Lube can be cool, just ask these two 20-something Melbourne women about their new business

Words by Genevieve Phelan

A lubrication renaissance, because we really need one. 

Over the holiday season, we’re taking a break too. Over this period, we’ll be resharing our favourite content of the year (and your favourite too – it’s our most well-read). This article was originally published on February 15, 2021.

When you think lube, you probably think of late-night servo stints and lanky teenagers stashing stale squirt bottles in their bedside drawers next to condoms. There’s awkward fumbling in the dark. It’s typically cold and aggressively audible, exploding into a rank shower of jelly-like sticky shit that you shove in places that just don’t feel right, all with the aim of having pleasurable sex. 

Just like shopping for beautiful intimacy tools, looking for a luxurious (but affordable) lube should be as simple as mulling over massage oils in Mecca. And it would be extra nice to have a lubricant that looks good in your bedroom, is created by females, for females, and isn’t hypersexualised. 

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Meet Eloise O’Sullivan and Eloise McCullough, two 20-something mates from Melbourne remixing everything we know lube to be. What started as a frustrated convo back in 2020’s lockdown is now a fully-fledged lube brand called Figr. It’s the product of a creative union between a writer and designer who share a mutual mission to redefine how Australians experience intimacy. 

It’s far from the lube you find in the decrepit corners of a one-night-stand with a well-expired use-by-date, tacky smell and hideously artificial colour. Think less raunchy relic, more lavish elixir. Figr is pH balanced (rack off UTIs), never sticky, latex-friendly, toy-compatible and cultivated from all-Australian native extracts, encased in a very pretty vessel.

Eloise squared recognised that there were misconceptions tainting the real purpose of lubricant: to make moments of intimacy more pleasurable. From saying fuck it to the way things are, to launching Figr on pre-order this month, the girls are making more than a suavely-packaged anti-friction tool with a swanky Instagram. They’re making real change. 

I caught up with both Eloises to chat conceptualising Figr in lockdown, making an all-inclusive product, fighting the good fight against yeast infections and kissing abrasive sexual encounters goodbye. 

What united both of you to come up with the idea of Figr?

We met at a corporate workplace many years ago and have been close friends ever since. Was it the fact that we shared a name or was it because we had compatible personalities and future visions? We’ll never know. We had always talked about starting a business together, it just took time to really figure out what this business was and what would keep us inspired. The concept of Figr was sparked during corona times – like many other start-up seeking entrepreneurs. We were chatting about how uncomfortable the shopping experience can be in sex stores and how the industry is mainly for the male gaze. 

We were over working for the man and needed our own passion project (ew) to at least get excited over something while we were stuck inside in Melbourne. A lot of our friendship conversations had been around our sexual experiences, dating, the purchasing and using of sex toys and the quality of ingredients in products. We have found that once you open yourself up to something (and work hard for it), things start naturally falling into place or special people come into your life. Eloise M became friends with a neighbour while in lockdown (a positive that came out of lockdown) who owns a leading Australian femme brand – she’s been a great mentor and a wealth of information. We had a very limited budget so had to be resourceful and use our skills in the best way we could.

What goes into the lube? How is it made and how is it different to what’s currently on the servo shelves? 

The majority of the lubricants that are readily available at your local servo or supermarket are cheap and are cheap because of the ingredients. They’re sticky with foreign ingredients that don’t work with your body. It was really important to us to have as few ingredients as possible and have native Australian extracts in our lubricant. The Figr Fluid has two key ingredients; native Australian finger lime which increases immunity to bacteria and vitamin E which is amazing; it helps prevent damage to cell membranes, stabilises oestrogen levels and has been studied for the treatment of menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, irritability and vaginal dryness.

The second is strawberry gum, which is a great source of antioxidants and contains anti-fungal and antibiotic properties. We’re not saying that this lube is a medical super hero and will prevent you from the many things that can happen to one’s vulva, but if you’re using a lube it may as well have a little extra benefit. The ingredients in our lubricant are naturally derived, and we have avoided nasties like glycerin – a common ingredient in lube that’s actually really harmful. 

What’s your own experience with lube shopping?

Eloise O: Well, I feel like many others, for a few years my lubricant experience was always that glow in the dark bottle pulled from the underwear draw of whatever guy’s house I was at. It always caused me grief for a few days after as I never thought I could properly remove the excess that was left festering inside of me, which would cause many a yeast infection. When I worked for my dad’s sex store I was educated on the different ingredients of what pretty much all general lubricants consisted of. All lubes in the store were made by men and marketed for men, with ingredients that did not favour anyone with a vulva.  

Who’s done what in the brand production phase? What is each of your roles in the biz?

We both work other jobs so we started dedicating our Friday’s to Figr, which would be a full day of work which then, of course, would lead into a bottle of wine and brainstorming endless ideas for the future of Figr. We consult one another on everything (good thing we like each other!). We will eventually have to have a structure of designated tasks but at the moment Figr is completely self-funded by us and because of this we’ve had to be as resourceful as possible. Eloise M has a design background so it’s been incredibly helpful to save costs regarding the packaging and overall look and feel.

And through her work experience she has also developed relationships with printers, 3D visual artists, digital developers etc so we have been able to call on some favours – we will be forever thankful to those people who have believed in our vision and have helped us along the way. Eloise O has a writing background so all copy has been sourced through that. Neither of us have any idea on finance so we’re winging it with that (help us). We work really well together, and our skills complement each other – we’re still not sick of each other even after the 10000 daily phone calls.

Explain to us packaging considerations. What were your desires when it came to the brand’s aesthetic?

With the stigma behind the shame of sex especially being a woman, we wanted a product which was loud and proud. However we still understand that some people may not feel comfortable with a bottle that smacks you in the face with ‘LUBRICANT’, so we have kept the packaging discreet too. It sits beautifully in a frosted glass bottle to sit on your nightstand or next to your perfumes. It was a must that we reduce as much plastic as possible, which is something we think all new start-ups should consider even though it is more expensive to produce. We’ll be looking into finding a recycled plastic company to renew the plastic we use for the pump and lid. The world can’t handle anymore new plastic, so remember in these steps, reduce, firstly, reuse, where you can and recycle when required.

Who is Figr made for?

Although we can only speak for young women like ourselves, throughout this process we have learnt that dryness down there can be an issue for all kinds of people: women post-pregnancy, people who are on certain antidepressants or medication and for reasons completely unknown. This product is also for people who do not have problems getting wet. We have designed this product with natural lubrication in mind – it’s designed to feel like an extension of your own body, it feels just like a naturally occurring lubricant so the more the merrier we say. We want to be as inclusive as possible, so we have some other products in the pipe-line that will cater to all sorts of people. We are always open to having conversations with people to make sure our products suit their needs and desires.

Why do you think lube is still a stigmatised product to buy? Or at least, why do most young women/men feel awkward purchasing it?

Since launching this product our main responses from friends have been quick to state that they simply don’t need to use lube. This is directly related to the shame women experience through what’s shown in mainstream media and porn. Women, especially young women, are meant to get wet in the heat of the moment and stay wet. There is the barrier of purchasing lube, especially for a first-time buyer. Either it could be the hesitation of walking into a sex store, browsing in your local supermarket with someone lurking behind you, or that you don’t know what type of lubricant to buy. We’re trying to change that, because we all deserve quality products. 

Figr is now available for pre-order here

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