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Alex Friedman, co-founder of feminine hygiene and sexual wellness brand Lola, said the inspiration for the company came from a disconnect. Everywhere she looked, people were talking about natural ingredients — in food, beauty products and, even, in diapers. But when she looked at the side of a box of tampons, the ingredients included a list of words she didn’t recognize.

“We were horrified,” said Friedman, who started Lola with her friend and future business partner, Jordana Kier. “We decided to start a business to bring ingredient transparency to the tampon industry. Over the course of three years in business, what we learned was that every life stage is the same, from your first period, to when you start having sex, to thinking about fertility, to pregnancy, postpartum, menopause and beyond. It’s all stigma, no ingredients transparency, and not enough conversation.”

On this week’s episode of The Glossy Beauty Podcast, beauty editor Priya Rao sits down with Friedman, Lola co-founder and co-CEO, to talk candidly about sexual wellness and feminine hygiene products, the importance of product transparency and how education has played a vital role in building the brand. Edited highlights below.

Solving the problems that no one wants to talk about
“So the key was that we couldn’t figure out what was in the tampons we had been using our whole lives. The FDA didn’t require brands to list ingredients, so we would look at the side of a box from a mainstream brand, and it would say something like, ‘ingredients may contain,’ then list a bunch of words and we had no idea what they meant. To us, that was unacceptable, because we knew what was in our beauty routine, in our food, in our shampoo, in the diaper I put on my baby, but for some reason, I used tampons a week a month for 40 years, and I couldn’t figure out what was in it. It just didn’t go with the rest of our lifestyles and our ethos, and at that moment we realized, ‘Hey, maybe other women haven’t thought about this either.’ We decided to launch the brand around ingredients transparency, and tried to open up the conversation in an industry that had never discussed it.”

Going directly to the customer creates an authentic conversation
“Being DTC has been essential for us to be able to build the brand voice, and actually drive a conversation with our customers. Being two female co-founders,  who are open to sharing our own experiences in reproductive health, who are trying to build this authentically and who are building the business to solve our own problem around ingredients transparency and not having brands that we related to, has enabled us to drive an authentic conversation. I think that’s a lot about why the brand has been able to take off and why it has grown so quickly.”

Letting consumers drive the content strategy
“We’re hearing a lot about products and content that people need. Specifically, on content, it’s been interesting to hear what the big, unanswered questions are and how can we bake that into what we already provide to our communities. We launched the sexual wellness kit in September; it has all three Lola sex products, in addition to a book that we wrote that has a lot of information about foreplay, masturbation, what to ask your doctor. The list of questions to ask your gynecologist about sex is something that came from our community. Everyone was telling us, ‘Hey, we don’t know what we don’t know. You keep asking us what we want in these categories, but we have no idea because we don’t even know what to ask our doctors.’ We hear a lot of things like that, and we’re able to bake that into both products and content to make sure we’re providing the right information to women at these life stages.”

New categories with the same problems
“When we launched the brand, it kind of felt like we were attacking the last category to have this conversation. Every other industry had already talked about ingredients, and there’s just so much stigma around periods that it had just never been discussed, which is crazy. As we’ve spent time in reproductive care, what I’ve seen is that there are so many other categories within women’s reproductive health, basically everything that has to do with a vagina, where nobody has talked about ingredients. This story is going to be an important piece of the thread that unites every category we enter for years to come. From her first period to menopause and beyond, at every life stage there’s this serious ingredients problem driven by the same stigma that we’re planning to change.”