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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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Here Are Some Latina-Owned Jewelry Lines To Support This Holiday Season

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Here Are Some Latina-Owned Jewelry Lines To Support This Holiday Season

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The holiday season is upon us. Maybe you are wanting to get your BFF something nice. Or you might still be searching for a gift for your significant other. Perhaps you just want to treat yourself. Whatever the reason, it is always nice to make sure that you are also supporting our community with that wallet. Here are some Latinx jewelers you should check out.

Mercedes Salazar

The Colombian jewelry designer is ready with pieces that are both timely and classic. She infuses the her identity as a Colombian with modern silhouettes to create piece of jewelry guaranteed to spark conversation. If you want to check out what Mercedes Salazar has to offer, check out her store here.

CBJ by Lorena

CBJ by Lorena is a colorful way to show someone special how much you think of them. Lorena beautifully brings together her knowledge of jewelry and polymer clay art to create something truly unique and beautiful. From the hoop earrings to charm bracelets to paperclips, there is so much to love about CBJ by Lorena.

Hija De Tu Madre

Hija de Tu Madre is taking all of the things that make us feel nostalgic and putting it in jewelry form. It is all about wearing that culture with pride and that is something Hija de Tu Madres makes easy. Don’t pass up a chance to rock some of these amazing hoop earrings with the sayings and designs of our youth.

Santú Accessories

The Florida-based Etsy shop is filled with jewelry that perfectly reflects a tropical vibes of Florida. These pieces of jewelry are able to brighten up anyone’s day with how vibrant they are. The bead work in her pieces are not only artistically pleasing, they are attention grabbing.

Honey B. Gold

Treat yourself and the one you love to a customized piece of jewelry from Honey B. Gold. The Los Angeles-based jewelry store is leaning into its authentic aesthetic and being unapologetically who they are. Honey B. Gold is everything you would ever want from a jewelry line.

Azteca Negra

Azteca Negra is bold and in your face. The store, known for their incredible head wraps, offers perfectly designed jewelry. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill pieces of jewelry. These make a statement that you are proud to call out your own heritage in the name of fashion and authentic beauty.

The Dream

Gold bracelets, clay earrings, and classic hoops are a perfect representation of the classic elegance brought by this fashion brand. Don’t sleep on these subtle yet eye-catching pieces of art that you can wear on your body. Plus, you are helping a Latina chance her dream and that is really what is the best part of this whole transaction.

READ: Mexico Is Selling Off Jewelry And Property Seized From Narcos To Build Necessary Roads

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These Latina-Owned Businesses Are Winners Of The El Pollo Loco Grants

Fierce

These Latina-Owned Businesses Are Winners Of The El Pollo Loco Grants

todoverde / yucasla / Instagram

El Pollo Loco announced a grant program to help Latina-owned businesses in the Los Angeles area. The grant, which is $10,000 and mentorship to grow their businesses, went to several businesses ran by Latinas. Covid-19 has devastated the small business community and women have been the hardest hit. El Pollo Loco’s grants offered some businesses a necessary lifeline.

Andrea’s Healthy Kitchen

Andrea’s Healthy Kitchen started in 2013 and aims to offer people healthy juices to help with their own health goals. Tatiana Pacheco’s own journey in weight loss with the help of juices inspired the company to be.

“It means a lot for AHK and we are going to be forever grateful for all the support we received from our clients, friends, followers and family,” Pacheco said. “The amount of love was unbelievable during this contest. I cried with every single nomination because they all had a special memory or reason to nominate AHK.”

Milpa Grille

Desyi Minera Serrano created Milpa Grille to connect people with their Mesoamerican ancestors through food. The most important part of the Milpa Grille experience is the use of the all-important ingredient: corn.

“This El Pollo Loco [grant] is huge for us. It will ease my mind knowing that we have the fund to catch up to those bills that piled up during COVID. But most importantly that you have organizations/companies that are willing to help and assist others during a time where the hospitality industry has been hit the hardest,” Minera Serrano says. “Having such a huge company like El Pollo Loco help us professionals is such a privilege. We’re going to ensure that the professional help is applied to Milpa not only to better us as a team but also see how we can share what we applied so we thrive as a community.”

