I've always held a deep fascination with all things health, and it's remarkable to consider how my definition of "wellness" has evolved over the past few years alone—especially in the context of an industry that has emerged and propagated at an almost alarming rate. Generally speaking, we used to have a much more simplistic, two-pronged approach—diet and fitness—to our daily health habits. Fast-forward to today, and even the most mundane rituals call for a conscious decision angled around self-care: Do my tampons contain toxic ingredients? How can I effectively take a breather to unwind from a stressful afternoon at work? Is the temperature of my apartment impacting my sleep?
I can understand why some might hold a cynical opinion of this veritable boom in the wellness industry; it's easy to turn a side-eye at the overt capitalization of our personal health. But my retort is this: With so many new tools and perspectives at our disposal, we have never been so empowered to take control of our own bodies and livelihoods. We have never had so much choice. That rings especially true for women—which is why it's no coincidence that many of the most innovative companies leading the charge in this arena are both geared toward and led by women.
Some of these industry leaders see this shift as reactionary to the societal roles women were restricted to for so long and the lack of inherent education and advocacy. For example, as the founder of the buzzy feminine hygiene company Thinx, Miki Agrawal made it her mission to destigmatize our periods and provide education for reproductive health to women and girls the world over. Exhibit B: After realizing that the FDA wasn't properly regulating any of the vitamins she needed to take during her pregnancy, Katerina Schneider founded Ritual, a multivitamin company that operates on full transparency.
With the market and industry moving at such a breakneck pace, it can be difficult to orient ourselves to see what kind of brave new world of wellness is really taking shape. But from where we're sitting, there are a handful of truly exciting, innovative brands that are poised to take the lead in redefining how we take care of ourselves—because, in many ways, they already have. Meet their founders and learn about their inspiring missions below.
1. Thinx is Making Periods Cool Again
Mission statement: "To provide period-proof, patriarchy-proof products for real menstruating humans and empower women and girls around the globe." — Miki Agrawal, Thinx founder.
Thanks to impeccable branding, unapologetically tongue-in-cheek ads, and a product that truly delivers on a seemingly impossible promise, Thinx has rapidly evolved the idea of "period panties" from a collective WTF to something actually cool—in turn, completely recontextualizing the conversation around menstruation, which until very recently was still frustratingly taboo. "It has a lot to do with periods being an embarrassing, 'gross' bodily function that nobody wants to hear or talk about," says Agrawal. "This sucks, but we've got a solution now to remove the anxiety we deal with every month and actually talk about it."
That deep-seated inclination to be silent about our periods, she says, is far more impactful than just the sheer illogicality of women's inability to be open about one of the most natural things on the planet. "In the developing world, girls don't even have the basic resources needed to leave the house during their periods, so they end up using bits of mattresses, old rags, even leaves and mud … whatever they can find," says Agrawal. "This is happening because it is so taboo that no one even wants to discuss solutions at all. This extent of stigma is a tragedy."
So Thinx's strategy is to start by empowering women to feel confident—even sexy—during their periods. The brand's flagship line includes lacy, black panties that are designed to absorb leaks and spotting during menstruation, while wicking away moisture and keeping you completely dry. They're reusable and very cute, too. Recently, the brand expanded to activewear and 100% reusable tampon applicators.
Furthermore, the brand's Thinx Give Rise giveback program is advocating for better access to puberty education and menstrual equity for young people across the U.S. Within the program the company works with partners including Girls Inc., Safe Horizons, and the Alliance of Border Collaboratives to provide the public with reliable access to basic hygiene products.
2. Moon Juice is Bringing Alternative Wellness to the Mainstream
Mission statement: "To feed your bliss!" — Amanda Chantal Bacon, founder
"I created Moon Juice for people interested in a new way of living," says Bacon. "Not in a way where you have to erase your past, but in a way fueled by excitement to help yourself live better. I wanted to bridge the gap between the healing world with the foodie world as I had done for myself. Since then, we have become a beacon to a community."
It's hard to believe that when Bacon first opened the doors of her Venice flagship store six years ago, "maca" and "reishi" were hardly in our collective vernacular. Fast-forward to today, and Moon Juice isn't just a household name for those tuned into the Los Angeles health scene: It's now synonymous with an entire category of wellness, and customers across the globe are stocking up on Bacon's herbal "dust" blends of exotic superfoods, determined to find their own cosmic balance. In addition to its three standalone storefronts, Moon Juice's wares are sold at countless other retailers from Net-a-Porter to Free People. Bacon also released her first cookbook late last year.
