The event, sponsored by plus One, Summer’s Eve, and Rosebud Woman, addressed a subject that continues to be discussed more openly as empowered women have shifted the conversation surrounding intimate personal care, broken down barriers, and changed the language surrounding personal beauty. No longer relegated to the back aisles of drugstores, where lackluster packaging and outdated messaging constrained the reach of “feminine products,” these new personal beauty products are re-aligned to expand the reach of skin care regimens, offer upbeat packaging, positively complement the total wellness approach and remove stigma.
Melissa Hago, VP-creative/beauty for Fashion Snoops presented an overview of the market; which was followed by a panel discussion featuring industry experts Ying Chu, editor-in-chief of Violet Grey; Sunday Riley, founder and CEO of Sunday Riley; Laura Schubert, co-founder of Fur; and Avonda Urben, founder and CEO of The Perfect V, in a conversation moderated by Jenny Fine, executive beauty editor, WWD.
Relevance and Timeliness
In her opening market analysis, Melissa Hago, who launched the Beauty section of Fashion Snoops in 2011, after seeing a need for specific beauty and wellness, and food-focused trend forecasting, said the topic of whole body care is particularly relevant today. She cited Violet Grey as an example of a company that curates products according to women’s needs, based on anatomy, hormones, and all transitions in a woman’s life. This, said Hago, is part of the education component so integral to the products being marketed today.
In addition, she cited the influence of holistic beauty, noting that there is skin care designed for the face as well as the vagina, including product offerings from Rosebud Woman, an intimate skin care brand which offers a balm called Honor, to combat dryness, which can also be used for pre-natal massage; Refresh, cleansing spray; Soothe calming cream to relieve redness and swelling; and Arouse serum for lubrication and increased blood flow. The products contain such ingredients as comfrey, witch hazel, jasmine, licorice root and sugar beet.
Hago also cited Knours Skincare, which features customized skin care for the face, based on women’s menstrual cycles, as well as a pH-friendly bar soap safe to use on one’s “nether regions.” Another example is Fur Body Care, which offers Fur Oil, designed for pubic hair and skin, with a blend of lightweight oils to soften hair and clear the pores for fewer ingrown hairs and healthier skin.
Nutricosmetics also play a role in today’s holistic approach to wellness, said Hago, citing Sex Tea to enhance libido and improve circulation; and cannabis-infused salves for feminine care, including Cheeky Well Massage Oil. She went on to include such influences as technology, toys, owning one’s fertility, messaging designed for men’s interests, like Goop’s podcast, The Goop Fellas, menopausal influences, and websites that keep the conversation rich.
The Beauty Equation
ModeratorJenny Fine, opened the discussion with a look at the beauty side of the equation. Ying Chu, Editor-in-Chief, of Violet Grey, who oversees content and product curation at Violet Grey, spoke to the growth of the sexual wellness category in the past two years, noting that the conversation has transitioned and the options have evolved; while Sunday Riley, founder and CEO, Sunday Riley, a skin care company with high-tech formulas and targeted treatment products, discussed the success of their self-love box, a curated assortment of skin care products and vibrator; as well as the company’s acne cleansing line, which was also used for ingrown hairs.
Fine noted that Laura Schubert, founder and CEO, Fur, and Avonda Urben, founder and CEO, The Perfect V, have been instrumental in making this a beauty category. VV Cream, by The Perfect V, said Urben, is a reflection of the Nordic lifestyle, cuisine, and closeness to nature that impacted her when she lived in Denmark.
“I was struck by the wonderful, cool confidence the Nordic women had and started looking at the feminine category,” she said, noting that she became aware of the absence of beauty in the equation and wanted to change that.
“Rather than looking at ingrown hairs, I looked at the beauty of the V, which is the core of the message. We have cleansing, exfoliating, and other skin care products that look like skin care for the face, but they are designed for the beauty down there, like the VV Cream. I wasn’t trying to be cute with the name. It is the mons pubic, according to my gynecologist, and it’s the delicate skin in the area that we are addressing; to have confidence in that area. We offer the wash, the mist, and we have Scandinavian ingredients in the products, great formulas, and a global brand,” Urben said. She added, “We launched in Europe and Hong Kong, and they bought into it right away, particularly the serum.”
Laura Schubert, founder and CEO, Fur, described her six-product line, which includes Fur Oil, to gently soften and clear pores, with grapeseed, jojoba, and anti-bacterial clary sage oil; Stubble Cream, for hydrating and regrowth refining, with olive extracts and Tea Tree Oil; Silk Scrub, for gentle exfoliating, with jojoba beads and papaya enzymes; and Ingrown Concentrate, with coconut oil to soften and regenerative Tamanu Oil.
“We launched in 2016 and publications said they wouldn’t write about Fur, but they all have written about it! There’s a clear category for hair and skin care there now,” she said.
“This is a tipping point. It’s global, it’s not just happening in the US,” said Urben, noting that the phenomenon is extending to the ways in which products are being merchandised, compared to how they were presented in the past. “The way most merchants market feminine care is embarrassing,” she said. Packaging, presentation and perception are all changing this today.
Ying Chu, Violet Grey, spoke about the company’s committee of 115 who vet their products. “We launched a sexual wellness edit at Violet Grey and we saw at once that the response to the category was incredible. We knew when we were a tiny little store on Melrose Avenue in LA, that interest was growing,” she said. When asked by Fine, “Does your vagina need a beauty regimen,” Chu replied that the products they offer are seriously in demand. “We are not using euphemisms. People are really hungry for these products,” she said.
Sunday Riley referred to their online website articles, which they call, The Sunday Edit. This part of the website offers features on popular culture, vitamin C products, vibrators and more.
“It’s the same person reading all of this. It’s more than a sexuality standpoint,” she said.
Urben noted that The Perfect V, addresses wellness and focuses on women’s regimens and the V. “Our brands are in the spa world. I have trained 400 aestheticians who said that the V service elevates the whole experience. There is a V bikini service and V Brazilian,” she said. “It really is about the language. Marketing to ‘no more ingrowns’ is not useful anymore. Women are responding to positive messages about skin care,” said Urben.
Schubert, of Fur, said that it’s important to have the right ingredients and packaging. “Actually, it’s great that it’s a polarizing topic. Not everyone wants to talk about ingrown hairs in the pubic area. But it actually opens the conversation,” she said. Riley agreed, “It’s destigmatizing the conversation.” Urben noted that she is getting a great response from older women, while Sunday Riley said that the 25-31-year-old demographic is the predominant client of Sunday Riley, however, “The interest is across the board,” she said.
Fine questioned the panel about potential expansion. “Beauty care for the V has been a great success for The Perfect V,” said Urben, who referred to the area of care as “the womanhood area.” She noted the positive response she is getting from women who receive the treatments at luxury spas; while Ying Chu said, “The category is really on fire for us.” Schubert of Fur, said their company was expanding as well, as did Urben, who noted, “We’re growing too and we’re looking for ideas from you.”
The discussion concluded with a Q & A that touched on innovative formulations that keep the skin pH in balance, dermatology professionals, regulatory issues, and customized formulations for women. Beauty, feminine care, and self-care, are meeting at an important intersection for women today and issues once confined to whispers, are being addressed authentically. These conversations are the market for products in online, mass and upscale retail channels, that offer treatment products for such issues as itching, redness, skin dryness and sensitivity; as well as beautification and aesthetics. As the dialogue continues to expand, women’s personal beauty and self-care will play a more significant role in the market.