Co.Design

Does Oral Hygiene Need A Design Revolution?

Kill! Destroy! Eliminate! When did brushing your teeth become a chemical war zone?

Craig Dubitsky was standing in the toothpaste aisle at Walgreen’s, surrounded by nightmarish images of extracted teeth and hologram packaging, when the idea for his latest company, Hello, hit him. “The whole oral hygiene industry is based on fear and shame,” he says. “It’s as if there’s a war going on inside your mouth—you have to eliminate, destroy, arm yourself with these toxic products.”

The “war in your mouth” narrative is handed down from the 1950s, when many big toothpaste brands were founded. Today, oral hygiene is an $8 billion industry in the U.S., and it’s dominated by a handful of brands chasing largely the same goals: killing germs, eliminating gingivitis, and banishing plaque. Dubitsky, who founded the lip care brand eos and has spent time on Method Home's board, saw an opportunity. “It’s a confusing category of brands that are all telling a very similar story with very few differences in their products,” he says. “It was a sea of sameness.”

With Hello, his brand of toothpastes, mouthwashes, and breath sprays, Dubitsky hopes to bring a Method-style friendliness to the war zone that is oral care. The Hello brand is a mix of carefully calibrated details designed to delight average consumers: "delicious" flavors like pink grapefruit mint and a toothpaste tip designed like an icing applicator. Its ingredients are 99% natural and alcohol-free, with the exception of agents that prevent the products from molding. The website is full of easter eggs (type "hello" if you’re curious) and snarky directions about how much mouthwash you need if you just ate egg-salad-flavored chips (har har). There’s even a Skype button that links to Dubitsky’s account if you want to ask him a few questions.

Hello’s packaging was designed by BMW Group’s creative consultancy, DesignWorksUSA. "The brief was simple,” Dubitsky says. “The products should look exactly the same when they’re thrown away as they did when they arrived." Each piece of packaging contains little to no secondary packaging and are 100% recyclable. Toothpaste arrives without a box, in a soft-touch plastic pouch with a low-profile butterfly clasp. The breath spray was designed to feel like a toy, fastening with a satisfying click. “No one should feel embarrassed about using something like this,” he adds. “You should want to share it.” The shapes themselves feel sculptural and witty, with little of the utilitarian vibe you’d think to get from a brand pushing sustainability.

Hello’s underlying mission of ousting body shame is admirable, and its design ethos has the potential to expand to a whole range of products. But it’s the natural ingredients and recyclable materials that may have the potential to disrupt. Unlike other natural oral care products, Hello is aimed at the average consumer, in packaging, messaging, and price point. For the past decade, companies have struggled to "greenwash" the personal hygiene industry—now, brands like Hello are inverting that thinking by designing natural products that don’t look, taste, or feel particularly green.

Check out Hello at Walgreen’s or Duane Reade.

Kelly Rakowski/Co.Design (illustration)

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1 Comments

  • Abhi

    This is good packaging innovation. Not really oral hygiene innovation. No new products or no new ways of using the products.