It is estimated that the average woman will have 480 periods in her lifetime, or approximately 7 years of menstruation in a normal life span. That equates to a lot of period care products, and resulting costs. Most consumers look for the most budget-friendly options, with the average UK woman spending £667 on cosmetics a year and, in comparison, just £50-£61 on period care products. A majority of these mass-market products contain plastic: pads contain up to 90% of the ingredient, while the absorbent core of many tampons contains polyethylene and polypropylene. Furthermore, the cotton used in these products has often been treated with bleach, pesticides, and fragrances. Given the highly absorbent walls of the vagina, this chemical exposure could come with serious health consequences. So while a non-organic option may cost less upfront, there are hidden costs for the individual and environment to consider. Whether it’s the waste from disposable products or the potentially health-damaging ingredients in their constitution, appropriate period care is a sustainability, health, and educational matter.
Entrepreneur Daniella Peri founded Yoppie in 2016 to offer a better solution. Launching with just one product (100% organic cotton and plastic-free tampons delivered to the customer’s doorstep), the company scaled quickly, managing to secure £1.2MM in funding by 2018. Since then, the period care brand has expanded its individualized monthly subscription service to include liners and pads, and also launched accessible educational resources such as its Full Stop blog. In the following interview, Peri discusses empowering the female consumer and the need for a femcare industry evolution.
What are some of the biggest period care misconceptions from a consumer as well as corporate perspective?
At Yoppie we believe that the biggest misconception from both a consumer and corporate perspective is that period care is “one-size-fits-all.”
The nuances of your menstrual cycle, from your discharge to your period flow, is 100% unique to you. Plus, the behaviors around what products you use each month and how you use them is also completely unique to you. So why is it that period care products are predominantly offered in generic, one-size-fits-all sizings and packs?
We began speaking with our members one-on-one and found that, no matter how they described their flow, the amount in a typical tampon or pad pack never matched up with how many products they truly needed to manage their cycle in a healthy and easy way. Each cycle they were either overbuying bulk packs of tampons in different sizes (creating an unsustainable backlog of products), never buying enough, or just opting for the highest absorbency out of fear of leaking.
Research shows that if you go opt for higher absorbance than your flow needs, not only is it a health risk, it can also upset your vagina’s pH balance. This is because when you use a high-absorbency product on a day with light bleeding you won’t have to change it as often, which gives bacteria time to flourish. It can also dry out your vaginal mucosa due to the products retaining natural vaginal fluid, not just menstrual blood. This can cause pH imbalance and abrasions, which can be an entry point for infection.
This is why we created the UK’s first personalized period care service—to help battle this misconception and provide people with period care product packs that match their cycle and needs. Ultimately we’re making something very personal, personalized—as it should be.
Beyond personalization, there are a range of other misconceptions that we are overcoming at Yoppie. Two key ones are: what ingredients period care products should be made out of and how they should be purchased. All of our products are made from 100% organic cotton, free from plastics, dyes, and fragrances. We do this because it’s more sustainable than using synthetic fibers, plus materials such as polyester and viscose are highly absorbent and are known for drying out the vagina. So by making our products this way, it is better for the body and the environment. We also make the experience of buying period products ten times more convenient with subscription letterbox delivery that each customer can sync to the frequency of their cycle.
Why have previous brands failed to address these and properly educate consumers?
The big brands you see in the supermarkets have been dominating this industry for decades, and for the majority of their reign have had little to no competitors challenging what they offer. And when there’s no challenge, there’s no need to innovate. And when there’s no innovation, consumers have no option other than to stick to what they know. Which in this case means sticking to the period products their mom used or the products they were given when they got their first period.
However, within the last five to ten years, the lifestyle, expectations, and values of today’s modern consumer is radically changing. No matter what they’re buying, whether it’s shampoo or a t-shirt, they expect high-quality, sustainable, personalized, and beautiful products delivered as conveniently as possible. They are more conscious of what they are buying and who they are buying from. They’re also educating themselves on what is best and expect nothing less.
Yoppie was born out of seeing the need for the femcare industry to meet these expectations. We saw that period care products were not being designed with the real lives of today’s modern women in mind. They were inconvenient to buy, generically offered as a one-size-fits-all, made from unhealthy ingredients, packaged unsustainably, and offered no true value beyond just the product itself.
So at the end of the day, all it really comes down to is the bigger brands not keeping up with culture nor understanding the needs and lifestyle of today’s modern woman. At Yoppie we recognize that women are kicking absolute ass and are achieving amazing things in this world. But, we also recognize that period care hasn’t innovated alongside us. It’s stayed the same and isn’t supporting us any longer. The industry has been stuck in the past for too long. In 2020—in real life—women deserve period care that’s just as innovative and future-thinking as they are.
How can we practice sustainability in period care?
Many of us have ditched the plastic cutlery, carry extra tote bags everywhere, and are devoted recyclers … but a little-known contributor to the planet’s plastic problems is period products! And this is the first issue we aim to solve—making an unknown problem known. The reason the topic of unsustainable period care goes largely unnoticed is because period care carries a lot of taboos along with it. For example, it’s easier to speak openly about what type of bag you use at the supermarket, as opposed to speaking openly about how you dispose of your tampons after use.
Surprisingly, around half of UK women flush their tampons down the toilet after use, and since they’re designed to absorb liquid and not to break down easily, they contribute to around 370,000 UK sewage blockages every year. When we brought this up with our community, a large number had no idea that they shouldn’t flush their tampons, and the only reason they were doing it was because no one told them otherwise. It’s not an openly talked-about issue.
So with this in mind, we aim to educate our community on this as much as possible through all points of communication with them. We openly speak about it across socials, on our packaging, in our emails, and of course on our blog, FULL STOP. Educating yourself about this issue and busting the taboos around it is one of the most powerful things you can do. Other things we can do to limit our contribution is to go applicator-free, look for sustainable packaging, switch to organic cotton products, pick biodegradable, and try reusable!
What has the response and feedback been?
The response to Yoppie has been overwhelmingly positive! Our community has loved experiencing personalized period care for the first time and they are feeling more at ease knowing that the products they are using each month are a healthier and more sustainable option. Enabling our members to feel in control of their menstrual health is what we strive to do, so knowing that we are helping them do that every day makes getting out of bed every morning worth it!
Is there one dominating demographic driving this trend?
We have Yoppie members representative of all ages and backgrounds, which is so exciting! But the two dominating demographics are definitely our on-the-go millennials and our busy moms. Each of them are out conquering the world and need products and services that match their needs and lifestyles. Plus they are both at stages in life where they are engaged with truly understanding their menstrual health and how to care for it. So Yoppie is becoming that menstruation co-pilot that can help them both in managing their period care and in providing education.
What makes this mission more important now than ever before?
I think for too long women have lacked the education, products, and services they deserve to manage their menstrual health. To me, it just feels like time is up. It’s 2020! Women are out there changing history every day. I like to think we’ve conquered having a womb, but the tools given to us to take care of it haven’t caught up with us. It’s about darn time women had period care that was designed with their real lives and needs in mind. So if no one else is going to do it, Yoppie will.
Photo: via Yoppie