Now that talking openly about menstruation is no longer taboo, skin-care lines formulated for monthly hormonal shifts are muscling into the $9.2 billion category. Three brands — all geared toward changes caused by hormonal fluctuations — are launching this quarter alone. These upstarts join menstrual underwear, feminine wipes and vaginal moisturizing gels as products changing the conversation about feminine products and opening up new sales opportunities.
Since the products cut across several categories from soaps pH-balanced for the vaginal area to premium moisturizing creams, industry consultant Allan Mottus believes the subcategory could exceed $350 million within two years. Mintel’s Sarah Jindal, senior global innovation and insights analyst, Beauty and Personal Care agreed there is huge potential in customizable, personalized regimens appealing to consumers that recognize changes in their skin throughout the course of the month.
There is science behind tweaking skin-care formulations for hormonal shifts tied to menstruation, pregnancy and lactation. Dr. Laurie Steelsmith, medical director of Steelsmith Natural Health Center in Honolulu and an expert in hormonal balance, said that during the average 28-day cycle, a woman’s skin undergoes changes such as being dry and dullish during her periods to breakouts associated with the luteal phase, which commences after ovulation. Dr. Anthony Rossi, a New York board-certified dermatologist explained the premenstrual breakouts can be partly blamed on higher levels of progesterone prior to the onset of menstruation and the level of testosterone present.
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Acne, in particular, is a major issue exacerbated by the fact that conventional remedies aren’t geared toward adults. “Contrary to popular belief, it is actually more common in adults than teens,” said Charlotte Cho, cofounder of Soko Glam and a licensed aesthetician, in regard to cystic and hormonal acne. Citing statistics from the American Academy of Dermatology, she noted that 50 percent of women ages 20 to 40 are dealing with adult acne. “With more adults now dealing with hormonal acne, products have been developed to address the issue,” she said.
In fact, the market numbers overall are large. Women today have an estimated 450 periods during their lifetime. There are more than 4.4 women globally of menstruation age, according to U.S. Census data. Add to that the number of pregnant or lactating females and the number of potential customers is sizable. The period and pregnancy specific lines also can be used in tandem with existing skin-care regimens suggesting incremental sales. “Hormonal skin care affects the majority of the population,” said Jeana Chung, vice president of marketing at Knours, a brand launching in late February with natural ingredients targeted to hormonal skin.
Knours will be sold on its own web site, Knours.net, as well as nordstrom.com and select Nordstrom doors. Other players in the category with formulations for menstruating, pregnant and menopausal women including Amareta, VenEffect, Belli Beauty and Hatch Mama.
The confluence of three major trends is pushing hormonal brands to the front burner — first, the increasing interest in natural skin care; secondly, the boom in Korean skin care, and finally, the growth of the wellness and self-care category.
Cho, for example, has a list of ingredients that are no-no’s for period skin such as silicones, fragrances, isopropyl isostearate, isopropyl myristate and sulfates, and most of the nascent skin-care brands are as natural as possible, especially free of hormone-disrupting chemicals. The natural positioning only amplifies the category’s potential, according to Jordan Rost, vice president of consumer insights at Nielsen who said products with natural claims represent 3.1 percent of the U.S. personal-care market, generating $1.3 billion in annual volume.
In terms of the influence of Korean skin care, Chung explained that South Korean women are particularly mindful of the impact that both food and topical products have on the reproductive system. She said sought-after ingredients include mugwart, Korean angelica, calendula and artisanal vinegar.
To that end, Knours eight-piece lineup, includes a Skin Meditation Gel Cream, a Double Daily Mist and a Sweet Enough Rescue Mask, include ingredients such as peppermint essential oil, botanical squalane extracts and pure palm oil. Prices range from $6 to $48; industry sources expect the brand to hit at least $2 million in first-year sales. Knours did not comment on projections.
Knours has a secret weapon. The brand is layering in technology to hit a sweet spot with a tech-savvy (read Millennial) audience, with an app that will serve as a period tracker and generate personalized skin-care regimens using an algorithm tailored to users’ cycles (gleaned from a questionnaire). Using the app, women can be prepared for period-related breakouts and tailor their skin-care routines accordingly. There’s also a portal to chat with others to help break down the barriers about talking about periods. “Everything [Millennials] do is on their mobile phones,” Chung said. “We want to normalize the conversation about your period and have a place to discuss it.” The app suggests specific products during the cycle. Mintel’s Jindal added the apps and web tools are efficiently in helping consumers choose the right products quickly and easily based on monthly skin condition swings.
Creating a conversation around menstruation didn’t really exist when Claire Zhao got her period at age 15 and was so terrified she cried because no one really talked about periods. Now Zhao and her business partner Jennifer White are the ones starting conversations about menstruation. Last year, the duo, who both had experience in holistic wellness and clean beauty, launched Amareta, a hormonal-based skin-care line. At first, they focused on creating luxury skin care tailored for prenatal, pregnancy and breastfeeding needs, but they quickly noticed a larger market for those with skin issues associated with day-to-day hormonal shifts. “We decided to expand the idea and deliver the products that speak to a general audience,” Zhao said.
Amareta’s lineup is infused with plant extracts and oils free of hormone-disrupting chemicals and any synthetic preservatives or fragrances. There are two collections, one targeted at the acne-prone luteal stage, another for dull skin typically observed during periods. Sold online, the prices range from $50 to $55, and the company sees potential to link up with yoga studios, spas and specialty beauty retailers. Industry sources believe it could ring sales of $10 million within the year. Next up are products with ingredients designed to deliver results for post-menopausal women, too.
Some of the brands are hyper-focused but resonate with all women. A case in point is Belli Beauty, created in 2001 for pregnant women, but now broadening the reach. “Sales are surging now as more people care about natural ingredients. At Belli, our sales have increased within the last year by 15 percent, as women seek a more safe and effective solution for pregnancy and beyond in their skin care,” said Bryan Williams, vice president of operations. “We are also making the entire line vegan as of March 1 in order to meet the needs of the modern woman.” Ulta.com and baby specialty stores stock Belli.
Another brand aimed at the pregnancy market, Hatch Mama, debuted last month after Ariane Goldman had people asking for a beauty line at her Hatch apparel trunk shows. The result is a collection of all-natural, nontoxic beauty items for the same audience. The lineup includes everything from a belly sheet masks to minimize stretch marks to a ginger anti-nausea roller ball. Prices range from $12 to $68. “There’s been no central resource for the lotions and potions needed during pregnancy that are safe, effective and look good on your vanity,” said Goldman of the assortment sold on hatchcollection.com and her Manhattan brick-and-mortar store. Hatch Mama counts several celebrities including Jessica Alba, Carey Mulligan and Brooklyn Decker as its customers.