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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Eco-Friendly Period Products That Will Save You Money In The Long Run

Fierce

Eco-Friendly Period Products That Will Save You Money In The Long Run

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It’s expensive being a woman with a period.

On average, women menstruate from age 13 to age 51 which means the average woman has over 456 total periods over a course of nearly 40 years. According to research conducted by San Francisco State University, 2,280 days of a woman’s life is spent on her period. Or, 6.25 years of her life. While there are other options, nearly 70 percent of women use tampons during their periods. SFSU states that as women are instructed to change their tampons every 4 to 8 hours, with 6 hours being the average and a box containing 36 tampons costing $7 at a Pharmacy, women spend $1,773.33 in a lifetime on tampons (that’s if that price of tampons stays the same). That’s a pretty big chunk of change but…

Here’s the thing, to some people that might not be a lot of savings in a lifetime, but what about in terms of the environment? Traditional pads and tampons are typically made of plastic, rayon, and toxic chemicals like bleach which fill topple landfills and clog sewers. Each year, 20 billion menstrual products are ultimately dropped in North American landfills. With the average woman throwing away 250 to 300 pounds of “pads, plugs, and applicators” in her lifetime, that’s a heck lot of space on our planet to be taking up.

Fortunately, that can be saved. From cotton pads to menstrual cups there all kinds of comfortable, affordable, and easy ways to save the planet with your period alone. Check them out!

Cloth Pads

Sea-Sponge Tampons

Padded Panties

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Menstrual Cups

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𝐘𝐦𝐩ä𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐭ö𝐲𝐬𝐭ä𝐯ä𝐥𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐞𝐭 𝐤𝐮𝐮𝐤𝐚𝐮𝐭𝐢𝐬𝐞𝐭.⁣⁣⁣ *𝘺𝘩𝘵𝘦𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘺ö 𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘶𝘴 @nomaicup 𝘬𝘢𝘯𝘴𝘴𝘢*⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Vuonna 2018 pelkästään Yhdysvalloissa ostettiin 𝟓.𝟖 𝐦𝐢𝐥𝐣𝐚𝐫𝐝𝐢𝐚 tampoonia (𝘭ä𝘩𝘥𝘦 𝘕𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘭 𝘎𝘦𝘰𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘱𝘩𝘪𝘤.) Voitte siis vain kuvitella miltä luku näyttää kaikki maailman tampoonit ynnättynä. Tähän lisätään vielä kuukautissiteet ja jätevuori on valmis.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Suurin osa myytävistä siteistä sekä tamponeista on kierrätys kelvottomia, ja osa näistä päätyy myös kaatopaikan sijaan viemäristöön ja sitä kautta mereen sekä rannoillemme.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Meille markkinoidaan murros-iästä alkaen erilaisia kertakäyttöisiä siteitä sekä tampooneja eikä juurikaan kerrota kestävistä vaihtoehdoista.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Mutta entä jos kuukautiset voisivat olla ympäristöystävällisemmät sekä samalla edullisemmat?⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Kuukuppi on monelle vielä tuntematon kuukautistuote, mutta ympäristön kannalta erittäin oleellinen. Itselläni on ollut kuukuppi jo vuoden verran käytössä ja voin sanoa, että paluuta siteisiin ei enää ole.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Yksi kuukuppeja valmistava yritys on suomalainen 𝐍𝐨𝐦𝐚𝐢, joiden kuukupit ovat tehty 100% lääketieteellisestä silikonista ja näin ollen ne sopivat myös lateksi allergikoille. Tuotteet ovat kotimaisia ja valmistus tapahtuu Sastamalassa.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Yhden kuukupin hinta on 29,90€ ja koko vaihtoehtoja on kolme: S, M ja L. Ne ovat suunniteltu eri tarpeisiin ja tietoa kupeista löytyy yrityksen sivuilta.⁣⁣⁣ ⁣ Itse valitsin koot S ja M. Kupit ovat helppo asettaa sisälle ja oikein laitettuna ne eivät tunnu miltään. Kuppien mukana tulee myös kätevä pussi, jonka avulla kuljetat kuppia helposti mukanasi.⁣ ⁣⁣⁣ Kuukuppi voi tuntua hintavalta verrattuna siteisiin ja tamponeihin, mutta tiesitkö, että oikein käytettynä yksi kuukuppi voi kestää jopa 10 vuotta käytössä? Siitä voit siis laskea kuinka paljon rahaa säästät, puhumattakaan kuinka paljon vähemmän roskaa tuotat.⁣⁣ ⁣ Suosittelen siis vahvasti kokeilemaan kuukuppia.⁣ ⁣⁣ #nomaicup #menstrualcups #periods #zerowaste #zerowasteliving #sustainablelife #zerowasteswaps #zerowastebathroom #kotimaisuus #kotimainen #kuukautiset #ecofriendly #plasticfreeoceans #ecohome #ekokoti #sustainableswaps

