Here at Byrdie HQ, our health—mental, sexual, reproductive, and the like—is always top of mind. That said, women’s health has historically been a topic either buried in controversy or ignored altogether. So, this year, we’re taking Women’s Health Week as an opportunity to serve up helpful information, product recommendations, and science-backed tips to better understand the inner-workings of our bodies. Find anything from things not to do during your period to exactly what happens when you take the morning-after pill (and much, much more).
One walk through the aisles at your local drugstore and it's clear products created to use during sex have never incorporated women into their marketing plan. First of all, there is very little regulation on what goes into the formulas, the very same formulas that are meant to go inside our bodies. The packaging, scents, and monikers assigned to each offering are drenched in toxic masculinity—and it's no surprise. Women are fed mixed messaging and misinformation in regards to sexuality their entire lives. There's the sexualization of women, sure, but then there's the shaming too. "Companies have historically marketed sex products toward men and their desires in such a way that women don't always feel they have agency in talking about or advocating for themselves when it comes to their sexual health products, even though products such as condoms are used by two people, not just one," Lola's co-founder Alex Friedman said at a recent event for the brand.
In recent years, though, there has been a shift in the marketplace. Female-run brands are creating offerings with safe, clean ingredients and efficacious formulas made with a woman's needs in mind. "Things are changing in a major way," Polly Rodriguez, the CEO and co-founder of Unbound, agrees. "We're seeing more and more women, femme, and non-binary founders building businesses to address the problems they personally experience. It's one of the most exciting times to be a part of the sex tech ecosystem—the level of innovation, design, and talent that are entering the industry rivals any sector I've ever worked in," she says. And it's about damn time. Yes, I am a woman who has sex. No, I am not going to hide my tampons on the way to the bathroom. And, yes, lube and vibrators exist to make our sex lives better, along with a slew of other accessories. Below, find CBD oils, adaptogenic herbs, boric acid suppositories, organic condoms, and heating pads for when cramps are an issue and a whole bunch of others. Keep scrolling for all the information you need to improve your sexual health and experiences.
Moon Juice's Sex Dust is not new—in fact, it's one of the brand's hero products. However, combined with Holy Yoni's hydrating blend of Schisandra berry extract, Bulgarian rose oil, vitamin E, and sweet almond oil, its effects are all the sweeter. Sex Dust is a mix of adaptogens, including shilajit, shatavari. epimedium, maca, cacao, and schisandra, meant to combat stress. The ingredients promise to work synergistically to increase your resistance to fatigue, providing energy, focus, and creativity. This works for your everyday life, of course, but is also helpful in lifting your mood during sex. The site offers tons of recipes, but if you're not especially nimble in the kitchen (like me), it's easy to mix a teaspoon in with your coffee and sip as you see fit.
There is arguably nothing worse than a yeast infection, and the limited resources for diagnosing and treating them is all the more frustrating. That's exactly how Lo Bosworth—of "The Hills" fame—felt when she founded Love Wellness, a brand that offers natural, organic, and OB/GYN-approved options for vaginal health, as well as products for your mood, menstrual cycle, and skin. This offering, in particular, a boric acid suppository treatment made from a mineral found in seawater, is incredibly special. It is meant to relieve yeast infections (even chronic ones resistant to other medications) by bringing your vaginal pH back to its normal range. She suggests you use it as a spot treatment, so to speak, when things feel a little off, or the full-course treatment.
Founded by Into the Gloss co-founder Nick Axelrod and Estée Lauder veteran Randi Christiansen, Nécessaire offers just three body care essentials: a body wash, body lotion, and their Sex Gel. All the products are pH-balanced, full of skincare-quality ingredients, and free of parabens, sulfates, and phthalates—making the brand a minimalist's dream, as well as both healthy and effective in equal measure. "Sex is just one thing you do with your body," Axelrod said in an interview with Faith a few months ago. "There should be a community and a platform for thinking and talking about your body holistically."
What's more, the water-based gel uses aloe vera and hyaluronic acid to give the "cushiony texture and glide," according to Christiansen, instead of the usual list of scary-sounding ingredients that have certainly not been approved by the FDA. That and oil-based lubricants aren't safe to use with condoms, as they cause breakage. Another thing to note (if you're like me and spend more money on your sheets than your rent): "It won’t stain your sheets!" Axelrod added. "I've had too many fancy sheets stained by silicone- and oil-based lubes."
Another lubricant option, which is marketed as an "intimate massage oil" rather than solely for intercourse, offers up a more heightened experience. Formulated with all-natural botanical essences (including organic MCT coconut oil, broad-spectrum CBD from organically-grown hemp, kava root, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and peppermint and vanilla oils), it's meant to diminish discomfort while increasing blood flow and encouraging muscular relaxation. Once applied, you can feel the warming sensation immediately (this is for real, I sprayed it on my hand and the effect was instant), but the full effects can take up to 15 minutes. The brand suggests four to eight sprays as a typical serving size.
