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Australian start-up Scarlet is the Glossier of period products

IMAGES VIA SCARLET

WORDS BY JONTI RIDLEY

Ending period taboo once and for all.

To all my period-havers out there, remember the day you had that ‘oh shit’ moment and realised your first period had finally come to town? Because I sure as hell do, and that shit was traumatising.

My first period decided to pay me a visit on an overseas trip with my family for my big brother’s high school graduation. I didn’t tell anyone until the end of the trip because I didn’t want to make a ‘big deal out of it’, which is teenager for ‘if anyone even breathes the word period to me, the ground better open below my feet and swallow me whole’. Why? Shame.


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Ash Hipwood, a co-founder of Australian femtech startup Scarlet, remembers her first period too. “I remember getting it in grade seven, and luckily Mum packed me a ‘just in case kit’ – I was so embarrassed! In there was a spare pair of knickers and a maxi pad with big and bulky wings,” she tells me.

The phrase ‘just in case kit’ has likely triggered a memory for many of you that I’m sure plenty of us have squashed to the bottom of our brains (much like these kits within our school bags). It was always some reappropriated toiletry bag, with a design you certainly didn’t choose, filled to the brim with wads of cotton to either go inside you or sit uncomfortably between your legs.

But times have changed, and while Scarlet has only been on the scene for under a year, it’s firmly established itself within the period care industry as the ‘The Glossier of Periods’.

“I do hope in what we’re trying to do here [at Scarlet], we can make it easier for the new generation, because we just didn’t have any other option,” says Ash.

It’s very likely your mum, or a motherly figure in your life, packed a period kit for you and possibly even encouraged you to keep it private or hidden, which is a lesson in period shame you’ll revisit for years to come.

Aside from period shame, Ash reminds me that for so long, many of us have accepted stained underwear as a byproduct of being a period-haver. “Before period underwear, we all resorted to sacrificing that one pair of ‘period underwear’, which wasn’t period underwear at all, it was just ‘that pair’ you reserved for any leaks or spots, and you’re resigned to the fact that those are just your period knickers.”

A moment of silence for all the beautiful underwear I’ve ruined over the years, thinking I was done bleeding. And if you feel a little dubious about incorporating period underwear into your ‘that time of the month’ routine, Ash wants to put your mind at ease.

“There’s a misconception it’s going to feel like a surfboard between your legs, and it’s so far from the truth – you can pop it on and not worry, it doesn’t feel like period underwear.”

As people with periods, we’re often forced to ‘live around’ our cycles. What we feel, what we say, how we eat and absolutely what we wear – the list goes on. As beings who can menstruate for most of their lives, the time and resources we allocate to hiding our periods come at the sacrifice of our happiness and well being.

Ash tells me this is why Scarlet developed period underwear that feels just like regular underwear. “You can put it on and get on with it because most of the time, that’s exactly what we have to do.”

The shift from period underwear that serves a functional purpose, and period underwear that not only does the job with no leaks (yay) but also looks and feels like high-end underwear, is a gamechanger.

“We approached it from a comfort and style perspective – what are the cult classic styles that we know and love? Let’s make them look and feel like regular underwear and make that transition [to reusable period products] as easy as possible, but we also want women to feel sexy in our underwear,” Ash explains.

Scarlet is a powerful example of what can happen when a brand talks directly to the new generation and takes control of the future by creating products and experiences that resonate with our way of living.

“The innovation [of period care] is only just really starting to take shape now, whereas we live in a society with electric cars? It hasn’t really been a priority,” Ash tells me. “Thankfully, we’re now taking back control of our health and wellbeing. And our mission is to put periods at the front and centre of health and wellness, by creating products that actually create a better relationship with our cycle and a more period-positive future.”

You’ll notice the brand’s socials also actively work to destigmatise period talk, often inviting guests to discuss their cycle routines and offer any period wisdom they can in their My Cycle Routine series. One of their lovely guests includes our fave gal Flex, who hit the nail on the head with her dream of a post-period-shame society: “I want us to talk about periods like we talk about bad dates”.

Maybe you’re reading this far, and period undies just aren’t for you, and that’s fine! Scarlet also has a specially designed period cup with spill-safe rims and ribbed finger grips. If you prefer the classics, it also offers a tampon subscription service using only 100 per cent certified organic cotton.

But we’re not done yet – period care goes so much further than just ‘soaking it up’. Scarlet also sells a chamomile cup wash, cup cleansing wipes and a PH-friendly, unscented wash for your ‘bits’. No parabens, sulphates or silicones, and perfect for a post-wax rinse to get that sticky residual stuff out of your life.

These are not the floral, highly perfumed, often toxic feminine hygiene products we’ve been accosted with up until now. Like all Scarlet’s products, these bottles are designed to be front-and-centre on your bathroom shelf, not tucked up the back with your rusty tweezers.

Scarlet is well aware not all periods are made equal; in fact, many of us have to deal with crippling, often invisible, chronic period-related illnesses (as if regular cramps weren’t bad enough). Endometriosis is one of the big ones, with one in 10 period-havers experiencing endo during their ‘reproductive years’ (roughly 176 million people in the world at any given time).

Yet, despite the astronomical amount of endo sufferers, there’s very little the medical world knows about it, much less any treatment options. This is what makes Scarlet’s partnership with Endometriosis Australia so vital, as it raises desperately needed awareness and funding for a future that endo sufferers can look forward to.

Thankfully, brands like Scarlet are helping create a society that doesn’t condemn or shame girls, women and anyone in between, for their bodies working naturally. It’s helping build a future in which our health isn’t put on the backburner for the comfort of others *cough* men.

Shop Scarlet at scarletperiod.com. It can now also be found online at Bits, The Iconic, Kin and IRL at select Mr Vitamins stores.

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