“Starting a company is pretty stupid,” Kristoffer Vural says. “Starting a company after you’ve had a stroke, that's stupidity squared.” Of course, reason doesn’t usually triumph in matters of the heart – and Selahatin, Vural’s luxurious line of artisanal oral care products, is a project that the 36-year-old Swede is deeply passionate about.
At 25, Vural suffered a stroke that left him paralysed for a year. “Suddenly, I lost feeling in my arm. I lost feeling in my legs, and then I couldn’t move my left side,” he recounts. “I tried getting up and fell to the floor.” Vural spent an entire year in the hospital, undergoing physical therapy to regain his ability to move. In addition to a loss of mobility, Vural’s stroke also resulted in a stranger, more mysterious change: His sense of taste and smell heightened. As a result, brushing his teeth became nearly unbearable. “[Toothpaste] tasted too synthetic, too chemical, too strong,” he explains.
Vural also developed synesthesia, a condition that allows him to experience taste and smell as colors. “I remember when it started, I was just like, ‘Oh, this tastes too blue, it should taste more red.’ And people were looking at me like I was crazy".
Impassioned by his own experience, Vural set out to make the mundane act of brushing one’s teeth – a routine he came to dread in the hospital – an experience to relish. For Vural, the gap in the market was glaring. The oral care category is dominated by conglomerate-owned giants, none of whom stray beyond mint-flavored toothpaste and mouthwash packaged in unwieldy, plasticky bottles, decorated with frumpy green swirls and illustrated molars.
Selahatin (pronounced Sel-AT-in) subverts everything that customers have come to expect from a toothpaste brand. Presented in aluminum tubes and glass bottles, the products have a distinctly premium feel. Instead of “fresh mint” or “alpine breeze,” Selahatin’s range of toothpastes, mouthwashes, and mouth sprays boast poetic names to describe their unexpected flavors and aromas. A few examples: “Of Course I Still Luv You,” a blend of bergamot, verbena, and pine; “Hypnotist,” anise, honey, and peppermint; and “Blue Forever,” citrus, lime, and licorice.
“What we're doing is essentially perfume for your mouth,” Vural says, touching on the inherent link between taste and smell. “That's where the crossover to fragrances is very natural,” he says. Flavors are framed as olfactive notes; mouthwash and mouth spray – cleverly dubbed “Eau d’Extrait Oral” – are funneled into elegant glass vials. By speaking the language of luxury perfume, Selahatin manages to apply a romantic gloss to the unglamorous act of keeping your teeth clean. Vural also believes that Selahatin’s offerings have an emotionally transportive effect, akin to the power of fragrance to evoke people, places, and feelings. “You can use them and forget about everyday reality… just escape to a magical place for a moment,” he says.
Selahatin’s approach is bewitching customers into improved oral health. According to Vural, devoted users are reporting cleaner, whiter-looking teeth. “People use our product and go to their dentist and the dentist says, ‘Your teeth look way better. What have you done?’ If you really enjoy using the products, you’ll use them 30 seconds to a minute more per time. Stretch that across a year, and the [change] is huge. You get a much more positive experience and as a byproduct, your teeth become a lot healthier.”
Selahatin might boast Rick Owens among its fans, but it’s still a fairly niche brand. Still, Vural is adamant that the oral care sector will eventually catch on to his vision of an elevated, magical, and wholly enjoyable tooth-brushing experience. “Something's just missing in the product,” Vural says of the toothpaste market. “Major companies don't change unless they're forced to… I do think that we will lead the charge and eventually be the company that transforms this category and makes it sexy and cool.”
Vural considers himself something like the Steve Jobs of toothpaste. Of Selahatin's approach, he concludes: “It's like what Apple did for personal computers, or what Tesla did for electrical vehicles.”
Words by Alexandra Pauly, Beauty Editor at HIGHSNOBIETY.