Interview: Extending The Clean Living Movement To Women’s Sexual Health
Meika Hollender, founder of Sustain Natural, describes how her company followed health and wellness trends to identify gaps in women's intimate care
Living a clean and sustainable lifestyle is an all-encompassing task, involving not only the foods we consume and the products we apply, but also a sometimes overlooked area: intimate and sexual care.
As part of a podcast on clean beauty, PSFK founder and editor-in-chief Piers Fawkes interviewed Meika Hollender, co-founder and CEO of Sustain, a brand producing natural, non-toxic intimate care products for women. In this extract from their conversation, Hollender explains how women’s sexual care has often been left out of the healthy living discussion, and how her company provides women with with safe and sustainable products.
Piers: What trends did you respond to when you decided to set up your business?
Meika: When we were starting to build the business plan for Sustain, there were two things going on. First, our family had been in the natural products business for 30 years, and there was this growing demand for natural cleaning products, skincare and food. We were focused on developing condoms at the time that this consumer awareness and demand was growing, and noticed that people were not yet thinking about the ingredients and products—like tampons, condoms, etc.—going inside one of the most intimate, absorbent parts of women’s bodies.
What we found really powerful was just explaining that and starting the conversation around, “Wow. If you’re thinking about what you’re eating, what you’re putting on your skin and how you’re cleaning your home, why aren’t you thinking about what’s going on inside of your vagina?” That’s been a very compelling message for our brand, and what has really gotten our customers to start thinking about why you should be using natural sexual wellness products.
The other trend was that 40% of condoms are purchased by women without being marketed to them. These products had never been developed specifically with women in mind. There was a huge white space in the condom category to create a brand for women.
Would you say your message is more about sustainability or wellness?
It’s about taking control of your sexual and reproductive health. It’s definitely more of a health and wellness message. However, in this day and age, I think you can’t deliver a wellness message without a sustainability message—that’s counterintuitive.
We are increasingly aware of all the pollutants and harmful stuff that can affect our biology.
Listen, your vagina’s one of the most absorbent parts of your body. Bedding is important. Even skincare is important, because it involves a porous part of your body. Yet neither is actually going inside your body where everything will get absorbed and go straight into your bloodstream. This larger movement happening around wellness and sustainability is critical to our success, but I think what’s really powerful is starting with the inside out. When you explain that to consumers, it becomes a no-brainer.
Tell me more about the company itself and the products you sell.
We started as a condom company and expanded into organic lubricants and post-play wipes. In 2017 we launched organic cotton tampons, pads and liners.
The real focus behind the business is being women’s first sexual wellness product company. Then the differentiating point of the products is the natural ingredients.
Where do you go from here?
There’s so much unchartered territory and so much opportunity for us. I think we have this really powerful relationship with our customers now. We’re really a partner with them throughout different points of their sexual and reproductive health journey over their lifetime. Currently, we are addressing vaginal dryness for women over 70 and also addressing millennials who want to buy products online and want a natural tampon brand.
I think from there, whether it concerns pregnancy, post-pregnancy or menopause, we want to focus on how we can continue to be a partner at every point of that journey and provide accurate sex-positive information to help women through all of these moments.
Listen to more experts discuss clean beauty on our PurpleList podcast episode.