These products are encouraging more women to open up about traditionally taboo subjects while giving brands the opportunity to talk about beauty from a new perspective.
Nicole Fall, founder of Asian Consumer Intelligence, observed that the intimate care category is currently at the same stage as facial care was in developing countries 10 years ago.
“Intimate cleansers that solely push hygiene benefits are being replaced with claims that have edged beyond that with whitening or firming claims in the same way a decade ago when facial wash only cleansed,” explained Fall.
“Hush hush” beginnings
Cynthia Chua, founder of Spa Esprit Group, believes the intimate market has changed drastically from over a decade ago when she first started Strip, a waxing parlour specialising in Brazilian waxing that is one of the most successful Singaporean brands today.
“I used to have customers who would enter the shop from the back door! Getting a Brazilian wax then was all very hush hush and fast forward to 16 years later, now people don't blink an eye talking about getting a Brazilian Wax, it's a very normal part of people's grooming regime.”
However, after launching vulva skin care brand TWO L(I)PS, it is clear that the intimate care market is only scratching the surface.
The brand currently offers one product, a sheet mask for the vulva, which Chua reckons is the first of its kind. Even with the backing of a trusted name in the business, Chua admits vulva care is still a taboo subject.
“It is never easy to pioneer any new concept, much less a controversial one like vulva care. When we started Strip, it was difficult to tell people what it is or whether there is a need for it and this is the same for TWO L(I)PS. It is something that people are uncomfortable or don't want to talk about.”
Breaking taboo with humour
One strategy Chua has found to be effective in starting conversations about uncomfortable topics is humour. Both Strip and TWO L(I)PS are promoted with cheeky visuals and copy that is not afraid to be provocative, which fits in line with Chua’s belief that “it’s harder to take offence to a taboo subject when you’re laughing”
“I’ve always found humour and wit to be the best way to tackle difficult subjects. It is something that people are uncomfortable or don't want to talk about. I know I am taking on a taboo subject – but I make it fun and I make it accessible to get the conversation going,” said Chua.
Fall observed that by taking a light-hearted approach was key in helping Strip ‘normalise’ Brazilian waxing, and may help TWO L(I)PS do the same for vulva care.
Future in the beauty aisles
The intimate care market has undoubtedly ballooned into a massive global industry, and both Chua and Fall believe the future of intimate care is in the beauty sector.
“The best thing that could happen to intimate care is for it to shift away from the health area and into the personal care category,” said Fall. “That way consumers would not feel embarrassed seeking whitening or tightening treatments… if they want to use them off their own volition.”
With 15 more products in the pipeline, Chua’s optimism in the market is evident. While she did not give further details, she revealed that TWO L(I)PS will be launching three new products early in 2019.
“Vulva skincare, for now as a product category is in the infant stages. As a sheet mask for the vulva, Blackout Mask is possibly a world’s first,” said Chua. Globally, the number of intimate care range dedicated to the vulva is still niche, but its growth and women’s interest in this is undeniable.”
Fall sees Asia as a good market for intimate care beauty products as she believes Asian consumers are more experimental and willing to try new things when it comes to beauty, even though they are more conservative culturally.
“They are far more willing to try new products, add in new steps, play with looks, and trial out procedures that they perceive as improving their looks such as minor surgery or semi-permanent tattoos. It makes sense that view carries over to the intimate category.”
According to Fall, women across Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand are now concerned about underarm lightening and she believes it will carry over into the intimate care market.
“It makes sense that view carries over into the intimate area hence the growing desire for lightening treatments. From a trend perspective, the category will grow because brands will position their products as brightening which is a real pain point in this part of the world.”