Beauty products often exist to hide, heal or erase blemishes. But there are some conditions — from thigh chafing to body acne to yeast infections — that many top brands have long overlooked.
“We used to buy these things at Target or CVS and they were ugly, but that didn’t matter,” said Beauty Independent editor Claire McCormack, noting that products that daily necessities like hair removal items and even menstruation tools – mainly used by women – were either dominated by big, unsexy brands or completely ignored. “Now we want things on display that are beautiful,” she added.
But that is changing. In recent years, a new category that sits at the intersection of beauty and personal care has emerged to address concerns rarely addressed in the past. Megababe tackles chafing thighs and sweaty cleavage. Fur does a pubic hair grooming ritual with hair oil and ingrown hair serum, packaged in sleek round bottles. There’s also Truly Beauty, a favorite TikTok skincare brand that makes items formulated for butt and breast skin. And also Love Wellness, which sells supplements and vitamins for everything from preventing UTIs to restoring the pH balance of a user’s vagina.
By selling direct to consumer and improving packaging to be more accessible and appealing, these labels are trying to turn once-taboo products into items worthy of front-row display in a medicine cabinet. The hope is that by labeling them as beauty products instead of consumer packaged goods, they will benefit from the deeper and lasting relationships that beauty companies often develop with shoppers, not to mention the cool factor that the category carries. compared to other consumer packaged goods. .
“Beauty as a category has always been able to connect so strongly with consumers,” said Cristina Nunez, Partner at True Beauty Ventures. “It can be anything from branding to imagery to digital marketing strategies, all of which can be applied to these other categories to create the same connection to the consumer that beauty is capable of. TO DO.”
Identify white space
While founders tackling these less explored categories may have been initially motivated by the need for better products without shame, these reasons for existing have also made it harder to gain attention.
“When we talked about what our brand was doing, challenging the taboo around pubic hair, we got the most polarized response,” said Lillian Tung, co-founder of pubic hair grooming brand Fur. “People either thought it was a brilliant idea or they thought it was gross. There was no middle ground.”
This extended to attracting press attention, said Megababe founder Katie Sturino, who added that posts were often a bit confused by the brand’s premise, which started with a product that addressed the thigh chafing – or the red irritation that can occur between a person’s thighs if they rub directly against each other – and has since spread to the making of “The Tush Butt Mask”, for l back acne, “Bust Dust”, an “anti-boob-sweat” spray and “Happy Pits”, an underarm mask.
“People didn’t really know how to approach a beauty brand that was willing to talk about things no one was talking about,” Sturino said.
Nancy Jarecki, founder of Betty, which makes hair dye for pubic hair, said the desire to make her product acceptable to the press was what motivated her to classify it as a “beauty” product rather than a category “personal care”.
“I thought if I created it and branded it as a beauty product, it would slip through the hands of beauty editors and it would get into these glosses,” she said. “And my intuition was right.”
But social media has helped remove some of the stigma around these categories. While Instagram may have focused on outward appearance, it’s also played a role in the rise of the body positivity movement.
“This category has the empowerment aspect of talking about this thing that you shouldn’t be ashamed of that still falls under body positivity,” McCormack said. “All of this has really helped fuel the growth this category has seen.”
Demand has prompted mainstream retailers like Target and Ulta Beauty to sell brands like Megababe and Maelys, which make products like a “booty” mask and a “breast” mask. Megababe, for example, entered Ulta Beauty stores less than a year after launching in 2017. It was also out of necessity: the brand didn’t – and still hasn’t – sought funding, and entering in retail gave him quicker access to a wider consumer base. It’s been profitable from the start, Sturino said.
Smaller chains and boutiques have also provided an opening in brick-and-mortar, a boon for self-funded fur, said co-founder Laura Schubert. “We really needed to put some money out the door,” she said. “We couldn’t wait three years for Ulta Beauty to take us.”
For example, the buy-in from Jessica Richards — founder of influential Brooklyn-based beauty retailer Shen, who often touts the brands she buys for the store on her social media — created a halo effect.
In physical retail, brands can also determine which product category they fit best into. Love Wellness founder Lauren Bosworth said that at Target stores, the brand is housed in the natural beauty aisle instead of the vitamin aisle, as one might expect.
“The natural beauty aisle at Target is a place you want to hang out, that you’re not embarrassed to be, compared to the tampon aisle, you run, you grab what you need and you miss it,” she said. . “You are ready to linger, buy a product and experience it.”
There has been investor interest in the category – Love Wellness raised a Series A round of $4 million in 2019 and an additional round this year. But others, like Megababe and Fur, have remained self-funded despite investor interest. The Honey Pot Company, which makes menstrual and feminine care products, raised venture capital but also used other methods, such as a crowdfunding campaign on Indie GoGo, to fund its tampon launch in 2017 .
Wedging with packaging
Historically, products that existed in this category were presented in utilitarian or even embarrassing packaging – the kind of item you hide in your shopping cart at the store and then in the back of your closet at home. Now design and packaging play a major role in helping them stand out.
Megababe, for example, uses colors such as bright neons and soft pastel hues decorated with cute illustrations – its product “The Tush”, which treats buttock acne, features a drawing of a corgi’s back. Cheeky product names are also frequently deployed: Megababe’s anti-thigh chafing product is called “Thigh Rescue”, while Love Wellness’ “The Killer” product is intended to help prevent yeast infections.
“There’s an acceptance and recognition when you use bright colors,” said Laura of vintage goods maker The Honey Pot Company. “We don’t try to hide that as we’ve all grown up.”
Other brands have taken a more upscale approach, such as Fur, which sells products like its embodied concentrate in sleek round bottles with sleek black and white branding.
“For people to take seriously the fact that we’re like a real beauty brand, it has to be something that someone feels proud of, that they know it was well designed, that it’s its appearance, the ingredient or the claims we’re making about efficacy.
Nunez said that as innovation in the space grows and captures more consumer attention, conglomerates will also start paying attention, incorporating similar products into their own assortments and acquiring those brands.
However, there are still doubters: Tung said that last year, when Fur launched a poster campaign with savage messages from women with pubic hair, the reaction was not entirely positive.
“People would stop on the street, pick up art supplies and come back to cover it, or like graffiti with the word ‘shave’ over it, and it was in New York’s West Village,” said she declared. “It’s clearly still shocking to so many people and there’s still a long way to go.”
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