Naomi Watts is in the business of storytelling.
Best known for her acting roles in films “Mulholland Drive” and “King Kong,” the multihyphenate also cofounded clean beauty retailer Onda Beauty in 2014 and is now leveraging her expansive know-how into her next chapter: founding a menopausal beauty brand.
Launching in partnership with biotech company Amyris, Stripes debuts Oct. 18 with 11 products that range in price from $40 to $85 and will be available for purchase at Onda Beauty, as well as on Amazon and the brand’s own website, Iamstripes.com.
Having decidedly spent enough time dwelling on the “doom and gloom” of menopause, Watts looks to the future with optimism and hard-earned resolve, braced to actively build the very support system she has long sought for herself.
“Women should feel like the menopause conversation is a normal one to have,” said Watts, who is also Stripes’ chief creative officer, in an exclusive interview with Beauty Inc. “This should be the end of the shame and secrecy, and the beginning of something new and wonderful for women.”
Complete with a cooling face mist, thickening scalp serum, hydrating vaginal gel, probiotic supplements, body oils and more, Stripes seeks to provide those undergoing the various stages of menopause with myriad products geared toward the physical effects that many women endure.
It’s no small ambition — while the tides are beginning to turn, menopause and all that pertains to it have long been whispered about but never spoken of openly both in the beauty category and in mainstream public consciousness as a whole (Watts even revealed once in an Instagram caption that even the word “menopause” used to freak her out).
The prevailing stigma surrounding menopause — which roughly 25 million women endure symptoms of each year, according to a recent report by Grand View Research — means that many women navigate the life phase in solitude.
“In my forties, when my hormones started plummeting, I didn’t feel there was a support network at all,” said Watts, who is now 53. “I’d crack jokes with friends to test the waters and see if anyone else was hovering around that time, but they wouldn’t land, so I kind of just swam around it in secrecy and shame, feeling pretty awful.”
While the menopausal beauty space is still in its relative infancy, a handful of rising brands such as Womaness, Better Not Younger, SeeMe and Pause Well-Aging have launched to accelerate the conversations surrounding aging.
Also contributing to the shifting cultural weather is consumers’ own growing curiosity.
Data from Spate indicates U.S. Google searches including the word “menopause” are at a monthly volume of 1.1 million searches, a 5.2 percent year-over-year increase, while Grand View Research forecasts the menopause market will reach $23 billion by 2028.
“It can be quite alienating when you’re looking at a brand and they’re putting forward this notion that you can look so much younger,” Watts said. “It’s just not a story we want to be sold — we’ve lived through cumulative experiences, ups and downs, and I wanted to make Stripes as authentic to that and as aspirational as possible.”
Per Spate, the symptom which drives the most searches alongside “menopause” and “perimenopause” are hot flashes, garnering nearly 380,000 monthly searches in the U.S.
While they have significantly lower volumes at present, searches for symptoms like stress, cysts, hair thinning and mood swings alongside “menopause” and “perimenopause” are showing the most rapid growth.
With Stripes, Watts seeks to tackle all of the above and more.
“Stripes is driven by my personal story, but I also know it connects to many others’ stories,” Watts said. “We spend 40 to 50 percent of our lives in menopause, so let’s make it the better half of our lives — why not? We need to arm women with the education and support to do so.”
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When Watts became involved with Onda, she was struck by how little representation and space there was for aging beauty consumers. She recalled, “I’d have my hands on up to 70 to 80 different brands during that experience and was always trying new things, even those that didn’t end up on our shelves. Looking closely at all these products, it became clear to me that this demographic was underserved.”
After having previously toyed with the idea of writing a “sexy and fun” menopausal handbook, Watts’ Onda experience beckoned her to nix the idea and instead pursue yet another venture into the beauty biz. Soon enough, she was on the hunt for the right partner with whom she could forge her next frontier.
Having long known fashion designer-turned beauty founder Francisco Costa from his time as creative director at Calvin Klein, Watts consulted with him about her plans, and Costa nudged her toward Amyris, which acquired his eponymous skin and body care brand in 2021, and for whom Costa now serves as chief creative officer.
“After a few conversations with Francisco about Amyris, I’d already heard enough — I knew they were a fantastic company, and that we were in alignment,” Watts said.
One cold call later, Stripes was underway.
“The natural joining factor of Naomi, Stripes and Amyris is the fact that we’re done compromising,” said Deb Millard, president of healthy aging brands at Amyris, which is also the parent company behind Biossance skin care, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s Rose Inc. and Jonathan Van Ness’ JVN Hair.
“We’ve been compromising in the way that we’ve managed women’s health in general; we’ve been compromising in the fact that menopause is this hushed thing that people don’t talk about and we compromise in the ingredients that we put in beauty products for women,” Millard continued.
For Watts, whose wellness journey began long before menopause or even adulthood (“I was a child of the ‘70s — my mom was a hippie,” the actress said as she detailed her upbringing, which consisted of a vegetarian diet, homemade clothing and routine meditation practices), sustainability and clean ingredients were a non-negotiable — a key mutual understanding between her and Amyris.