The way Bacon sees it, any flak, judgment, or jokes regarding her brand's Goop-y aesthetic only push it further into mainstream consciousness and refortify her mission. In a way, these are the people she hopes to reach most—those who think "that there is just one standard way to live your life," she says. "So much can be done with education and the willingness to try something new. We will be bringing powerful ingredients that were once unknown and hard to acquire into homes around the world."
3. Ritual Just Changed the Vitamin Industry Forever
Mission statement: "To make feeling great ridiculously easy." — Katerina Schneider, founder and CEO
By rethinking and reformulating the daily multivitamin, Ritual seeks to revolutionize this daily, well, you know. First and foremost, the company operates on painstaking transparency—a revolutionary concept in the vastly unregulated vitamin industry. (Consider the fact, for example, that remnants of amphetamines and prescription drugs have been found in a variety of generic supplements.)
By disclosing every single ingredient, where it's sourced from, and how exactly it benefits your body—down to the actual studies that say so—Schneider's MO is to take any guesswork whatsoever out of your daily dose. "We tasked our scientists to search the globe for the best nutrient forms that the body can readily use," says Schneider. "For instance, we use a methylated folate sourced from Italy that is a fourth-generation folate." After receiving swift and enthusiastic funding last year, Ritual isn't just filling a gaping hole in the wellness industry—it's reshaping it altogether.
"Wellness as a whole has historically been plagued with pseudoscience, fads, and half-truths," says Schneider. "There is always a new ingredient popping up with little research and lots of hefty claims. We don't believe in hiding any bit of information. In fact, we get excited to share the research, the science, and info about all of our ingredients because we are so obsessed with what we've formulated."
Aside from its transparency, Ritual's simplicity could mark another important direction for the wellness industry, which seems to be approaching its saturation point by the day. "We are about to see a major shift from the concept of more is more to less is more," says Schneider.
4. Lola Has Already Created a New Standard for Feminine Care
Mission statement: "To modernize the feminine-care industry and provide women peace of mind about what's in their products." — Jordana Kier, co-founder
Jordana Kier and Alex Friedman didn't initially set out to set a new standard for feminine-care products—Lola was first dreamed up as a highly convenient feminine-care subscription service, allowing customers to bypass their local CVS and have tampons and pads delivered to their doorsteps every month. But when they soon learned that no one could definitely tell them what is actually in your average tampon (it's yet another corner of the wellness industry that's woefully unregulated by the FDA), their mission changed: They would still create a tampon subscription service, yes, but their brand would also be organic, sustainable, and entirely transparent.
"The feminine-care industry, in particular, was stale for such a long time, and innovation was overdue," says Friedman, thinking back to their company's start in 2015. "Lola was the first to launch a customizable subscription service offering 100% organic cotton tampons, and we're thrilled to reach a growing community of women who want to completely own what they're putting in their bodies."
Friedman and Kier have since expanded to pads and liners, all while maintaining their other tentpole of convenience: Customers can create their own custom assortment of feminine products depending on their own needs for a monthly or twice-monthly delivery. Since their launch less than two years ago, a wave of similar brands have attempted to follow Lola's lead, marking a much-needed change in the way we approach the most natural (not to mention consistent, for better or worse) part of a woman's life. "We're also focused on starting a larger conversation around menstruation, a traditionally taboo topic," says Kier. "Until recently, women weren't thinking about or discussing their feminine-care habits or products with other women, but we've seen a huge shift and believe we've helped destigmatize periods and start a national conversation, which we're looking forward to continuing."
Indeed, Lola's success is representative of the way that wellness has infiltrated every single part of our lives. "Women care about what's in [their] food and [their] makeup, and now they're realizing that feminine care shouldn't be any different," says Friedman. "We deserve better, and that's why we created Lola."
5. Pursoma Wants You to Start Thinking About Digital Wellness
Mission statement: "To provide information and create quality products to keep you well in the modern world." — Shannon Vaughn, founder
At this point, our smartphones are extensions of ourselves—psychologically, they're our connection to the world we've created for ourselves; physically, they rarely leave our hands. But this unmitigated access is still so new to us that we don't yet have the perspective to completely understand the potential downsides of such advanced technology from a health standpoint. (The way that blue light impacts our sleep, for example, might just be a ripple in an uncharted sea of problems.)
