Fierce

Why This Latina Started The Bloomi, The First Digital Marketplace For Clean Intimate Care

Would you put something on your vulva that hasn’t been tested by a government agency? Turns out, it’s likely you already are. While our genital organs are extremely sensitive, oftentimes the everyday products we use to keep them clean, safe and itch-free are unregulated and filled with unexamined ingredients that could be causing our private parts more harm than good. You wouldn’t know this because most personal hygiene products are also not required to list its ingredients on its packaging. Luckily, the Bloomi, a digital marketplace for clean intimate care, has taken on the job for the sake of all our vaginas.

Launched in 2018, the Bloomi is the first and only online shop selling and informing people about toxin-free hygiene, menstruation and sexual products. While there are many big-name brands at pharmacies selling items that are “pH balanced” or for “sensitive skin,” because these trusted goods are unregulated, many are deceitful and include components that could lead to adverse effects. Unlike your local CVS or Walgreens, the products on the Bloomi’s digital shelves are tested, so every sensitive wash, tampon or condom the market carries is safe.

This was essential for the company’s founder and CEO, Rebecca Alvarez Story, who dealt with pH imbalance and vaginal dryness for years because she was unable to find products that were as “gentle” or “hygienic” as companies advertised. The Mexican-American businesswoman, who spent her career working in sexuality wellness and research, was aware of the loopholes that existed for intimate care brands and how this has led to mass-produced products that had harmed, not helped, the women around her. Knowing that people were interested in curated clean products, she thought it was time to give them what they wanted and deserved.

“I think a marketplace like the Bloomi is essential from a public health standpoint. For women and femmes, looking at it as a wellness topic, we need to be able to trust that the products we are putting on our bodies and in our bodies are healthy, and right now that’s not happening,” Alvarez Story, 33, told FIERCE.

According to Alvarez Story, most intimate care products fall into the category of cosmetics, which isn’t heavily regulated in the US. As a result, big companies, which tend to use cheaper ingredients or include components that make their products smell “fresh” or have long shelf lives, sell products that are loaded with elements that could be harmful. Because these brands aren’t required to disclose ingredients on their packaging, they’re also able to throw trendy words like “organic” or “sensitive” on their items and hide all the toxins that are actually festering inside its bottles.

“A product for our labia lips has the same rule on labeling that lipstick does, even though our bodies have different areas that need different things,” the Oakland, Calif.-based entrepreneur said. “Testing for products is minimal and some don’t even need to be tested, giving companies a lot of leeway. They can kind of make anything. As long as they are not putting a couple extremely harmful ingredients in it, there’s no governing agency telling them they can’t sell it. There are no rules for intimate care products.”

The negative outcome of untested products varies. For some, it’s minor: some dryness, irritated skin or pH imbalance. But for others, Alvarez Story says, it can be more extreme. Some of the ingredients can cause vaginal infections, skin damage on the vulva, pelvic inflammatory disease and could even lead to cancer. For example, in December 2018, Kimberly-Clark recalled its U by Kotex Sleek Tampons after several reports that the hygiene product was unraveling or coming apart inside some users’ bodies. The unwinding caused some women infections, vaginal irritation and vaginal injuries, among other symptoms.

“If we talk about the body, the vulva and vagina are the most absorbent parts of our body. Everything we put on and in it ends up in our bloodstream in seconds, so we should be aware of what we are putting into our bodies,” she said.

This is especially true for Latinas, and other women of color, who Alvarez Story says have a higher risk of experiencing adverse effects from intimate care products. Due to early messaging that menstruation is dirty and lessons that overwashing is good for the skin and smelling “clean” is a reflection of being clean, women of color tend to purchase fragranced products, which are usually the most harmful, and overclean their sensitive vulva skin. Even more, Alvarez Story says that Black and brown women often already have slightly higher pH levels than white women because of our diverse microbial profile. As a result, women of color are both culturally and anatomically more susceptible to vaginal irritation, infection and pH imbalance triggered by hygienic products.

At the Bloomi, each of the 100-plus items sold on the digital marketplace has been screened. In fact, when Alvarez Story began working on her business in 2017, she tested 5,000 products, and only 2 percent met her clean criteria. While each category is reviewed against their own “clean categories,” meaning menstrual cups are examined with a different standard than wipes, bath salts or sex toys, there is a list of banned ingredients, which include toxic components like glycerin, parabens, petroleum, phthalates, synthetic dyes and more. Additionally, all liquids, like washes, moisturizers, ingrown concentrates and lubricants, are tested in an independent lab to ensure the product matches the brand’s claims.

The lengthy screening process has limited how many items are available on the marketplace, but Alvarez Story hopes to have at least 200 products for purchase by the end of 2019. As the small team builds its inventory, it’s also working on its own affordable intimate care line that they hope to introduce in 2020, recognizing that many people don’t buy clean items not because they don’t want to but rather because it’s more expensive than pharmacy store products.

