Getting your period is perfectly common and natural for most women. Despite this, women often don’t have access to safe and comfortable period products. The negative stigma and embarrassment surrounding the topic often leads women to be complacent about the period products available to them – even if they are inadequate, unsafe and too expensive.
Hong Kong is no exception. Olivia Cotes-James, the founder of LUÜNA Naturals, spoke with TMS about coming back to Hong Kong with a suitcase filled with a supply of tampons and realizing both the inadequate access to period products and the negative stigma she herself felt regarding the topic of menstruation.
In light of this, Cotes-James created LUÜNA Naturals, a company dedicated to providing natural, organic period care products and spreading education on menstrual health and developing access for all. Currently focused on providing its products and services in Asia, LUÜNA Naturals donates a period cup to low-income women and girls with every purchase or subscription.
LUÜNA Naturals are proud to be serving 3000+ periods monthly with free period care products, providing 30,000+ organic cotton pads to vulnerable local communities and saving 800,000+ disposable plastic products through the sales and donation of its reusable period cup so far.
The creation of LUÜNA Naturals
After Cotes-James first faced the issues of inadequate access to basic period products and negative stigma upon her return to Hong Kong, she realized it was a problem worth solving. It’s her “deepest belief is that it’s a totally false narrative that menstruation needs to be negative.”
Instead, menstruation is a topic people should feel comfortable discussing. Cotes-James explains that menstrual cycles “underpin our every single day physical and mental wellness.” But, unfortunately, “women, including myself, (are) unsure of the period products available to them,” she says.
To combat this, LUÜNA Naturals presents women with organic, natural period products as well as information and room for choice. Providing toxin-free products (pads, tampons, period cups and sets) and taboo-free education, LUÜNA tackles today’s menstrual status quo to open up access within the community. “LUÜNA was the result of almost four years of research that kind of marries the lack of access, the lack of education and the lack of transparency in the period care industry,” Cotes-James explains.
“Our job is to remove all the barriers and all the misinformation that stop you making that decision – to leave you open with the choice. To us, it’s just all about choice through information.”
LUÜNA Naturals is on a mission
Cotes-James describes LUÜNA Naturals as “a purpose-driven period wellness company.”
“Our mission is to redefine the experience of menstruation and hormonal health for women and girls across Asia,” she says. ”What we’re trying to build is a community and a platform that really tackles personalized period wellness.”
People may perceive natural, organic period products as potentially less comfortable or generally requiring more work from the consumer. However, LUÜNA Naturals begs to differ. With “health and comfort and performance” as the “main drivers,” Cotes-James says, “I don’t expect a woman to have to use a product that’s uncomfortable because it saves plastic. That, to me, is not progression.”
LUÜNA Naturals also takes period poverty into consideration. “For us, period poverty is not necessarily just not being able to afford period care. But having to, due to financial limitations, use period care that could potentially be harmful to you,” Cotes-James says.
Thus, LUÜNA Naturals has reached out to vulnerable communities in Hong Kong, mainland China and Nepal to provide period products and period education “around hormonal wellness, period empowerment [and] the menstrual cup.” Recognizing the fact that different period products suit different people but also the convenience of menstrual cups in these communities, Cotes-James says: “For as long as we can, we will cater to the needs of those women and girls with pads until they are ready themselves to make the switch to the cup.”
Looking forward with LUÜNA Naturals
While stigma and taboo around periods are prevalent within Asia, Cotes-James emphasizes the need for transparency to counter these thoughts. To combat the social stigma and taboo image, LUÜNA Naturals has configured an initiative for A Better Period which “works with corporate, schools and organizations to basically tackle menstrual stigma within classrooms and places of work.”
“It’s a lot of work to unpick these stigmas and this conditioning, but we only think of things that are difficult to use in my view, because we haven’t had education and support around them,” says Cotes-James, reiterating how education and the initiative of A Better Period can impact the views of people in Asia positively.
Naturally, men should also be involved in this conversation. Cotes-James highlights that tackling menstrual stigma must include “men and boys and people of all genders.”
“Regardless of the organization, first involving men in the conversation is incredibly important,” she explains, “because if you are tackling menstrual stigma for a person individually, but then they go out into the world and face it at work or at home for whatever reason, then we’re only doing half our job when we can only go so far in our mission.”
Looking forward to the future, Cotes-James realizes the positive impact of LUÜNA Naturals. “In my line of work every single day I speak to somebody that reminds me of how needed what we’re doing is but also who reminds me that our brand has been able to really positively impact their life. No matter the challenges that we face, it’s that knowledge that keeps me going.”
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