More than one million women in the United States experience menopause annually and by 2025, the North American Menopause Society estimates there will be 1.1 billion postmenopausal women worldwide. That means over a billion women will experience symptoms ranging from cosmetic—like dry skin and thinning hair—to life-altering, such as joint and muscular pain; fatigue; insomnia; irritability; depression and anxiety; and hot flashes, according to Dr. Kavita Desai, founder of Revivele and author of Lady Parts: Putting Women’s Health Back Into Women’s Hands. Even worse, Dr. Desai says the loss of sex hormones caused by menopause can make women more susceptible to a myriad of chronic health issues such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases, glucose intolerance and urinary tract infections.
Despite the dramatic health challenges women face during this stage of life, there remains a huge gap in the American health care system to address women’s needs. “We know that these hormones can have a protective effect on our bodies and brains, and the loss of them during perimenopause puts women at an increased risk of numerous serious disease states, including Alzheimer’s,” Dr. Desai tells me. “And yet our healthcare system does not advocate to replace these hormones, nor are most healthcare practitioners even properly educated on the female hormonal system.” According to the AARP, only 20% of OB-GYN residency programs in the United States include training in menopause. Dr. Desai believes the shortfall in care is largely explained by gender disparity, which she says, “has created a stigma that now surrounds female health topics, as though women should be ashamed of their menstrual cycles or are considered ‘past their prime’ for being in their perimenopausal years.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating consumer openness to telemedicine, several menopause-focused telemedicine start-ups are rushing in to fill the void. While the reputation of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has shifted over the years—with findings of links between hormone therapy and elevated health risks—today, many doctors, like Dr. Desai, say the benefits outweigh the risks. “The negative and false information about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and the increased risk of cancer was based on an old study that used synthetic forms of estrogen and progesterone, and no longer holds true,” critiques Dr. Desai.
Subsequently, HRT subscriptions are the main offering of telemedicine start-ups flooding the market, the most popular being Evernow—whose investors include Gwyneth Paltrow and Glennon Doyle—and Alloy, started by Dr. Sharon Malone, an OB/GYN whom Mrs. Obama has called “a godsend.” Other telemedicine platforms supporting women in menopause include Elektra Health, Gennev, and Perry.
While these telemedicine companies aim to guide women through the dark when it comes to the more serious symptoms, beauty and wellness brands are addressing women’s cosmetic and physical concerns. Together, these companies—many of which are started or endorsed by celebrities in their 40s and 50s like Naomi Watts, Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz who themselves are working to destigmatize aging—are making menopause a booming business, one that is expected to be a $600 billion market by 2025.
From lubricants to shampoos to supplements—there are now countless over-the-counter products designed to alleviate the symptoms of menopause. Here are some of the beauty and wellness brands working to de-stigmatize menopause and help women navigate midlife.
After developing a menopause-related skin condition in her 40s, Naomi Watts created clean-beauty line ONDA Beauty. Now the actor is diving deeper into the clean beauty space by teaming up with Amyris, the world’s leading manufacturer of sustainable ingredients, for her latest line—Stripes. From the scalp to the vagina, all 11 Stripes products prioritize hydration. “One thing we all seem to share is a loss of hydration,” Watts told a Forbes contributor last year. “That’s because of the depleting estrogen hormone and the combination of ectoine and Squalane is there to address that one particular symptom, which is the dehydration, and it’s in all of the products except for the supplements.” As part of Amyris’ standard, all Stripes products are 100% non-comedogenic formulas made with bioengineered botanicals housed in sustainable packaging.
Upon getting her first hot flash, cosmetics executive Rochelle Weitzner realized there was a huge gap in the market for products that could help her. She decided to utilize her experience in cosmetics to launch a skincare line focused on collagen production. When she started the company back in 2019, she says, “every beauty publication told me that they would never write about menopause and beauty together as they didn’t want to make their readers feel bad about herself.” So she’s happy to see the industry finally come around. The product range includes a cleanser, serum, moisturizers and targeted treatments, all made with vitamins, antioxidants and peptides.