But if that seems alarmist, note that Pursoma is looking to temper the idea of a "digital detox" to something quite reasonable for the average working woman by recognizing that she can't just drop everything and disconnect for days without consequence. At face value, it's a bath brand—founder Shannon Vaughn has concocted a series of consciously sourced clay and sea-salt blends designed to pamper your skin, body, and consciousness. But these beautifully branded packets represent something much larger than the sum of their parts: In order to find balance and true health in our modern world, we need to make the time to unplug, even if it's just for a 30-minute bath every evening.
"Our mission has always been focused [on providing] people with products and information for their self-care at home," says Vaughn. "We aim to provide products and treatments that consistently work well and which people can use at home to help keep them well in their fast-paced, overstressed, and oftentimes polluted environments."
She also aims to root this all in hard science, which can be sticky territory for this subject—while we know that our phones emit low levels of radiation (fact: there's actually a warning page in the "settings" section of your iPhone), experts are split on whether this is cause for real alarm. As such, the brand has partnered with the Environmental Health Trust, a nonprofit organization with a mission statement to educate the public about controllable environmental health risks—things like pollution and wireless radiation.
"I try as a layperson to make sure that I am not just giving out information that was just Googled," Vaughn says. "I do believe you can be your own best health advocate, but there is a lot of misinformation pushed onto the consumer. Although I am not a doctor, I relay information to our consumers that is from doctors of a more traditional perspective as well as those who [have a] more alternative outlook. I think there are a lot of misguidances in what is healthy, and you need to have a trusted source for your information." In other words, Pursoma isn't just providing the tools to unplug and detox—it's also offering the "why."
This nod to alternative wellness with a backbone in scientific research and technology, Vaughn says, positions Pursoma as the ultimate modern wellness brand. "We will continue to create products around the platform of modern wellness and digital detox—this is a primary mission for us," she says. "I want consumers to feel like they can rely on us for information and guidance to keep themselves healthy while still coping and thriving in a fast-paced digital society."
6. Capsule is (Finally) Modernizing the Pharmacy
Mission statement: "To create a smarter, friendlier, faster pharmacy that delivers your medication whenever you need it." — Sonia Patel, chief pharmacist
The last time I had to trudge to my local CVS to pick up a prescription, I waited in line for a solid 20 minutes while a single thought dogged me: Why am I even here? It's 2017; we can get our lunch delivered to our doorsteps and hail chauffeurs with a few deft swipes of our fingers. Convenience is our MO, which is why when something in our modern world is clearly in need of an update, it's all the more painfully obvious.
Eric Kinariwala set out to shake up an industry sorely in need of shaking up. Tapping Sonia Patel as his chief pharmacist, he founded Capsule, a virtual pharmacy that allows its customers (just in NYC, for now) to have on-demand access to their medication—while, perhaps even more significantly, opening up the lines of communication between consumers and their doctors, insurers, and healthcare companies.
"Capsule's ultimate goal is to create a new type of pharmacy experience that reconnects medication back to the healthcare system," says Patel. "While our focus since launch has been to remove the familiar frustrations people experience at the pharmacy with our easy-to-use app, we are also working on so many things you don't see as a consumer to rebuild the pharmacy experience. The pharmacy not only doesn't work for patients, it doesn't work for anyone in the healthcare system."
Patel first noted this disconnect after joining the workforce as a pharmacist—she loved her job but observed that customers were less than enthusiastic about the experience. "No one likes waiting in line to find out a prescription is out of stock or not covered by insurance. When we set out to redesign the pharmacy at Capsule, we set out to rebuild the relationship between the consumer and the pharmacist. Our team is hoping to break through the stigmas around traditional pharmacies and pharmacists as we build trusted relationships directly with our customers."
That means empowering clients to ask any questions they might have regarding their medication or experience, without unnecessary red tape like wait times or stocking issues. The focus solely turns to exactly what it should be: The patient's health, and that's all.
With its 8.4 million residents, New York City will certainly keep Capsule and its founders busy as the brand continues to grow and perfect its system. But Patel won't rule out expansion either. "We're always evolving and innovating as a company," she says. "As our team continues to build loyalty and trust with patients through our emotionally resonant brand, I'm excited to see the successes of our hard work unfold."
While we're on the subject of self-care, check out 20 happiness tips therapists want you to know.