Whole Body Beauty: Indie Brand Founders Talk About Feminine Hygiene And Intimate Skin Care
What follows is our Q&A with skin care brand Knours., feminine hygiene brand OrganiCup, and the intimate skin care and body care brand Arôms Natur. All three of these brands are exhibiting this week at Indie Beauty Expo in New York City.
Cosmetics Design: Where do beauty and feminine wellness intersect?
Arôms Natur Skincare founders Dora S. Lacey, Denise Davila-Izurieta, and Gildren Alejandro: Clean beauty is bringing together skincare, cosmetics, body care, feminine care, supplements and more, under the umbrella of clean, organic, safe, toxin-free products. Online and brick and mortar stores are featuring deodorants, makeup, facial skincare, body care, haircare and a limited number of feminine wellness products.
However, for every 20 facial oils, there might be one feminine product, if at all. We think there is room to give consumers more options and variety and that’s where we come in. Much attention is given to the face and eyes, but many consumers neglect more sensitive and delicate areas that need preventive care and attention as well. We hope that by bringing awareness to these parts of the body and generating education and content on feminine care, women start paying more attention to their breasts, skin and intimate parts early on.
We spoke of categories earlier and for us at Arôms Natur Skincare, operating in the context of clean beauty is fundamental and the reason why we started our company in the first place. All of our oil blends are crafted with first cold pressed botanical oils, therapeutic-grade essential oils and plant extracts. All of our formulas are free of alcohol, artificial colors, any fragrance, hormones, parabens, petroleum, silicone or chemicals.
We know that if we are inviting women to use products in their most precious and intimate body parts, the safety and purity of our products is fundamental to our promise. When we did our research and looked at all the chemicals in mainstream female hygiene products we were appalled. Featuring products that are 100% natural, toxin-free and devoid of chemicals and parabens is at the center of our mission and ethos.
OrganiCup Marketing Project Manager Ida Gjorup: We’re from Denmark – a country with a long history of design that typically focuses on simplicity, clean lines and natural materials. We wanted to bring such ethos to the world of period products.
We wish to combine our design approach with our ambition to destigmatize periods.
When we started in 2012, it seemed like one of the most uncomfortable things you could possibly talk about was periods. We saw an opportunity, through branding and design, to pave the way towards a more positive and normalized relationship with periods by simply showing menstrual cups and periods for what they are – not as anything else.
Beauty and wellness is about feeling good about yourself – why shouldn’t that translate into period products?
Jessica Jeong, Marketing Manager for Knours.: Because estrogen plays such a large part in a woman’s feminine wellness and beauty, the two are deeply intertwined. Women look and feel their most beautiful when estrogen levels are high. Estrogen has an anti-aging effect and higher levels of estrogen are also linked to calmer skin with fewer breakouts.
Cosmetics Design: What personal care solutions does your brand offer that haven’t been available before?
Arôms Natur Skincare founders Dora S. Lacey, Denise Davila-Izurieta, and Gildren Alejandro: In terms of our portfolio of products, we are very excited to introduce Love Your Breasts, the first breast massage and firming oil in the prestige segment that we are aware of. The formula of Love Your Breasts, made with a blend of evening primrose, Damask rose, geranium, apricot kernel and hazelnut oils, is specially designed for the delicate skin of the breasts with many fatty acids that boost elasticity and strengthen the connective tissue of the skin. The blend is infused with aromatic essential oils that help stimulate the lymphatic system as well as relax and uplift one’s mood. When used daily for 28 days, the oil will help lift and firm the skin of the breasts. This is also a perfect oil to incorporate into a woman’s self-examination and breast massage routine in a way that will feel luxurious and uplifting.
Nourish Your V targets vulvar dryness (labia and external genital area) by alleviating, soothing and heavily hydrating the intimate skin. It is also the only intimate skin moisturizer in the clean beauty segment that has been clinically tested and proven to reduce vulvar dryness in 90% of the respondents of a clinical trial. The oil can also be used after working out or showering to keep the intimate area hydrated and fresh. The blend includes avocado oil, argan, calendula and lavender oils for their nourishing, soothing and anti-oxidant compounds.
Tone Your Curves is a moisturizing body oil with Indian pennywort extract, clary sage and rosewood oils which help boost circulation and increase elasticity aiding to firm and tone the skin. The blend provides intense hydration leaving skin soft and supple.
We want all of our products to empower women to feel comfortable and to want to care for every part of their bodies, whether it’s the vagina or the breasts or their overall skin. Ultimately, it’s about celebrating who you are and feeling confident, gorgeous and sexy within your body no matter your age, style or body type. And it’s also about bringing luxury and beauty to that space of self-care and self-love. Everything we did around our formulation, packaging and bottles speaks to beauty, indulgence and luxury. Ultimately, this is about women engaging in personal care rituals with products that are safe, sumptuous and of course, effective.
OrganiCup Marketing Project Manager Ida Gjorup: Many don’t know this, but the menstrual cup was invented in the 1930’s by a woman named Leona Chalmers. However, it hasn’t been marketed as heavily as the alternatives and therefore it hasn’t gained the same popularity. Today, we can see an increase in the interest and sale of menstrual cups all over the world, as we are becoming increasingly aware of reducing our waste and focus more on our health.