Believing that “a face cream and ‘you’ll get through it’,” isn’t enough for aging women, actor Judy Greer created a line of plant-based supplements to treat perimenopause and menopause symptoms from the inside out. Endorsed by Serena Williams, the line includes capsules, tinctures and adaptogenic powders made with herbs like ashwagandha and medicinal mushrooms targeting specific needs, like stress, hot flashes and hormonal imbalances. With simple merch that says ‘Hormonal,’ the brand is advocating that more attention be brought to midlife in marketing, retail and medicine.
When Colette Courtion noticed changes in her reproductive health after giving birth, she realized how few solutions exist outside hormone replacement therapy for perimenopausal and menopausal women experiencing intimacy issues. “More than half of all the menopausal women in the U.S. today experience one or more of these issues, from accidental bladder leakage to vaginal dryness and pain with intercourse—wreaking havoc on their lives,” Courtion told a Forbes contributor in 2021. “We saw an enormous need and opportunity for a home-use solution that is affordable, safe, effective, and hormone-free.”
With a background in medical aesthetics, Courtion came up with the idea to apply the same red-light technologies used for the face to the vagina, to strengthen the pelvic floor and restore health of the vaginal tissue. The resulting vFit Gold Device has been reported in over six clinical studies to improve vaginal tightness, reduce vaginal dryness and leakage in 95%, 91% and 92% of users, respectively. Joylux also sells a wide range of products that treat the whole body—from hair, nail and skin supplements to cooling bra inserts to plant-based vaginal gels formulated by an OB-GYN.
This woman-founded brand promotes “menopositivity” by encouraging women to tap into the fierceness and sexiness that they may have lost. The hormone-free line of products addresses a wide range of symptoms like hot flashes, bladder leaks and low libido. Topical formulas include daytime and nighttime facial products designed to brighten, cooling mists for hot flashes, all-over toning body creams and lubricating vaginal serums. Supplements for sleep, healthy joints and libido feature natural ingredients like melatonin, magnesium and hyaluronic acid. Recognizing that orgasms are another way to help alleviate menopause symptoms by increasing blood flow, they offer a variety of vibrators too.
When Catherine Balsam-Shwaber went to her doctor for what she thought was chronic pain caused by inflammation, she was surprised to discover she had begun peri-menopause. Frustrated with the lack of resources and guidance for women to navigate the over 34 potential symptoms of menopause, she decided to create Kindra. The extensive line of topical formulas and supplements help provide relief from a wide range of symptoms like vaginal dryness, low libido and night sweats. Determined to de-stigmatize menopause, the brand also provides educational content to their community that is now over 250,000 strong.
With a team of several experts with over 50 years of experience in medical drugs and clinial research, Bonafide takes quality assurance and the efficacy of their products seriously. With fancy names, their supplements look like prescription medications, but are actually over-the-counter, hormone-free and largely plant-based and hormone-free. From intimacy to immunity to PMS, they treats a wide variety of symptoms with natural products like probiotics, magnesium and biotin. You can buy a single box of capsules or subscribe to a monthly or three-month plan.
After 25 years of working for haircare brands like L’Oreal, Sonsoles Gonzalez pivoted her career in her 50s to launch a holistic haircare brand designed for aging hair. When her own hair started to lose volume, she noticed how few haircare products existed that offered anything other than hiding grayness. Products range from shampoos and conditioners to lash and brow serums to massaging applicators, all designed to treat hair changes like thinning and dryness. 61-year-old actress Jennifer Coolidge is a devout user of their shampoo.
When Stacy London tried to sell a show about middle-aged women modelled after her previous hit, What-Not-To-Wear, and networks expressed zero interest, the actor pivoted to bring awareness to midlife in a different way—with a menopause brand. State of Menopause includes a wide range of topical products intended to alleviate menopause symptoms. From the more obvious concerns—like hot flashes and thinning hair—to the less talked about—like cystic acne, muscle fatigue and painful sex—London’s extensive product range covers the gamut.