Sexual wellness is the latest self-care category to heat up. Intertwined with macro trends such as holistic wellness and well-aging, inclusiveness, clean formulations, indie startup culture, on-trend ingredients, and more, this once-taboo sector is perfectly aligned with where today’s beauty and personal care consumer is trending.
This boom in shame-free innovation is creating opportunities for legacy and direct-to-consumer startup brands alike, encompassing disparate sectors such as personal lubricants and soothing/mood-setting topical products, period care and cycle-responsive products, post-menopausal care, hygiene/cleansing, toys/accessories, supplements, apps, and much more.
The financial rewards are significant. The sexual wellness market is forecast to generate revenues of $39 billion by 2024, representing an annual growth of more than 7%, according to research from Ariztona. Meanwhile, Research and Marketsb is predicting nearly identical growth rates for feminine hygiene, with values totaling $52 billion by 2023. These two reports only capture a fraction of the full span of sexual wellness.
Let’s Talk about Sex
You can’t tackle sexual wellness without talking about sex. A range of brands spanning the fuzzy line between personal care and wellness have taken a new approach to the category, reinventing everything from sexual aids/devices to lubricants and mood-setting topicals.
While much of this activity is focused on women, many brands, including Quim and Dame, have largely removed gender from the equation by creating products aimed at pleasure without relying on gender norms or reference. To illustrate, startup disruptor Dame has designed its sexual devices to work ergonomically with the body, rather than to resemble any specific genitalia—a departure from many conventional devices.
Brands focused on enhancing intimacy include Foria, which has developed a spray comprising liquid coconut oil and pharmaceutical-grade cannabis oil. The product, which contains THC and is manufactured in California and sold in California and Colorado, proudly touts its solvent-free processing and quality control measures. The product is sprayed four to eight times on and in the labia and vagina, respectively, to “enhance tactile sensations while decreasing tension, discomfort and dryness,” per the brand.
Quim, a cannabis wellness company (see “Invitation: Sexual Wellness Live Panel” on Page 35), has introduced its Smooth Operator Intimate Serum (retailing for $48.00), a CBD lubricant formulated to boost blood flow, relax the pelvis, and “decrease inflammation and pain associated with sexual intercourse,” according to the brand. The formulation comprises aloe vera and 100 mg of full-spectrum CBD. The serum can be used by new mothers, menopausal women (see “Sexual Wellness for Well-aging”), sufferers of PTSD and sexual trauma, and hormone replacement therapy patients. Quim notes that Smooth Operator is latex-condom-safe and can be used with menstrual cups and tampons to alleviate menstrual cramps.
“Quim has consistently taken a proactive approach to vaginal health and pleasure, and we hope our latest product empowers all individuals with vaginas, regardless of gender identity, to prioritize their sexual self-care without shame or stigma,” said Cyo Ray Nystrom, CEO and co-founder of Quim. “Smooth Operator’s accessible natural formula is suitable for customers looking for a product that is both soothing and sexy to facilitate enhanced sexual experiences.”
Quim’s range also includes the Happy Clam Everyday Oil, Night Moves Intimate Oil and Oh Yes! Latex Safe Serum.
Global Cosmetic Industry recently spoke with Bianca Cheah, co-founder and CCO of They Call Her Alfie, which has launched two versions of its Love Gel, including the standard formulation and the CBD-infused Alfie x Hemple Love Gel (featuring 200 mg of CBD isolate). The lightweight gel lubricant is designed to heighten and sensitize the sexual experience, according to the brand, which claims, “Clinical studies have shown an 83% increase in average blood flow 15 minutes after application.”
Cheah notes, “The core technology behind [the product] is a proprietary transdermal formula. This delivery tech has been put through rigorous clinical testing and, on average, delivers 4x of the keys actives 2x faster, which are retained 3x longer (in broad terms). The Love Gel formula, when coupled with the technology, delivered some surprisingly great results.”
