How female wellness products came out of the closet – VOGUE India

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For the longest time, the conversation around female wellness was shrouded in spy-grade secrecy. While the first advertisements for menstrual hygiene products started to pop up in the 1870s, it was only in 1972 that periods were permitted to be advertised on television. However, the leap in bringing the conversation around female hygiene and wellness to the mainstream was undercut by its discretionary approach. “There’s no reason to feel fussed, fidgety and waist-line conscious… your secret is safe,” reads a blurb from a vintage advertisement, while others would euphemise the monthly menstrual cycle as the ‘source of accidents’. It would take another decade before a pre-Friends Courteney Cox would say the word ‘period’ out loud in—oh, the irony—a period commercial.
Fast forward to half a century later, the same tropes have managed to survive doggedly to see another day. Clinical blue liquid persistently gatekeeps any real representations of bleeding, while corporations continue to peddle the women-dressed-in-white-trousers imagery as the supposed shorthand for menstrual confidence. Grappling under the weight of a century’s worth of euphemisms and metaphors, can the conversation ever evolve beyond the ‘intimate feminine problem’ narrative? Yes, says a new cohort of female-led brands working on dismantling the taboo around women’s wellness.
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So, what does the renaissance of female wellness products look like? Expect birth control pills served in holographic packaging. Tampons labelled with minimalist text and blissfully devoid of butterflies and generic pink imagery. An intimate oil served in a luxe gold dropper that you wouldn’t mind have sitting out on your dresser. Gone are the days of sanitary care being smuggled like contraband under layers of discreet packaging—these are products designed to see and be seen. Ahead, female founders of the new generation of intimate care brands tell us about how the conversation around feminine care and wellness is finding its place in the mainstream spotlight.
For Therese Clark, founder of intimate skincare and wellness brand Lady Suite Beauty, the change is being ushered in due to a shift in the nexus of power within the female wellness industry. She explains, “There has been a shift in the power dynamic from corporate or male-owned companies to women-owned companies with founders who have experienced these intimate struggles firsthand and couldn’t find mainstream solutions that worked without compromise for our long-term health.” The change has also found further impetus due to the changing attitudes of the next generation of consumers, she believes. “Empowered millennials and Gen Z have helped shift antiquated mindsets around feminine health and sexual wellness by embracing both as self-care and healthcare. They also want broader solutions including cleaner technologies and ingredients, better education and real conversations around feminine wellness,” she observes.
On the agenda for the next generation of female wellness brands is dismantling the tropes of yore. “Walking down the feminine care aisle is an exercise in misdirection,” says Jordana Kier, co-founder of feminine and reproductive are brand, LOLA. She further explains, “Ads showing young girls frolicking in white clothes and blue liquid demos don’t help to destigmatise periods or embrace the reality of menstruation. Our goal has been to build a transparent, simple and straightforward customer experience about the products you need throughout your reproductive life.”
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Clark seconds the need to distance her brand from the conventional packaging tropes tethered to the category. “I wanted to design the brand in a way that was friendly and not intimidating. Not every woman is ready to say vulva or vagina out loud or see actual images of them—and honestly, that’s alright. Education around our lady parts has been shunned and is antiquated or downright non-existent for many of us. We simply wanted to meet women at different stages of their journey in an approachable way.” The result was a subtle hue of nude being chosen as the brand colour as a nod to self-love, healing and femininity in a way that wasn’t overtly pink. Since the brand couldn’t easily display images of actual vulvas, they chose to use fruit and flowers to represent vulva diversity—a practice that she has since noticed other brands in the same sphere following suit.
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Beyond just moving product on shelves and fortifying the bottomline, the new wave of female wellness brands is also working on the creation of a no-judgment space for women to learn about and discuss feminine care. Kier says, “Over the years, we’ve grown to extend the conversation to make every reproductive stage less lonely and confusing – from the first period to the last hot flash.” Further efforts towards that front can be found in LOLA’s digital community hub, The Spot that offers an interactive ask-an-expert guide, personal experiences and reflections from our community as well as commentary on a variety of topics related to health, wellness and women's issues that are still taboo. She adds, “Our growing community of over two million brings together a forward-thinking group of trusted reproductive health experts, advocates and educators to make finding answers easier than ever. Our experts share first-person research and perspectives on a variety of health topics, host interactive community sessions and recommend measures for solving women’s health pain points across diverse communities.”
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Clark agrees, and adds that when we go from feeling alone in our intimate struggles to understanding that there are other women going through or overcoming similar issues, it breeds community, awareness and demand for more profound education and conversations. She says, “In my own experience, I’ve found that once I bring up topics that range from an ingrown hair down there to hormonal changes, it’s all we want to talk about… it’s almost as if we’ve never had an outlet to talk about our feminine health until now. We’re finally bringing these taboo topics out from the darkness and into the light—where they belong—which helps diminish fear and promotes self-care and being there for each other.”
Looking forward, she believes that the movement can benefit from placing emphasis on normalising positive period education to all segments of society, from parents and teachers to girls as well as boys. “There is so much fear instilled in young girls and teens about periods that and we grow up thinking that being on our periods is shameful. While this dynamic is changing, the fear around periods still exists in many parts of the world where the patriarchy is strong. We need to embrace periods, celebrate women’s bodies and teach menstrual positivity at home, school and in society. If we celebrate birth, we need to honour our periods,” she concludes.
7 Indian beauty brands that cater to your intimate skincare, health and sexual needs
Taapsee Pannu on why it’s important to join the period positive movement
2 South Asian women on the ancient Indian wellness practices that help them connect to their roots

© 2021 Condé Nast


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