Alchemy Organica

Chef Denise Vallejo is a first-generation indigenous Xicana who is bringing plant-based foods to everyone who finds her on social media. Alchemy Organica is a pop-up restaurant, lifestyle brand, and product line with roots in the plant-based heritage of Mexico.

“My main focus has always been the creative. I consider myself an artist first and this business cannot exist without the passion I feel for my art. However, I look forward to having expert business & financial advice to support me as I continue to grow. I come from a very humble background & working class family,” Vallejo says. “There’s so much for me to learn about running a sustainable business & becoming financially literate. I grew up seeing my father self-employed & running his own businesses, but I often wonder how much more successful his businesses could have been if he had access to more resources. It feels like I’m being supported by the universe to break generational curses now.”

Yucas LA

For decades, ‘Mama’ Socorro Herrera has been offering delicious bites from the Yucatan and people cannot get enough. According to their website, Mama and her husband Jaime first got customers by promising that they’d love it or they’d get double their money back.

Mama was touched to see the letters of love a support they received in the nomination process for the grant. Mama says that the grant to Yucas LA has “provided a breathing space financially, and an invaluable opportunity to be mentored in a specific area of business. I feel like I’ve been allowed free rein of the candy store! The campaign itself has generated a buzz that improved business.”

Café Santo

Owners Pilar Castañeda and Marlon Gonzalez are giving people a wonderful taste of Latino coffee culture with their coffee cart. The pop-up coffee business is also in the process of creating a modern Oaxacan coffee shop in California.

“We’ve put all of our heart and soul to bring our community quality coffee and a great experience to take home,” Castañeda says. “This grant will help Café Santo reach the next step in our journey, using these funds towards opening our first contemporary Oaxacan coffee shop in the Eastside of LA. El Pollo Loco’s professional mentorship will help guide us in building a solid foundation for our growing small business, something that will create long-lasting change for us as an emerging business.”

La Llorona Bakes

Adriana De Casas’ business, La Llorona Bakes LLC, is an example of a hobby becoming a profitable career. It was the kind of hobby that went from YouTube tutorials to making money with the support of friends and family.

“It means the world to me that friends, family, and customers took the time and effort to nominate me. What may just be one post to them, it means everything to me,” De Casas says. “It means they believe in my dreams, that they support me wholeheartedly. But more so, it’s honestly just reassuring like I can do this, I AM doing this.”

East Los Sweets

Baking was a part of Laura Martinez’s life since she was younger. The LA Central Bakery has been in her family since 1984 and working in a kitchen was never her plan. However, it quickly became where she was the most creative.

Martinez is grateful for the El Pollo Local Grant for giving her a chance, as a one-woman operation, it make investments in her business.

“Since gatherings are on a smaller scale because of Covid, this grant will help me buy equipment that would have taken me twice as long to save up from my orders,” Martinez says. “El pollo grant also provided finance/accounting mentorship that will help me further grow more as a small business.”

Todo Verde

Jocelyn Ramirez is a woman of many talents, including a deep knowledge of plant-based cooking. The college professor, chef, yoga teacher, and businesswoman is on a mission to create delicious plant-based foods deeply rooted in the flavors and techniques of Mexico and South America and they might be coming to a grocery store near you.

“This grant is going to our payroll for our team and will also help us continue to pivot our business,” Ramirez says. “We have been dreaming of launching consumer packaged goods available in grocery stores for the last couple of years, but have been too busy to get it off the ground. Now, we are ready and working with an amazing team to make it all happen!”

Salsaology

Lori Sandoval created Salsaology in 2013 when she was fresh out of college and needed to create a career. She knew that food was the path but didn’t plan on culinary school. With that idea, Salsaology was born in her kitchen.

“The response from our customers and friends was a humbling experience to me and the team. We feel inspired by everyone’s support; it has given us a gust of wind to keep going especially through these difficult times,” Sandoval says. “We really do strive to service and offer our community food that is clean and good for you without compromising our culinary traditions. So when we see this outpour of love and support, it motivates us to keep showing up for our community.”

READ: El Pollo Loco Announces First Round Of Latina Business Owners To Win $10K Grants

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