Alvarez Story wants the Bloomi to be a trusted go-to place for all intimate care needs, including information and materials that educate people and destigmatize their bodies and sexuality. On Intimate Talk, the Bloomi’s blog and newsletter, a team of professionals share modern, research-based intimate health articles and guides on topics ranging from Black motherhood, using and cleaning period underwear, the causes and prevention of painful sex, how to practice body positity and the different types of condoms, among so much more.

“I don’t want people to just come to our site and buy from us. I want people to come in and feel like they’re adding value to their lives, and not just from a product,” she said.

With the slogan “be the CEO of your own body,” the Bloomi ultimately wants to offer women and femmes information and products that can help them make decisions about their health, pleasure and reproductive lives for themselves.

Read: This Puerto Rican Illustrator Uses Art To Explore Her Sexuality

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Agencies Are Receiving A Shocking Amount Of Requests For Surrogates Who Won’t Get The COVID Vaccine

Fierce

Agencies Are Receiving A Shocking Amount Of Requests For Surrogates Who Won’t Get The COVID Vaccine

With the availability of coronavirus vaccines growing across the United States, want-to-be parents are searching for surrogates who have yet to recieve the COVID-19 vaccine. One of their bigger requests? They also want women who are willing to stay unvaccinated until they carry the parents’ children to term.

Surrogacy agencies are currently working to match vaccine-averse prospective parents with surrogates who are willing to stay unvaccinated. 

According to VICE, “for those with pregnancies already underway, the decision about whether to vaccinate is forcing surrogates and would-be parents into tough conversations. Pregnant people face higher risks of severe illness if they catch COVID-19—which could lead them to give birth too early.”

Recently, an agency based in California called Surrogate First, reported that nearly a quarter of their patrons have requested an unvaccinated surrogate. The report highlights that

“We had intended parents who did not want her [the surrogate] to have the vaccination, were worried about COVID, and they actually paid for her lost wages to not work the last three months” of her pregnancy, Mareko said. “It gave peace of mind to them and it allowed the surrogate not to have any type of financial hardship.”

According to reports, eager parents and surrogates have struggled to be on the same page about vaccines and safety since the pandemic.

“Intended parents already feel a lack of control over this pregnancy since they’re not physically carrying themselves,” Gayle Garrett, Surrogate Solutions’ founder told Vice. “They’re trusting another person to carry this pregnancy, and at the same time, they’re trusting someone else that she will adhere to the [COVID-19] guidelines.”

As of today, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, revealed that over 10,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated in the United States. In early February, Dr. Anthony Fauci underlined that there have been zero “red flags” when it comes to pregnancy and vaccines. Animal testing of mRNA vaccines, such as the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, found zero impact on fertility or pregnancies.

Pfizer recently also announced that they would initiate another round of trials that would include 4,000 pregnant women.

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There’s A New Kit For Your PreTeen’s First Period That Will Make Talking About It Way Less Taboo

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There’s A New Kit For Your PreTeen’s First Period That Will Make Talking About It Way Less Taboo

Everyone remembers getting their first period. Whether you were at a friend’s sleepover, riding your bike or sitting in math class, it’s a moment straight out of a teen novel that forever alters your life. A reminder of what your body is capable of, it’s a marker of growing up—and if you haven’t been prepared for what’s involved, it can be a daunting experience.

But, thankfully, today there are so many resources out there to help make that experience easier for the teen getting her first period and for the parents who get to explain all these changes.

The new kit for her first period helps teens embrace their periods.

Getting your first period is a milestone in a woman’s life but thanks to our patriarchal society it’s long been considered a taboo. And, as a result, young girls and women are left suffering to figure it out on their own.

Thankfully, there are new companies out there working to make menstrual education the norm and they’re determined to provide knowledge and supplies to teens who are just starting to menstruate – especially if they’re from underrepresented communities. They’re working to set up the next gen of people who menstruate with better access to products and information so they can feel confident while navigating their bodies’ natural changes.

“We’re dedicated to encouraging families to openly communicate about period and puberty education,” Crystal Etienne, founder of Ruby Love, told POPSUGAR. “We launched our bestselling first-period kits that include educational materials that challenge common misconceptions about puberty and equip teens with the tools they need to embrace their periods.”

Products like these are so important since a woman’s period has major impacts on her life.

A lot of people learn about menstruation and proper period care after having their first period, sometimes even years later. This has a huge impact on access to period care products and education and takes its toll on society as a whole.

For instance, in North America, up to 70 per cent of girls and women have missed school or work because of their period, according to research by UNESCO. Then there’s the very serious issue of health effects. At least one study found that Black women are three times more likely to experience more severe period symptoms than white women, thanks to noncancerous growths in the uterus that can cause heavy periods.

“While the first period talk is an important introduction to puberty, the topic still remains taboo in many families,” Crystal explained to POPSUGAR.

“This can especially be true in minority groups who have traditionally been left out of the conversation due to stigmas surrounding the topic. As a mother, I know how important it is to have a menstrual-care option that is safe, easy to use, and helps celebrate a young girl’s growth. Discussing menstruation as a monumental rite of passage and making her first period experience as positive as possible influences how a young girl views menstruation,” she added.

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