, and highly alkaline bamboo salt neutralizes the acid while nourishing good oral microbiomes. The bamboo salt solution is naturally antibacterial and can reduce symptoms of gum inflammation and mouth sores. It also stimulates the salivary glands, relieving dry mouth that causes enamel erosion and cavities.
How does sustainability play a role in your product and branding?
OJOOK’s products will not end up in landfills. Sustainability is one of our 3 core values, along with Science and Mindfulness. At OJOOK, we consider the entire journey from how formulas and packages are sourced, manufactured, delivered and disposed. Truly sustainable products are more costly to make but I see it as a table stake. Because true long-term wellness cannot be achieved without a healthy environment.
Specifically, all our cartons are made of FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified paper that has been harvested in a responsible manner. Our toothpaste is contained in aluminum tubes that can be recycled infinite times with 95% energy savings compared to virgin aluminum. All our future products are made compostable or recyclable, in that order. We also educate our customers on how to recycle our products and why that matters to increase awareness.
Any new OJOOK products in the lineup?
First, we have a lot of exciting new products coming up in both core oral care and lifestyle items for the gifting season. We are launching a subscription program that will provide great value to many repeat customers who are in love with OJOOK. Lastly, OJOOK will be available in more online and offline locations. We are discussing partnerships with dental clinics and retailers that we love. We really encourage everyone to sign up for our mailing list to be the first to know of any new OJOOK products and event announcements.
How has your daughter influenced your product/brand?
She’s the inspiration behind OJOOK for sure. When I became a mother I became really obsessed with a few things. Sustainability became a nice-to-have to must-have for her and future generations. The wellness perspective also shifted. I wanted to live a longer and happier life with her, no longer just intellectually but from the bottom of my heart. And passing down my Korean heritage to my half-Korean daughter. I think OJOOK literally sums up as my best and very entrepreneurial attempt to be a decent mother for her.
What are your morning rituals?
Not because I am the founder of OJOOK, but I truly am excited to get up in the morning and do my morning ritual with OJOOK’s toothpaste and a quick breathing exercise / meditation with the intention card and playlist. If anyone is curious, I breathe in counting 7, holding for 2 and breathe out for another 7, and repeat a few times. It’s my therapist’s recommended technique to pause, which helps regulate emotions and be more present. This almost religious daily process sets my day right and makes me feel calm and productive. During my morning ritual, I am always grateful for our customers for whom I hope to make a small but mighty impact on daily wellness.
What are some other brands you admire?
So many out there, but Patagonia (Certified B-Corp since 2011) has great qualities that I admire. Led by female CEO Rose Marcario, Patagonia takes care of the environment and the people who work there. As a mother, I especially admire the company’s family policies such as paid leave and on-campus daycare (founded 1983). 100% of moms return to work after maternity leave. I often wonder why on-site daycare is not a more prevalent benefit for so many companies out there.
Do you have any takeaways from your experience with Glossier with starting a new product and brand?
I am heavily influenced by Glossier’s cult-like community obsession and high esthetics to make everything Instagram-able. Glossier knows how to create iconic trends from simple perspective change and how to deeply engage customers. Our goal at OJOOK also is to create products and contents to elicit joy to customers and to spread Eastern Wellness philosophy as a prominent wellness trend, thus transforming their daily mindless routines to rituals.