• Stephanie Drax

The Menstrual Products We Should Be Using. Period.

Updated: Dec 9, 2018

DAME was co-founded by Celia Pool to tackle the shocking level of waste in menstrual products and redefine a market built on shame and secrecy. As well as creating 100% organic cotton biodegradable tampons, DAME has designed a revolutionary reusable tampon applicator called D. It’s made of Mediprene, a clever medical grade compound that is chemical-free, antimicrobial, self-cleaning and ergonomically designed for comfort. D crowdfunded on Kickstarter - overfunded by almost 300% - and will be available from Autumn 2018. Visit www.wearedame.co to buy online and for stockists.

Celia Pool

What’s your take on the landscape of menstrual products available on the market today?

The average woman uses 12,000 pads or tampons in her lifetime and 100 billion period products are thrown away globally every year – most are single-use, contain plastic, and are non-recyclable. 8 million pieces of plastic enter our oceans every day and soon there will be more items of plastic in our oceans than there are fish.

Alongside this, for the last 90 years, two or three major manufacturers have dominated the feminine care market. They don’t have to disclose their ingredients, but independent studies – of which there have been few - have found wood pulp, rayon, bleach, fragrances and synthetic superabsorbents in their tampons. Not to mention that pesticides are used on non-organic cotton, above all else.

The vagina is one of the most absorbent parts of your body, so the reality is that women have been potentially putting chemicals inside them from a young age. Women buy what their mums bought – there’s no emotional attachment or thought process that goes into the purchase – and after that happens why would they really think about that product choice again? It’s as if we’ve all been sleep-walking for the past 40 years, and only now that we’re questioning what we put in our bodies.

How is DAME different?

We’re different because we’ve identified key areas of the industry that needed a shake-up and are addressing them directly. I’d worked previously with my DAME co-founder selling sanitary products and it became alarmingly apparent not only how much plastic was in products, but how much non-degradable waste there was, how poor the quality of the products was, and the messaging on packaging.

We thought: let’s change all of it and make the products more beautiful at the same time. These products haven’t had a make-over in decades, let’s give them some love and allow women to use a menstrual product that fits in with the rest of their lifestyle.

People are buying reusable coffee and water cups, so why wouldn’t they buy reusable applicators? The DAME applicator is a world first - its antimicrobial material makes it hygienic and you never need to throw it away. We also sell 100% organic cotton tampons - with no pesticides or harsh chemicals in them at all – that are biodegradable.

What’s been your strategy?

There are reusable menstrual products out there, but they’re mostly found in the “eco” realm, so few people end up using them. We wanted to bring them into the mainstream, offer choice and ultimately change women’s habits. That meant we needed to design items that look well branded and cool, yet wouldn’t compromise on comfort or efficacy.

The environment is our top concern, but we wanted to create something that a woman would want on their bathroom shelf. The language is something we also had to get our heads around. For so long, the messages about the body have been negative - periods are meant to be “discreet”, you’re supposed to feel “fresh” and the idea is that no one “needs to know” you’re on your period. This is the way big companies have always spoken to women about menstrual products, so a new, honest language was a huge catalyst for us.

Has it been a challenge to seek investment from mostly male investors?

Yes, it’s been a massive challenge to pitch a product that men don’t understand, yet is used by half the global population. We’re hardlining to pursue women because women get the problem, but I’ve pitched tampons to a lot of middle-aged men with white hair. I’ve had DAME called “niche” and I’ve had men not want to look me in the eye. Someone even said it was “too early in the morning” to discuss it.

Often I will present DAME as a business and not a product, pitch the numbers and not the story. A female-led, female product is difficult - it helps having a male co-founder – but it’s exciting to be part of a potential shift that will ultimately allow women to have a more sustainable period.

What’s your dream for DAME?

The hope for the future is that we can be part of a cultural and consumer shift towards 100% cotton tampons and reusable applicators. We are also looking beyond menstrual products; so much work is being done in the kitchen in terms of recycling and sustainability, but not in the bathroom. So many of your bathroom habits can be rethought. It’s about rethinking products that women use, but designing them beautifully. That’s the way we hope to drive change. If we can do it with tampons – the most unsexy thing! – we can do it with anything.

Finally, how do you juggle a start-up with being a mum to two small kids?

The juggling act is interesting, I don't think I'll ever really get it right - children are taken to meetings and tampons are taken to school.  It's great because running your own business gives you flexibility, but on the other hand you're on 24/7, 365 days a year because if you don't do the work, no one else will. However, loving what you do means that it doesn't feel like work.