The Good Patch (which offers hemp-infused patches for hangovers, stress, and the sleep-deprived) was born from La Mend, a site offering an array of safe, tested, pure, and potent phytocannabinoid products sourced from organically farmed non-GMO plants. This one in particular promises to temporarily relieve PMS-related discomfort, including cramps, aches, pains, and promote hormonal balance, courtesy of 15 milligrams of hemp extract, as well as menthol and black cohosh. Meant to be worn along your lower abdomen, the patch can be left for up to 12 hours and will offer sustained relief on even the most terrible of days.
According to Hers, one of the more prevalent female sexual health complaints is a low libido. And while the industry has taken note of such a fact in the case of men since the advent of V (it was approved for use by the FDA in 1998), there has been no such solution for women until now. "We believe that women deserve choices when it comes to all aspects of her body, and for those who have silently struggled from a low libido and have found nowhere to turn, they too deserve this choice and option," their website reads. It is currently the only prescription on the market for this very real, otherwise ignored, but entirely common issue—and only requires taking one pill per day at bedtime. According to the brand, here's how it works: Addyi (which contains 100 milligrams of flibanserin) helps to activate the parts of the female brain that respond to sexual cues. There are side-effects, though, and the brand is adamant that you can't drink alcohol while you're taking it, and there's a risk of severe low blood pressure and fainting. So, if that's an issue, it may not be right for you. Before making any decisions, make sure to check with your doctor to go over your options.
Uqora is a UTI prevention company, creating products meant to allow women to get ahead of UTIs, shifting the focus toward prevention instead of just relying on treatment with antibiotics, which might wreak havoc on vaginal health. After suffering from eight UTIs in one year (damn), Uqora CEO, Jenna Ryan, and her co-founder, Spencer Gordon, began developing products to help relieve not only UTIs, but also the stress, anxiety, antibiotics, and long doctor visits that go along with them. Uqora Target, the hero product of the brand, is a prevention drink mix that promises to stop bacteria from binding with the urinary wall, increase urinary flow, and boost immunity to help you break free from the endless cycle of UTIs. It's packed with vitamins and other natural, vegan, gluten-free, and sugar-free ingredients including vitamin C and B6, calcium, magnesium, potassium, citric acid, and beet juice powder.
"Unbound was started because we believe there should be a better shopping experience when it comes to sexual wellness," Rodriguez told me. She continues, "Personally, I found myself at a shop on the side of the highway buying a vibrator for the first time, and feeling really uncomfortable with the whole process. I had just gone through radiation treatment for stage IIIC colorectal cancer and was going through menopause at 21. In an attempt to reclaim my sexuality, I wanted to explore products that could help but ended up feeling really embarrassed instead. Ten years later, I started working on Unbound with my co-founder Sarah Jayne Kinney. If we don't take the opportunity to talk about sex in a healthy and medically accurate way, we're reducing ourselves to learn about sex via porn. And while I am very pro-ethical-porn, I don't think it should be the foundation for how we're learning about our bodies."
Unsurprisingly, most women I've spoken to have had similarly uncomfortable experiences when it came to purchasing any type of sex-related product. It's always been assumed (rather, stressed) that we should hide these products for fear of embarrassment or shame. Unbound is changing that. Now, they're offering up an easy-to-carry, mini bag filled with all the things you may need to keep with you. Nothing bulky, nothing inconvenient. In each bag comes a portable vibrator, water-based jelly lube, condoms, and a few serums that can help up the intensity if you so choose.
According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, nearly three out of four women will experience painful sex in their lives, either temporarily or long term. That means painful sex is common and absolutely an issue worth addressing—though we rarely talk about it above a hushed tone, if at all. Causes span the gamut from hormonal changes and skin issues to endometriosis, pelvic floor dysfunction, and mental health issues. Either way, Ohnut's external wearable may be able to help. "We've partnered with sexual medicine clinicians, holistic practitioners, and countless empathetic humans to understand where we can collectively generate the biggest impact on reviving human connection," Ohnut's site reads. "After all," they lament, "sex is never just physical and the path to sexual health solutions isn't always clear. Our products are designed to make simple physical adjustments, feel easy to talk about, and to make you feel loved." The accessory itself is created from FDA-approved, body-safe materials that are soft and stretchy, and it's worn at the base of your partner, whether that's a person or a toy. The rings compress down to act as a buffer during sex. Each set comes complete with four linking rings, so you can make simple adjustments based on what's comfortable for both you and your partner.
Planned Parenthood. Why can't you use baby oil with a condom?. Updated May 25, 2011.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Viagra.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. When sex is painful. Updated August, 2018.
Cleveland Clinic. Sexual health: female pain during sex (dyspareunia). Updated November 6, 2018.