She adds that today is the right time to explore the sexual wellness market: “Nowadays—post non-identification of gender of sexuality—the sexual wellness movement has become more mainstream. This has made it easier for brands to invest in and develop and bring exciting products to market. This broadening of the wellness category to include sexual health was always going to be a natural progression that is seemingly being welcomed with open arms.”
As for the broader trends impacting the sexual wellness sector, Cheah says, “Alfie as a brand has always aspired to be a self-care brand that embraces natural ingredients, cruelty-free, environmentally conscious products that are [also] driven by efficacy … We think that transparency is key in all spaces, not just sexual wellness. We are creating products that people in some case rely on, so having our customers understand all of the elements of the product from key active ingredients through to packaging is important.”
As for what’s next for the brand in the wellness sphere, Cheah explains, “Our team has created a sleep product that we are very excited about (not your usual melatonin product). The product is still in the testing phase … [W]e expect the launch to be Q2 2020. Outside of that we are also exploring a JV in China, which is earmarked for Q3 2020 if all goes to plan.”
Sexual Wellness for Well-aging
Between 1.3 million and 2.0 million U.S. women enter menopause every year (as many as 6,000 individuals per day), with onset spanning from age 40 to the more common early 50s. About 1% of women may enter menopause earlier than age 40 due to suspected sex chromosome abnormalitiesc,d.
These women are often overlooked by brands. HongJoo Sun, CEO of Kindra, noted, “Half the people on the planet experience menopause, yet even in our age of oversharing, it, unfortunately, remains a taboo topic with a limited range of products, resources and emotional support available to women experiencing this journey.”
With such a large and under-served group of women, many brands have sprung up to improve overall well-being as individuals age. The messaging in this sector is generally less concerned with masking the natural signs of aging than it is focused on enhancing quality of life.
For instance, Joylux, a femtech firm that previously launched the vFit red-light intimate device, which reportedly boosts sexual function and sensation, promotes natural hydration, and strengthens women’s pelvic floor as they age.
Now, the company offers a Her Intimate Care, a “line with midlife women in mind.” The range, developed by OB-GYN Dr. Sarah de la Torre, was designed to address the more than 50% of women who experience virginal dryness and the 65% who reportedly decline sex due to malodor concerns. Products include cleansHER, comprising Aloe barbadensis leaf extract, mandarin orange blossom oil and arginine; revitalizHER, a hydrating serum comprising coconut oil, beeswax and vitamin E; and refresHER, a cleansing spray featuring aloe and witch hazel leaf extract.
Meanwhile, P&G Ventures and venture engine M13 have partnered to launch Kindra, a brand of estrogen-free products for menopausal women. Products include The Daily Vaginal Lotion & Applicator, as well as The Core Dietary Supplement, Energy Boosting Dietary Supplement, and Sleep Enhancing Dietary Supplement.
Similarly, Pause Well-Aging is built around the challenges of menopausal women, offering products such as the Hot Flash Cooling Mist, featuring antioxidant Eclipta prostrata extract (false daisy), redness-reducing Ocimum sanctum (holy basil) leaf extract, and cooling menthol derivative menthone glycerin acetal; and Collagen Boosting Moisturizer with glycolic acid from sugarcane, Cocos nucifera (coconut) extract for hydration and skin conditioning, and Persea gratissima (avocado) oil for moisturization.
As older members of Gen X (beginning with 1960 birth year) approach or cross the menopausal threshold, brands should expect to see a continued evolution in expectations, further redefining attitudes and needs.
For the full article, check out Global Cosmetic Industry's January digital magazine.
cAnne Loehr, “How Menopause Silently Affects 27 Million Women At Work Every Day,” www.fastcompany.com/3056703/how-menopause-silently-affects-27-million-women-at-work-every-day; Kimberly Peacock and Kari M. Ketvertis, “Menopause,” www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507826/
dIt is worth noting that brands aimed at addressing women’s needs as they age span every category. For example, Better Not Younger, focuses on delivering a range of products, including hair-fortifying supplements, hair masks, scalp serums and shampoos to women age 45 and older.