Beauty Store Business magazine - December, 2019

Femcare’s Beauty Makeover

Once confined to an isolated aisle toward the back of the drug store, feminine care has become a lucrative new segment of the beauty industry.

Feminine care (or femcare) goes above and beyond typical one-size-fits-all menstruation products, and includes everything from vaginal skin and hair care, to niche, organic tampons, cleansers, period tracker apps and leak- proof underwear. Femcare brand founders have turned the traditional category on its head by rejecting the notion that menstrual protection is just an obligatory inconvenience and are instead repositioning it as integral to self-care. “Consumer thinking about the category is shifting from pure hygiene to holistic health and wellness–and even social justice,” explains Jamie Rosenberg, global personal care analyst for trend-research firm Mintel.

In order to emphasize that mainstream menstruation brands lack consideration for the well-being of their female consumers, alternative or “green” companies have focused on the risk of health issues such as toxic shock syndrome (a rare but severe bacterial infection caused by tampon usage) by branding their products as healthier and more sustainable options. This messaging has paid off within the larger marketplace, and especially resonated with Procter & Gamble (P&G), the consumer products giant that earlier this year acquired “This is L.,” a brand that produces feminine hygiene products made with natural ingredients. P&G’s investment underscored that corporations are willing to bet on alternative feminine products–and for good reason. According to Allied Market Research, the feminine hygiene products market value is expected to reach $42.7 billion by 2022.

Femcare in the #MeToo Movement
The link between feminism and femcare has also gained traction, as both access to sanitary products and a positive attitude toward menstruation are considered metrics of gender equality. As lower income women and those in developing nations are often unable to afford personal hygiene products or are openly shamed while on their period, the idea that sanitary products are a woman’s right is gaining ground. This ideology bolsters femcare as part of the larger women’s equality movement, especially in the wake of #MeToo.

An Emphasis on Health
As a woman’s cycle is inarguably linked with overall health, there is significant room for overlap in the femcare category. One example is period tracking apps that rely on the concept of “cycle syncing.” Apps that cycle sync recommend key areas of user productivity based on the current phase of the menstrual cycle. “When you look at the evolution of cause-marketing in femcare, it has evolved from reducing stigma, to instilling pride, to now highlighting menstruation as an advantage,” explains Rosenberg.

Fur creates lux options for body hair care in intimate areas.
Fur creates lux options for body hair care in intimate areas.

Another important trend in femcare is “increasing emotional engagement,” says Rosenberg, who notes that personal care and skin care have been worked into the segment seamlessly. “One way of jumpstarting a sluggish, highly commoditized category like feminine care is to link to services and other categories that are considered more than just everyday essentials,” she adds. For instance, Kimberly-Clark opened Period Shop, a menstruation-focused pop-up in 2015, which offered feel-good services such as manicures and massages along with take-home products. Even more recently, organic tampon brand OneSqin has coupled sanitary protection with skincare products–a complementary pairing that seems obvious, especially as women expect their skin to change toward the end of their cycle.

Meet the Market Disrupters
Focused on softening body hair (and the skin underneath), the brand Fur aims to heighten female empowerment by creating alternative, lux options for body hair care. “Back in 2014, we were discussing exciting trends in beauty toward natural products, and defining your own beauty away from prescribed standards. As we talked, we realized available body hair products were not in line with this movement–the ingredients were harsh, the packaging was unsophisticated, and they focused only on removal–in other words, they saw hair as a problem. Fur is about
a more inclusive definition of beauty, whether you think the bush is back or skin is in. We spent the next two years developing and testing, and officially launched in 2016. Today, we’re still one of the few totally women-run and women-owned businesses in this space,” Fur founders Laura Schubert (L) and Lillian Tung (R) explain of their hair-inclusive, femcare- focused business model.

Fur products are dermatologically and gynecologically tested, and safe enough for use around the pubic area on all hair and skin types. “We like to say it works great anywhere on the body where hair meets skin,” they explain. With packaging inspired by Yves Saint Laurent bottles, the brand is unlike any of its current competitors.

“There really isn’t any product in the market that achieves quite what Fur does,” note Schubert and Tung. “Other products that cater to pubic hair are either removal-focused, or weirdly juvenile in terms of their packaging–think glitter and lots of pinks and purples,” they add. Instead, Fur is purposely elegant yet gender neutral, inviting “anyone on the spectrum with body hair and skin to try it out.” The duo is unapologetic about what their products do, never shying away from Fur’s mission. “We’re the only brand that uses the term ‘pubic,’ both in our messaging and directly on our packaging. It was important to us to fight the stigma surrounding that word, in the hopes that normalizing it would inspire more inclusivity and body positivity.”

Another much buzzed about femcare brand is THINX–the line of underwear that can effectively replace all sanitary products. The brand is constantly releasing new offerings, from undergarments in a new color, shape or different level of leak control–to totally new feminine hygiene tech. “This year, THINX released a reusable tampon applicator (re.t.a), the second major innovation in menstrual hygiene since the inception of the menstrual cup in 1937,” explains Hilary Fischer-Groban, the company’s brand director. “We think people were starting to realize that they were putting odd things in their bodies–and they want change,” she continues.

Finding Femcare at the Beauty Store
Beauty store owners eager to enter the category should introduce femcare products through complementary positioning–for instance, by placing a brand like Fur next to more familiar hair removal products. As with all new categories in beauty, the best way to get customers enthusiastic about new offerings is to become educated on the products. “We know how important it is for beauty stores to move product, so education is a critical part of the process,” say Schubert and Tung, echoing the importance of staff immersion.

When it comes to stocking nontraditional products, Fischer-Groban points out that customers are not looking for just one thing, and are often seeking alternatives to the mainstream. “It’s crucial to give the customer a variety of options,” she emphasizes. “Whether it’s sustainability, inclusivity or comfort that rank among customers’ top priorities, the most important thing is that everybody feels like their needs are being met.”

No longer perceived by millennials and Gen Z’ers as an embarrassing purchase, femcare products are more aligned with beauty than ever before. The category is linked to wellness and empowerment, and beauty store owners who get involved early have the opportunity to capture a leading position within this growing trend.