Ten years ago Bodyform's viral YouTube video responded to a misguided comment from 'Richard' who had a gripe with the nature of period commercials. This year Proctor and Gamble won the 2022 Cannes Lions Sustainable Development Goals Grand Prix by raising the profile of period education in India with their campaign for The Missing Chapter. This year Boots, a large health and beauty retailer across the UK, along with Asda and other retail giants renamed their ‘FEMININE HYGIENE’ aisle to a more specific ‘PERIOD PRODUCTS’. These moves highlight the leaps in how we socially address periods.
Technologically, there are many improvements that can be made to make feminine hygiene products more hygienic and sustainable. Many of the major healthcare brands are redesigning femcare products with an eco-conscious approach, combating plastic pollution with plant-based menstrual cups and applicators for tampons. Though things are moving much faster on the biotech start-up scene within Britain.
Meet the female-founder led companies improving feminine care and feminine hygiene products....
Aside from eliminating the use of plastic in their tampon applicators and sanitary towels, Boots have also added ‘do not flush’ messaging on tampon applicators and have begun utilizing FSC pulp to make panty liners and towels.
OpenCell alumni Planera go much further, creating the world’s only certified flushable and 100% biodegradable sanitary pad. Pioneering the future of periods, they are the first period company to determine the end-of-life impact of their flushable pads on the environment.
Sustainability is a core component of Planera’s mission as an organisation as they drive change in the life cycle expectations for sourcing of materials. Other companies’ sanitary product life cycle assessments focus on the beginning of the spectrum of sourcing materials and determine <1% of their environmental impact through end-of-life. However, Planera’s founders realised that while disposable products are indeed disposed of after use, they never really go away, taking over 500 years to decompose. According to Planera, conventional plastic and most organic pads contain up to 90% plastic.
Through lab testing and expert insight, Planera created a pad for the future of periods. 74% plant-based, Planera’s pad will disintegrate in 30 days or before you even start your next cycle.
A leader in environmental advocacy, Planera is just getting started. Their goal is to work with industry leaders to enact reform surrounding plastic pollution. Pioneering a pad that’s more hygienic, better for women, and for the Earth: Now that’s responsible innovation.
OpenCell alumni BrightCure is not your mother’s urinary tract infection cure. Gone are the days of cranberry juice and cranberry supplements, or antibiotics that disrupt your body’s natural rhythm.
After her own painful experience with UTIs, CEO and founder Chiara Heide partnered with experts to create BrightCure. Together, they engineered a product to help stop UTIs and keep you proactive about your urinary tract health before you ever experience an issue.
BrightCure’s team of doctors, scientists, and experts researched the impact of good bacteria in reducing bad bacteria that cause UTIs and other issues. What they found was that the good bacteria they studied indeed eradicated the bad bacteria that can cause uncomfortable urinary issues.
Not only does their active ingredient eliminate bad bacteria, but it creates a healthy balance in your microbiome as it also promotes the growth of good bacteria in the urogenital flora. This exciting development for health serves as a natural antibiotic for users, without all the uncomfortable side effects of traditional antibiotics. According to BrightCure, their unique strain of good bacteria contains numerous benefits including:
- Non-pathogenic and non-toxic for animals and people
- Works to combat many strains of harmful bacteria, even antibiotic-resistant strains including Acinetobacter, Aeromonas, Bordetella, Burkholderia, Citrobacter, Enterobacter, Klebsiella, Listonella, Morganella, Proteus, Serratia, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio, and Yersinia
- Can destroy biofilms and support the growth of healthy bacteria.
Italian biodesigner Giulia Tomasello is breaking the mould (get it) and antiquated beauty standards that were not designed with women’s health in mind. Through science and lab testing, Giulia is embracing modern fabrics and science to create wearable probiotics for specific areas of the body that balance and support women’s health.
The Ars Electronica Starts Prize winner has reimagined the future of period care with a pad called Flora that she designed to work in symbiosis with a woman’s body to prevent common infections like candida. An alternative to harmful antibiotics and period products containing chemicals, the Flora sanitary pad is made of bacteria that raises the number of good bacteria and microbes in the human body.
By wearing the Flora pad, women can be proactive about staying healthy and supporting their own, individual delicate balance of healthy bacteria.
Giulia also partnered with Worth to completely reimagine the bra, starting with the material it’s made of. They settled on developing a solution through the creation of a new knitwear textile using state-of-the-art 3D technology. The bra is designed as one piece, a sustainable and environmentally-friendly approach that eliminates excess materials and waste.
The modern bra is rid of the uncomfortable underwire that plagues so many women and the bra itself is entirely seamless. The 3D design technology allows the bra to serve more than one function, as it offers support and breathability to wearers. From prototypes to material refinement, Giulia and Worth collaborated to design an eco-friendly bra that’s inclusive of all body types. While it is still in the development stages, women across the globe can look forward to a sustainable bra that they can feel good in and feel good about wearing.
The Future of Feminine Hygiene Is Bright
This week was World Breast Feeding Week which brings us to the next female-founder.
Dr Trillitye Paullin from Free to Feed learnt things the hard way. Her newborn was breaking out in rashes and there was constantly blood in the stool. She tried again and again for advice but the doctors said it would pass. The baby would grow out of it. When her second child suffered the same fate she nearly broke.
It a twist of fate, she was serendipitously working in a cows milk testing facility - "What would happen if I squirted a little bit of my own breast milk on this" She said.
Thus Free to Feed was born and Dr. Trill has been helping parents navigate food allergies ever since. With over 35k followers on her Instagram, she is engaging the conversation of baby allergies by combining her PHd in Cellular Biology with a relatable brand of comedy. She also weaves in her story as a Veteran serving 3 years with the Tampa Platoon and being a sexual abuse survivor.
Her first major product developed through the IndieBio New York program is a breast test strip designed to identify various food proteins in human milk so parents can determine what is eliciting a response in their child. On her webstore you can find Post-Natal Multivitamins and boob paraphernalia.
Though her biggest product is advice. Something which she struggled to get for years.
Her Diaper Decipher was built to help parents understand symptoms and treat conditions based on the colour and shape of their baby poo. She has created a super simple quiz to determine if you child is experiencing food allergies. And Dr. Trill now leads a team of personal breast-feeding consultants in various languages to ensure this information spreads globally.
You can see why her fans call her a super mum!
A new period
While technology and industry continue to evolve at a breakneck pace, sustainability has not been top of mind. Emerging companies and sustainable thinkers like Planera, BrightCure, and Giulia Tomasello that are focused on providing quality products for all that don’t destroy the planet represent positive growth in the future of femcare.
The fact all three of these companies are female founder-led highlights how far the role of women in the world has changed over the last century. As women around the world continue to break barriers and defy odds, they should not have to worry about whether their feminine care products can keep up. The moms, daughters, sisters, wives, and friends in our lives deserve quality femcare products that they can feel good about using.