“For us, it’s all about biotechnology,” said Millard. “Clean to us isn’t taking a leaf off a tree and saying it’s clean because it’s organic and came from a tree — that’s still disrupting nature. For us, clean means being able to replicate molecules that exist in nature through the fermentation process.”
“We’re able to create something that has a very small impact on the environment, is incredibly clean in formulation and the molecule basically mimics the thing that we’re trying to replicate almost 100 percent,” she continued.
At the core of each Stripes hair, face and vaginal product is (fermented) ectoine, a natural compound derived from certain bacterial species’ that protects cellular functioning and combats dehydrated skin, a common menopause side effect.
“The reason we wanted to tackle every category is because when you lose estrogen, you don’t just start losing it in one place and not another — it impacts your whole body, from your hair to your vagina,” Millard said.
Another of the brand’s hero ingredients is Amyris’ signature sugar cane-derived squalane, which is known for promoting cell turnover in addition to its emollient properties.
“Our combination of squalane and ectoine is patent pending, because it is so powerful in water retention,” Millard said.
“Ectoine literally operates as an irrigation system, seeking out the places where moisture is most urgently needed, and then the squalane will lock that in,” added Watts.
The Dew as I Do facial cream, which retails for $80, is infused with vitamins B, C and E and seeks to improve skin barrier function. The Cool Factor facial mist, which costs $42, harnesses edelweiss leaf extract and magnesium — which has been linked to body temperature regulation — to reduce discomfort caused by hot flashes.
“Beauty to me is an extension of wellness, and I’ve always been interested in feeling and looking my best, particularly as I’ve gotten older,” said Watts, whose ample time spent getting primped in a makeup chair before stepping in front of the camera has cultivated in her an acute awareness of all that goes on her face, and is what first sparked her understanding of the synergy between beauty and wellness.
Nine of the brand’s debut products are packaged in glass bottles (two of them being refillable), while the cooling face mist and densifying hair mask come in containers made from post-consumer recycled plastic.
Hyaluronic acid, glycogen, acai oil and Ayurvedic medicine staple, Ashwagandha, are among the other key ingredients in Stripes’ debut line, for which the products only tell half the story.
For Watts, launching Stripes is one facet of a larger desire to pass the mic.
“To be at the beginning of the [menopause] conversation is very exciting,” Watts said. “We’re trying to grow a community. There’s going to come a point where it’s not just going to be me up there; it’s important that we hear everybody’s real stories.”
In encouraging women and people of all walks enduring menopause to share their experiences, not only does Stripes aim to help make the more onerous aspects of the transition feel a little lighter, but also to emphasize that menopause and aging can — and should — be celebrated.
“I really hope people embrace [menopause] and that the conversation grows and there’s no more feeling ashamed and like, ‘What the f*ck?,’ — let’s turn it into a ‘F*ck yes,’” said Watts.
“We get to laugh, cry, laugh, cry as much as we want, and even though we’ve been told it’s an uphill battle — which I get — on the other side, you do get yourself back. And that’s when you are like, ‘OK, I get this now. Now’s the time to take charge and forge ahead.’”
Earlier this year, Amyris acquired Onda Beauty, marking the company’s first retail acquisition.
Said Millard, “Onda really matches our mission of being clean, and all of the brands it works with also lean into that messaging. We want to continue to expand the platform and bring all of the brands that [Amyris] has to life in a more physical way.”
In addition to its website, Onda has two doors — one in New York City and another in Sag Harbor — where facials, body treatments and intuitive readings are offered alongside the store’s curated selection of clean beauty products featuring brands like Osea, Nécessaire and Amazonian-inspired hair care brand, Rahua.
In partnering with Amazon for the launch of Stripes, Watts and Amyris aim to ensure the brand is accessible to all who its message may resonate with.
“Amazon is in every household. It has an incredible reach, and we want to be convenient for the consumer and meet her where she’s shopping, and not make her try and find us where she’s not,” Millard said.
Amyris did not comment on sales expectations for the launch, nor did Watts, but industry sources estimate Stripes will do $3 million in retail sales during its first year on the market.
Despite her new side hustle, Watts has no plans to step away from acting any time soon. She stars in Amazon Prime Video’s remake of the chilling 2014 Austrian film, “Goodnight Mommy,” which was released today, and will appear alongside Jennifer Coolidge and Bobby Cannavale in Netflix’s upcoming limited series, “The Watcher.”
“I still love my day job, and I still want to continue to be an actor,” Watts said. “In my industry, [menopause] is usually so unspoken about, so I of course still carry a lot of fear, but I’m hoping that people embrace this story because it really is a natural phase of life that we should all take hold of in the best, most meaningful and positive way.”
As far as the brand’s future, the feedback of its fledgling community will fuel upcoming launches and expansions, while Stripes seeks to continue to innovate in terms of developing unique and efficacious formulas and increasingly sustainable and refillable packaging.
“We want to change people’s perspective of this phase of life — literally turn it on its head and rebrand it,” Watts said.
“Women have suffered in silence for far too long, and I think it’s fair to say that we will be the last generation of that, and we can feel good about being the changemaking generation.”