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Sephora Finally Makes the Jump into Sexual Wellness

Published January 28, 2022
Published January 28, 2022

According to Spate, there are an average of 11.6 million searches for sexual wellness products every month in the US. As with most whitespace endeavors, a key to unlocking the full opportunity requires representation in traditional retail channels. The sexual wellness opportunity for retailers has always existed, but historically, buyers have been hesitant.

It appears the category has finally shaken its taboo status, evolving from a niche category to a mainstream opportunity, finally gaining the attention of investors and retailers. As with many trends, COVID-19 accelerated the traction of the sexual wellness category and saw most traditional beauty retailers dip their toes in the category online, and now Sephora has finally followed suit. By contrast, competitor Ulta has been in the category since 2019, selling brands like Fur and Bawdy in their wellness assortment.

"At Sephora, our clients are at the heart of everything we do and we're constantly evolving our assortment to both stay ahead of and meet their changing needs," says Cindy Deily, Vice President of Skin Care Merchandising at Sephora. "The ongoing conversation around women's health is extremely important to us, and as a company committed to creating an inclusive beauty community, growing our wellness assortment with intimate care offerings felt like a natural next step.”

Sephora partnered with stigma-busting start-ups Maude and Dame to launch a new Intimate Care section within its bath and body category. Unlike its competitors, the retailer is focused on these two brands, carrying almost their full assortments, from toys to personal care.

This new generation of "sex" brands has adopted the sanitized language of wellness, emphasizing the health benefits of sex, creating a space for community building through education, and wrapping it all in pitch-perfect, well-executed design and marketing. This formula has resulted in an offering commercially acceptable and accessible to women who may have been intimidated by or uncomfortable with the fetishized image of the sex shop where these products were historically available.

“This partnership enhances Dame's message that pleasure is wellness—we're thrilled to have a national, credible beauty retailer carrying pleasure product," Alexandra Fine, Dame co-founder and CEO, said. "Seeing pleasure products alongside concealer, face wash, and lipstick, normalizes sexual wellness. It reminds us that ultimately accessing pleasure is as important as daily beauty rituals.”

With investors and retailers both in alignment on the sexual wellness trend, the environment for start-ups has never been better, but the category has become competitive. For Maude and Dame, the association with Sephora positions them as breakout category leaders capable of merging sexual wellness and beauty, tapping into the $415 billion beauty industry.

“Sexual wellness has long been the last frontier in personal care, but the customer expects better," Maude founder Éva Goicochea says. "Like in beauty, we believe in taking an integrated and holistic approach—not a compartmentalized view of sex. At our core, we're an evergreen brand thoughtfully built for every stage of your adult life. Sephora's launch of intimate care sets the stage for the next chapter of sexual health.”

The size of the global sexual wellness prize is projected to be $125.1 billion by 2026, rising at a market growth of 12.4% CAGR during the forecast period, according to Research and Markets.

Maude investor, founder, and General Partner at True Beauty Ventures Cristina Nuñez said of the move by Sephora, "One word—'finally!’ Sephora expanding into sexual wellness may seem like a leap for some, but having observed how consumers are using beauty and wellness products to improve their overall wellbeing, this move comes as no surprise to us. Maude is the quintessential representation of this consumer shift with its modern, sleek approach to intimacy that meets the needs of the demanding Sephora consumer."

Brands that manage to straddle sexual pleasure with the broader beauty opportunity ultimately will have the most potential for growth and a strategic exit. To date, the Maude has successfully raised $10M over four rounds of funding—making it one of the most VC- backed sexual wellness personal care companies. In early 2021 Dame Products raised $4 million in seed funding led by Listen and with participation from a variety of women-run ventures.


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