Youn Chang knows a thing or two about beauty and product, and beauty products. After the birth of her daughter, the former Glossier and Apple executive realized the call to create something that "I could put all my creative energy into, so I could pass down my Korean heritage to my daughter and make her proud." With that mission in mind and inspired by a 6-week Korean postpartum ritual that utilized Jukyeom, a mineral-rich, alkaline Korean based bamboo salt, she translated her years of experience into a line that honors both her Korean heritage and her affinity for "high-aesthetic" consumer goods, OJOOK.
Youn is a wealth of knowledge on all things natural beauty. We spoke with her about the transition from a corporate career to entrepreneurship, the products she swears by for day, night and weekends, her insights on how to find quality goods (hint: price tags can be deceiving ), and why the first thing she considers when making a purchase is her "belief filter". This and much, much more below...
First things first, why oral care?
I always had a dream of creating something of my own, but the aha moment really came when I had my daughter in September 2018. Because my husband is not Korean and my whole family is in Korea, it really hit me that if I don’t make a conscious effort, my daughter may never innate my Korean heritage.
Oral care was kind of a perfect adjacent industry to beauty that I was extremely familiar with, and it was without customers' expectation for 10-20 SKUs at launch. I saw a huge white space for premium oral care products that actually work. I this infused with my Eastern wellness heritage, which values holistic health and oral health as one of the secrets for happiness and longevity of one’s life.
After childbirth, I did 6 weeks of Korean postpartum ritual with an amazing Korean lady from Queens. She reminded me of using Jukyeom, the mineral rich, alkaline Korean baked bamboo salt, for all cooking and using it as a mouth rinse to help faster recovery. Since it was a very well recognized oral care ingredient, I started daydreaming about making a product that was elevated, simple, and sustainable. So when I left Glossier as Executive Director of Supply Chain in March 2019 to work for a Korean beauty startup that soon turned into my investor, I finally decided to create this Korean bamboo salt oral care company.
What does your morning beauty routine consist of daily?
My morning beauty ritual starts with inner beauty. The first thing I do is brush my teeth with OJOOK nHA + Bamboo salt toothpaste while meditating with a word prompt on my OJOOK Intention toothbrush. Currently it says, “nothing is permanent.'' This phrase helps reduce my anxiety because it reminds me that no everyday obstacles will be permanent. On the other hand, it also allows me to focus on the precious “now” that I will never get it back. Once my mouth -- the gateway to the digestive tract -- is cleaned and my oral microbiomes are happy, I chug about 2 cups of room temperature lemon water for Vitamin C and hydration, and take probiotics, CoQ10, and lion's mane mushroom (for clear head) supplements on an empty stomach.
For my morning skincare routine, I wash my face with just warm water. Then with a reusable cotton pad from binu binu, I wipe my face with IsnTree Hyaluronic Acid Toner. The cotton pad gently exfoliates while the toner hydrates my skin. Next step is Krave Beauty's Great Barrier Relief; it is formulated with 10% antioxidant rich Tamanu oil. I prefer the most gentle and basic moisturizers underneath SPF, so I share my toddler daughter’s Babo Botanicals Sensitive Baby Daily Hydra Lotion (fragrance free) body moisturizer. Right before putting SPF, I use Glossier’s Futuredew oil serum, which in my opinion, mimics the perfect natural healthy glow. For SPF, I rotate between many, but am currently loving Farmacy Green Screen.
My makeup game is non-existence at the moment since the pandemic started, but on the days I have video meetings, I keep it very simple. I focus on concealing dark circles, filling in my brows with a zero waste Shu Uemura eboni pencil, and just tightly curling lashes without applying mascara for a little bit of a lifting effect. For lips and cheeks, my favorite product is Kajal Weis lip tint in Passionate.
Wow! That is so insightful - how about your nighttime process?
The first step of my evening ritual is again oral care. With OJOOK’s gum treating salty Silk Floss, I clean through each tooth and under gum lines before brushing to deliver anti-inflammatory bamboo salt and beeswax goodness to hard-to-reach areas. There’s a study that flossing before brushing is more effective in cavity prevention, and I swear by it. While brushing teeth with OJOOK nHA + Bamboo salt toothpaste, I again go over my day and meditate with the word prompt on my Intention toothbrush.
To remove makeup, I use a Japanese brand, Comeitto's rice cleansing balm. I wish this product was more available in the US, as this is the most gorgeous and gentle cleansing balm I’ve ever used. I double cleanse by then using Ranava’s cream cleanser. My skin changed from oily to very dry after my pregnancy, so I avoid any products with SLS / sulfates at all cost. These two products work so well together. If my skin feels tired and dehydrated, I put on Fresh Black Tea Instant Perfecting Mask a couple times a week. When my skin looks dull and rough, I use resurfacing serums like Farmacy Honeymoon Glow or Krave Beauty Kale-Lalu-y AHA toner -- at nighttime only. My pro tip is to use these highly acidic products for one week beginning the day your period starts. Since that’s when women’s bodies reset with a new 28-day cycle, it’s best time to use active skincare products to rebound from PMS-affected skin. Then as a last step, I apply very rich moisturizer Therapi honey skincare Rose Otto Propolis + Ultra Radiance Cream and pure Camellia oil from Blossom Jeju on my face, neck, and hands to seal everything in.
