Why brands need to pay more attention to hormonal fluctuations

08 : 11 : 2017 Health : Wellness : Hormones
THINX underwear campaign THINX underwear campaign

This unwillingness to accept the fundamental hormonal differences between men and women permeates beyond the healthcare sector, affecting many aspects of life.

Rhiannon McGregor, junior journalist, LS:N Global

When it comes to pharmaceuticals, females have been under-represented for far too long. It is a gender bias that originates in the laboratory, with male mice predominantly used for drug testing because of a misconception that females’ hormone cycles will offer unreliable results. In fact, female mice have been shown to demonstrate no more variation through their hormonal cycle than males.

But does it matter? The answer is yes, because females – both human and animal – metabolise drugs differently from males owing to variations in body composition. Scientists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute analysed more than 50,000 mice, illustrating crucial differences in characteristics such as bone density, metabolism and blood components.

‘Men and women respond to medication differently. One study [by the US General Accounting Office] examined the drugs that had been withdrawn from the US market [from December 2000 to January 2001] and eight of the 10 drugs taken off the market in that period had more severe side effects in women,’ explains Janine Clayton, director of the Office of Research on Women's Health at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

This unwillingness to accept the fundamental hormonal differences between men and women permeates beyond the healthcare sector, affecting many aspects of life. In the beauty and lifestyle sectors, however, we are beginning to see an acknowledgement of these variations. A new online platform, Moody, offers Q&As and articles designed to help women understand their biology better in an engaging way. The articles are informed by industry experts, with practical advice given on topics such as oestrogen dominance, a common form of hormone imbalance. ‘Moody was born from a realisation that as technology changes our lives, we need to become better attuned to our moods and bodies,’ co-founder Amy Thomson told Vogue.

Brands across sectors need to become part of this conversation on women’s needs, ensuring that they adopt a more inclusive approach in a way that avoids stereotypical gender bias.

‘We are here to build a tool not just to inform or report, but to offer solutions and ideas for what you as a woman can do to actually affect or change your mood for the better, to optimise your happiness,’ says Thomson.

Another brand that has moved into this area is MyFlo, a period tracker app created by functional nutritionist Alisa Vitti. The app helps women to optimise their daily routine by matching their activities to their symptoms at each stage of their menstrual cycle, acknowledging that an optimised routine can vary for men and women by re-addressing the male-centric 24-hour routine and instead proposing a 28-day schedule.

The app breaks down women’s cycles into menstrual, follicular, ovulatory and luteal phases, offering detailed explanations of how their mood and energy levels will be affected. In the luteal phase between days 10 and 14, for example, MyFlo informs users: ‘During the first part of this week, you will likely have lots of energy to burn. Use this energy for super-slow strength training or intense yoga,’ recommending lighter exercise such as walking, Pilates and yoga during the latter half of the week. The advice is medically assured and clearly broken down into a digestible format.

As an extension of its offering, MyFlo recently launched a subscription box, consisting of five vitamin supplements, designed to replenish the key micronutrients stripped from the body during the menstrual cycle. The offering, which comprises Energize, Replenish, Gutsy, Detox and Harmonize, is engaging while the website provides an explanation of exactly what each ingredient does to improve wellbeing.

Brands across sectors need to become part of this conversation on women’s needs, ensuring that they adopt a more inclusive approach in a way that avoids stereotypical gender bias.

For more on why brands need to work harder to address the different needs of female consumers in a way that is inclusive rather than stigmatising, see our Female Futures Market report.