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A new wave of feminine care brands are hoping their innovative products and frank approach to menstruation can draw young consumers and end taboos.

New breed of feminine-care brands caters to Gen Z and millennial women, including one backed by Huda Beauty founder and another favoured by Gwyneth Paltrow

  • Digitally savvy young brands have entered the feminine-care market, promoting values such as transparency and authenticity to women all over the world
  • The market has experienced a demand for clean and ethical labels that are upfront about everything – from where they source their materials to their packaging

Periods are not considered appropriate dinner conversation but, as cultural taboos shift and society evolves, times are finally changing. A new wave of feminine-care brands that offer innovative yet functional products have made menstruation a hot topic.

“There has been an emergence of new brands in this space,” explains Emaan Abbass, founder of newly launched sexual wellness brand Ketish, “both in the prestige and the new ‘masstige’ markets that have brought an elevated experience and formulations you can trust.

“For so long, we were used to seeing products adorned with pink and floral, this ultra-stereotypical feminine look and feel. We want to shift away from this and create a brand that feels and looks luxe, so that women are proud to talk about it or show it off on their vanity tables.”

Ketish, backed by Huda Beauty founder Huda Kattan, is one of many brands hoping to refresh the feminine-care market. According to a recent report by Euromonitor International, the sanitary protection industry is worth US$30.9 billion, and markets such as China, India and Vietnam will drive the biggest growth over the next four years.

Ketish is one of many new brands hoping to refresh the feminine care market.

While established brands such as Kotex, Always and Tampax dominate, these newer brands share the values and priorities of the customers they target – millennials and Gen Z. They are direct-to-consumer, digitally savvy brands that lead with purpose, transparency and authenticity.

Take, for example, The Honey Pot – a favourite with celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow. Its empathetic, no-holds-barred marketing campaigns take the shame out of having periods and promote inclusivity and diversity by positioning the monthly cycle as a universal experience for women of all races, backgrounds and social classes.

The final frontier for women’s skincare – their private parts

August, a Gen Z brand, wants to promote liberating, dignifying period conversations by building an online community where members can chat freely about period-related issues.

And Abbass, of Ketish says: “We hope to build a community of women that can lean in, empower and support one another. Our goal is to replace [the] shame and stigma that surround the topic of sex and feminine wellness and replace it with sensuality and self-love by educating and empowering women with the knowledge to better care for their bodies.”

These brands are winning over women thanks to their core values, such as transparency. Like the beauty industry, the feminine care market has experienced a demand for clean and ethical labels that are upfront about everything – from where they source their raw materials to their packaging. As such, most offer products made from non-genetically modified organisms, and fair-trade or organic cotton.

Luüna is a Hong Kong-based natural period care start-up that launched in 2016. It offers organic period-care products free of chemicals and other harmful ingredients, and gives back to the community through donations and education programmes.

“We are seeing a general trend towards brands who prioritise transparency and traceability especially in their products,” says founder Olivia Cotes-James. “This doesn’t exist in [the] traditional feminine-care space – you look at their product boxes and it’s difficult to see where the item was made or what it contains.

“When we first started, I realised that over 90 per cent of women were unable to answer the question of what their period products are made from. It’s not something we think of naturally, but I realised that we needed more education and awareness. Women have gravitated towards us because of it.”

Olivia Cotes-James is the founder of feminine care brand Luüna.
Ketish founder Emaan Abbass (centre) with investors Huda Kattan (right) and Mona Kattan.
Many of these brands are also pushing product innovations. In some cases, this can be something as simple as infusing tampons or products with soothing essential oils, as seen at The Honey Pot. Others are looking beyond standard sanitary towels – Euromonitor says this category will continue to drive nearly 95 per cent of the market’s growth in 2020-2025 – to experiment with other products.

These include hybrid items that address other women’s issues, such as incontinence, and reusable menstrual products such as washable cups, which are gaining traction among the more eco-conscious consumers.

When Thinx first launched its absorbent underwear in 2013, many thought it a gimmick. According to a recent report, however, sales grew by 50 per cent in 2020. Now brands such as Adidas are exploring similar options – such as period-proof activewear.

Abbass is the founder of newly launched sexual wellness brand Ketish.

“If you also look at micro trends within Asia and Greater China, there’s an increased awareness and interest to try alternatives to the traditionally adopted pad,” says Cotes-James. “That could mean anything from a tampon to less traditional offerings. For example, Covid-19 led to increased interest in the menstrual cup, as women have become more aware of conscious consumerism and the environment.”

To appeal to a growing audience, many of these brands are considering expanding their offerings beyond periods to address broader personal hygiene needs. Ketish’s first product, the Quickie, for example, is a biodegradable intimate cleansing sheet that is infused with natural ingredients. Luüna is exploring supplements and other products that help maintain gynaecological wellness.

We are definitely going to continue to see the category evolve,” says Abbass. “Something we are really excited to see is the use of technology within feminine wellness. Whether it is pelvic floor devices or pleasure devices that measure haptics, there are some amazing brands on the market that are starting to integrate the two.”

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