What are your three favorite products and why?
All the above products simply work so well. Just like good food comes from fresh, high-quality ingredients, these products are made with purposefully chosen clean, concise, and best-in-class ingredients. For example, Great Barrier Relief is formulated with 10% antioxidant rich Tamanu oil. In Therapi Honey Skincare cream, the main ingredients come from a family of beekeepers in the UK. I had the privilege of meeting the mother/daughter team behind this company at Credo’s New York store where I heard all about their brand story. And of course, these are also all small brands owned by women who create products with sustainability in mind.
Tips for shopping natural and sustainable:
I recommend doing a lot of research on the key ingredients that perform what the product is intended for. As a person who has been deeply involved in the formulation of various products, I will say all-natural is not always the best and not all natural products are made the same.
For example, in fluoride-free natural oral care space, the majority of natural toothpastes do not have any ingredients that will help remineralize the teeth, which is the reason why dentists recommend using fluoride toothpaste. Those toothpastes may contain all kinds of interesting essential oils, delicious flavors, and fancy botanical extracts, but at the end of the day if the toothpaste doesn’t have fluoride or nano-hydroxyapatite to remineralize enamel, it essentially is just a scrub with baking soda and some abrasives. Furthermore, many products include activated charcoal for marketing purposes, which is a natural ingredient with many scientifically unsupported claims of whitening and fresh breath, but charcoal can do more harm than good since it can cause micro tearing of soft gum tissues and de-mineralization.
The best way to shop sustainably is to make sure you have a full commitment to finish the product you are purchasing instead of moving on to the next product after a few uses. Refusing to buy something you don’t need and using everything you already own are the most impactful environmental acts. When you shift your mindset this way, you will spend more time researching a brand’s mission, ingredients, and reviews from others to make a very intentional decision.
How do your morning and evening routines differ and why?
I definitely spend a lot more time on my routine in the evening to nourish the skin and unwind from the hectic day while doing so.
I am also a fan of evening showers. It helps me disconnect from work, as I regularly work in the evening with Asia after I put my daughter to bed. When I take a shower, I don’t use any soaps and just wash with water unless I use body SPFs. This is the best for skin microbiomes and your vaginal health! It also shortens the time in the shower and saves a lot of water. For the hair, I love zero waste shampoo and conditioner bars from Ethique. I began using these when I started losing so much hair after pregnancy, and my scalp and hair have never been healthier. Afterwards, I put cold pressed organic virgin coconut oil from a grocery store all over my body as a body moisturizer and on the ends of my hair.
Does your routine differ on the weekend versus the weekday?
Saturdays are usually when I really indulge myself -- outdoor time, cooking, skincare, you name it. My favorite Saturday evening ritual is doing a fresh cucumber slice mask instead of a sheet mask and watching favorite TV shows or reading books in bed. It’s one of the simplest and most effective hydration masks ever, producing zero waste! After that, I put on face oil and massage with the Refa face roller that my mom gave me a few years ago.
Every so often, I do Korean exfoliating scrub bath at home. The skin feels so new and soft afterwards. I know not all dermatologists recommend it, but I’ve been doing it since I was probably 5 years old. Post-Covid19, I will probably go back to Korean bath houses for professional’s touch.
How has your professional pivot and past work experience shaped the way you approach beauty and products?
Working in beauty product development and supply chain definitely taught me that a price tag has little to do with efficacy. Knowing the basics of formulation and ingredient science actually helped me minimize the number of products I use down to only the essentials, and I started focusing more on gut health and nutrition for true skin health.
Also, now more than ever I try to support emerging brands run by WOC female founders whenever possible. When I choose a product, it goes through my belief filters first: social justice, sustainability, and efficacy / science (vs. just fancy gimmicky packaging). Studying the brand’s philosophy and what kind of impact the brand tries to create allows me to learn so much and I try to reflect that lesson with OJOOK as well.
What's next for OJOOK?
I am really excited to grow our community through continued education about nano-hydroxyapatite and Korean bamboo salt benefits. To do so, 6 incredible dentist advisors were added to the OJOOK team earlier this year. I truly believe our product can serve so many people who're looking to achieve holistic wellness benefits through clean and sustainable oral care. Starting this year, I am also reaching out to people with chronic conditions (Hypothyroidism, autoimmune disease such as Lupus and Hashimoto’s) and people who are transitioning into motherhood, because reducing body burden from everyday chemicals and fluoride can really benefit these demographics.
Product wise, we have exciting and intentionally chosen new launches in the pipeline in both core oral care and tool categories that we hope will delight many more customers later this year.