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Black And Afro-Latino Businesses You Can Support To Financially Uplift The Communities

Things That Matter

Black And Afro-Latino Businesses You Can Support To Financially Uplift The Communities

partyshopavenue / ashantiheadwraps / Instagram

Black and Afro-Latino businesses are crucial to the growth of wealth within their communities. Latinas are the fastest-growing population of entrepreneurs. Here is a list of Black and Afro-Latino businesses you can support to help build them up.

Cafe Con Libros

Cafe Con Libros is a feminist bookstore and coffee shop serving the Brooklyn area with conversations about things that matter to the community. Though they are closed because of COVID-19, there are several ways you can continue to support the bookstore.

Azteca Negra

Azteca Negra is a textile, jewelry, and accessories line that is all about being culturally conscious. Marisol Catchings, the artist behind Azteca Negra, is a Black/Chicana artist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Catchings also aims at recycling by reusing resources to create her products.

Kimpande Jewelry

Kimpande Jewelry is telling the history of African life and people in Puerto Rico. Eduardo Paz, the designer of the products, wanted to highlight the different African cultures brought to Puerto Rico during the slave trade. The brand is all about buying a piece of history with every piece of jewelry.

Marisel Herbal Bath & Body

Based in Puerto Rico, Marisel Herbal Bath & Body is giving people herbal and natural alternatives to the bath and body products on the market. The store, which has been dealing with the COVID-19 lockdowns, is slowly coming back to life and is offering to ship orders to customers.

Ankhari Crochet

There is something so fun about crochet. It might be that it makes us think about the vintage clothing that we have seen in our parents’ photos. It is fun, stylish, and the colors really giving us some life right now.

Ashanti Headwraps

If you are looking for some new and fun headwraps, this is the place to check out. The brand has stores in Puerto Rico and New York and the stores offer up some beautifully crafted headwraps that anyone can wear.

Pensar Africa

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Fatima – in traceable, ethically made Swag 😷😍💚 . . . Matching mask, Fanny pack and Headwrap available by custom order. DM for more information ℹ️ . . Prevention is better than cure 🦠 😷 . . Local Puerto Rican designer Sanel @disenador_sanelrivera and Pensar Africa have worked together to produced these beautiful masks to protect yourself and others from the spread of Corona Virus – best protection and prevention is to observe social distancing by staying at home but if you need to go out CDC recommends wearing a mask with two layers of tightly woven 100 percent cotton fabric. . . We have created these beautiful reversible, washable mask using high tread count pure Tanzanian 🇹🇿 cotton fabric with pellon interfacing in between for a filter. It also has a pocket to add additional filter if you choose to do so. . . Limited quantity and available in San Juan for drive through pickup only and shipped worldwide 🌍 🌎 . These masks have been disinfected, aired out, packed and ready to go. . . Fanny pack in collaboration with @jashbags . . #facetimephotoshoot with @jorlyfloress #Teamwork #togetherwecan #socialdistancing #coronavirus #protection #protectionisbetterthancure #cdcrecommendation #wearamask #stayathome #coronachronicles #protectivestyles #pensarafrica #sanelriveradiseñador #mask #facemask #santurce #sanjuan #sanjuanpuertorico #puertorico #africanprint #africanfabric #kitenge #ankaramask #africanprintmasks #afroboricua #afrolatina

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Pensar Africa is more than a place to buy things, it is a place to empower African creators. According to the website, Pensar Africa’s mission is to bring African goods to the Americas while providing the creators the opportunity to make money off of their products.

The Salvi Vegan

This food blogger is showing how you can take your favorite Salvadoran dishes and make them vegan. It is a nice reminder that not all support has to cost something. Some times you just have to show support to help those in the community attract opportunities that come with money.

Party Shop Avenue

This is one company we should keep in mind after this is all over. Who doesn’t want a nice balloon structure at their party? These are truly some beautiful pieces of art that you can use to celebrate just about anything.

READ: This Boricua Is Bringing An Indie Bookstore To Her Neighborhood Of 1.4 Million