Modern menopause: The brands offering a fresh take on what it means to age
Meet the brands that want to change the conversation when it comes to the way women experience aging.
Natalie Waltz has no problem remembering the first time she had a “sex talk” with her mom – after all, it happened less than a year ago. She was working at Los Angeles investment firm the Chernin Group, when a friend told her some rumours she’d heard about the menopause. “She threw some crazy facts at me about how many women experience vaginal dryness and atrophy,” Natalie says. “So I did what anybody would do. I texted my mom.”
After exchanging a few laughing emojis, Natalie and her mom eventually had a sobering conversation about the reality of the menopause, with her mom explaining the symptoms she was experiencing. “She admitted it was not just deeply physical, but it was deeply emotional,” Natalie explains. “I had no idea what she was going through.”
This conversation led Natalie to launch Tabu – a sexual wellness brand aimed at women who are experiencing the menopause. Launched in October, the company sells a $135 “kit” which comes complete with a lubricant and a massager, and a guide to how penetrative masturbation can help treat and prevent the symptoms that follow the menopause. A sex toy aimed at older women: it’s a simple, but powerful proposition.
Tabu is one of a number of companies that wants to change the way the menopause and women’s health needs as they age in general are perceived. While it has set its sights squarely on the sexual wellness market, other brands are thinking about the clothes that women wear (Fifty One Apparel), the beauty products they are using (State Of, Pause Well-Aging) and the supplements they are taking (Kindra). Others, such as Alva, Rory and Caria are creating services and apps where women can learn more about the perimenopause and menopause, access prescriptions or track their symptoms.
With a vibe that’s far more Glossier than it is TENA Women, these brands are each finding ways to normalise the process of ageing by reframing it as a new chapter in life, rather than the tailing off of one’s femininity. The market they are tapping into is potentially huge: according to SNWS Digital, women over 45 account for almost 60% of spending in the UK beauty market, while non-profit organisation AARP estimates that women over 50 in the US spend $22bn a year on beauty products.
But despite the compelling numbers, the menopause is an area that, like other still-taboo women’s health topics, has struggled to find mainstream appeal. It’s an experience that all women go through in their life, points out Ariel Wengroff, the co-founder of community brand builder Arfa. “But when you think about the product offering for these people, there’s not much to help you actually manage your experience.” In August, Arfa launched its second brand – State Of – which sells a range of topical beauty products that soothe, cool and provide pain relief, tailored to women experiencing the menopause.
Mia Abbruzzese, meanwhile, says she remembers seeing her 89-year-old mother – who she says lived an otherwise “curated life, shopping at Saks, Whole Foods, that type of thing” – stuffing a pair of ugly incontinence briefs into a plastic bag for an overnight trip. “[I thought] this is a super degrading experience for someone who is so discerning in every other aspect of their life,” she says. The moment gave her the inspiration to launch Attn: Grace, a brand that sells sustainable products for bladder leakage. While it doesn’t specifically target menopausal women, bladder weakness is a common symptom of menopause.
The menopause is a complicated and under discussed topic, leaving many women not knowing what to expect and unsure of which symptoms – beyond the obvious hot flushes – relate to this hormonal change. While the average age a woman receives a menopause diagnosis from a doctor (determined by 12 consecutive months without a period) is 51, the period leading up to the menopausal transition, known as the perimenopause, can take as long as a decade. A survey in Ireland found that 37% of women have never discussed their experience of the menopause with anyone, while just 40% have approached a healthcare professional about it.
When Annie Coleridge was working at UK health tracking company Thriva, she launched a blood testing product for perimenopausal and menopausal women. “That was my first exposure talking to women about their menopause in depth, and what I found was shocking,” she says. “[Many] couldn’t answer basic questions like ‘are you before or after your menopause?’.” Realising there was a serious educational gap, Annie went on to launch Alva, a platform that helps women to determine if their symptoms are a result of the menopause, in January.
During Menopause Awareness Month in October, State Of partnered with Elektra Health, a menopause education platform, creating a space to provide education, but also for women to share their own experiences with the menopause. Ariel says the partnership allowed Elektra to showcase its health and medical expertise, while State Of could leverage the sense of community that surrounds its brand, ensuring a broad range of voices and experiences could be shared.
“There’s a lot of misconceptions about when menopause starts and how it affects your life. The reality is, most women over the age of 45 are really forgotten, but they have a huge spending power, and they care about more things than anti aging,” Ariel says. “For that to be recognised is just a reflection of so many of the other issues that women have had to fight for over these last generations.”
7 companies that are rebranding the menopause
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