When OrganiCup was founded in 2012, it was with the aim to make the menstrual cup wider accessible to women all over the world and make it appealing through great design and an engaging brand. Moreover, we learned that for many women and girls in both developing and developed countries, menstruation is a life-restricting monthly event that negatively affects daily activities, performance in school and self-esteem because they lack access to period products.
We want to do our bit to make sure that those in need have access to a sustainable way to manage their period and we have partnered up with a couple of NGOs. They work to empower and educate communities to change the attitude towards menstruation and introduce menstrual cups as a way of managing your period.
Jessica Jeong, Marketing Manager for Knours.: Our brand offers products that cater not just to skin type but also to skin condition. Even those of us with oily skin have drier days where our skin craves more moisture. In that vein, one of our products, the Double Duty Mist, can actually be personalized based on your skin condition. With two layers and a quasi-biphase formula that consists of a bottom layer with soothing aloe vera water and a top layer with nourishing botanical oils, you shake the mist when skin is feeling dry and leave the mist unshaken when skin is feeling oily, sensitive, and/or prone to breakouts. You can even shake just once for a light midday skin refresh.
Cosmetics Design: How have men’s views and cultural taboos defined women’s care until now?
Arôms Natur Skincare founders Dora S. Lacey, Denise Davila-Izurieta, and Gildren Alejandro: We know that gender bias is pervasive and that it has informed our behavior, our industries, our marketing, our healthcare, pretty much everything. But this is changing as more women-led companies are breaking ground and succeeding in the beauty, personal care or cosmetics industry.
Within niche segments of these industries, we are moving beyond profitability to sustainability, social responsibility and transparency. In an industry where products and marketing are aimed at female consumers, we know that improved gender representation at the executive leadership level will lead to products and attitudes that better represent what female consumers really need and are interested in. It is no coincidence that most of the innovation we have seen in the area of feminine hygiene or wellness and within clean beauty is driven by women founders.
OrganiCup Marketing Project Manager Ida Gjorup: Periods and period products have historically been associated with shame. There’s a long history of menstrual taboos across nearly all cultures, and these continue to manifest in subtle and complex ways. It’s not only men who keep the existing taboos alive; women also associate periods with being dirty, disgusting and shameful.
This attitude towards periods is partly due to lack of knowledge. Many are told to manage their period privately and discreetly. Not being able to ask questions and talk about what happens when you get your period can lead to menstrual shame and affect the way you feel about your body.
That’s why we’re focused on elevating the conversation. Periods are natural, we’re all here because of the menstrual cycle. Traditionally, in the marketing of period products, brands haven’t talked about periods in a natural way, which has resulted in manifesting periods as something unnatural and something to be embarrassed about.
Therefore, we don’t shy away from saying ‘period’ or ‘menstruation’ or from using red liquid instead of blue. We talk to our community as they are our friends – we don’t talk down. We want the OrganiCup universe to be a space where you can comfortably ask questions – a place to seek information.
Jessica Jeong, Marketing Manager for Knours.: We believe that it’s important to normalize the conversation around hormones and how they impact us as women, from our moods to our skin. Due to gender disparity and cultural taboos, we feel that the role hormones play was often minimized, even as it pertained to the feminine care and beauty industries. Hopefully, opening the discussion will lead to a better informed consumer that demands more from the products they use and, in turn, more thoughtful products.
Cosmetics Design: What’s next from women-led beauty?
Arôms Natur Skincare founders Dora S. Lacey, Denise Davila-Izurieta, and Gildren Alejandro: We think the number of women led businesses in the industry will continue to rise and that these companies will continue to bring innovation to the industry. We will continue to see novelty around products, new delivery systems. Also, we envision the push for sustainable practices, transparency and social responsibility gaining even more traction among consumers and becoming a benchmark for the industry at large.
But one of the trends we are most interested in, is the increase in products or solutions that address multi-cultural beauty led by multi-cultural women entrepreneurs. It’s very exciting to see more brands come up with products serving more skin types and skin tones and even custom blended products. We have also seen many founders looking at their heritage for inspiration around unique ingredients and formulations.
With Arôms Natur Skincare being a multi-cultural company—our partners are Hungarian, Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian and we are all based in New York City—we are looking forward to the beauty industry and its plethora of marketing messages and imagery reflecting the multicultural nature of this country.
OrganiCup Marketing Project Manager Ida Gjorup: The recent wave of feminism has helped give the topic of periods, feminine health and alternative period products a push into the spotlight, and prompted a much more open conversation around menstruation.
We hope this conversation will continue and the development of innovative period products will continue as there is room for more innovation within the category and adding new products to the market.
Jessica Jeong, Marketing Manager for Knours.: We are looking at even more products that cater to needs of women that have remained largely unaddressed. Being a clean brand that steers clear of any ingredients that could potentially be hormone disruptors is so important to us, we hope that other brands will follow suit. The wellness trend has definitely impacted the way we look at the nutrition labels on our food, we hope it will have a similar effect on the way we think about the products that we apply to the largest organ of our body, our skin.
Deanna Utroske, CosmeticsDesign.com Editor, covers beauty business news in the Americas region and publishes the weekly Indie Beauty Profile column, showcasing the inspiring work of entrepreneurs and innovative brands.