It’s a busy time for Naomi Watts. Her buzzy new series “The Watcher” is streaming on Netflix; she’s contemplating which actor she would want to play her in a biopic; and — like so many other celebrities — she’s launching a beauty and wellness brand.
On Tuesday, which also happens to be “Menopause Awareness Day,” the beloved British actor introduces Stripes, a product line catering to menopause health. The name Stripes, Watts tells me in a pre-launch Zoom interview (which she joined from her own stunning living room), references the DNA of the brand, similar to how thread-like chromosomes are embedded in every one of us.
“These women [going through menopause] should feel unapologetic. They should feel proud of this time that they’ve spent on the earth and that all their cumulative experiences mean something,” she tells Fashionista. “This is not the end of life where we should be invisible and irrelevant. It’s the beginning of something wonderful, actually — we’ve earned this time, we’ve earned our stripes.”
Unlike the many celebrity-backed beauty wellness brands already (over)saturating the market, Stripes differs in that it is mission-driven, looking to spark nuanced, frank conversations surrounding menopause itself. Most of the menopausal transition happens between the ages of 45 and 55, and it usually lasts about seven years but can be as long as 14 years.
As a beauty veteran who co-founded the “clean” beauty retailer Onda Beauty in 2014, Watts says that this topic remains, unfortunately, quite stigmatized. Now 54 years old, Watts feels a deeply rooted, personal connection to the brand mission: “I came up with Stripes because [menopause] was a pain point in my life and a time when I wasn’t feeling like my best self. I felt very alone and was confused by the fact that people just weren’t talking about it.”
For Watts, this topic is, at its core, about empathy. “We’re on the precipice of learning a whole lot more of what it means to be empathetic. Before, women were just written off as ‘crazy old ladies’ who are just acting ‘weird,'” she says. “You probably remember when you were going through puberty and how much empathy there was for you at that time from your parents because puberty was something we all understood and was well laid-out for us. [For menopause], we need to understand that this is a natural phase of life and everyone’s headed there, and those that aren’t headed there will be affected in some way or another, even if indirectly.”
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For its debut, Stripes is introducing an 11-product offering priced between $40 and $85; this inaugural lineup is split into four categories spanning face, hair-and-body, supplements and vaginal wellness. Created in collaboration between Watts and beauty biotech company Amyris, Stripes offers lightweight hair serums and “densifying” hair masks, soothing body oils and face serums, all featuring ingredients that lock in moisture and strengthen the skin barrier. (Dehydration is a common symptom of menopause, as many experience a loss of moisture as estrogen levels deplete.)
Stripes is also unique in that it directly addresses vaginal health, confronting a taboo fact of menopause: 50% of menopausal women can experience painful sex due to the thinning and weakening of vaginal tissues, or vulvovaginal atrophy (VVA). “It requires education and getting rid of shame,” says Watts. “And Stripes wants to be a one-stop shop. We don’t want you to have to go to multiple different places to look for multiple different products.”
Watts’ favorite products from the debut range are the Power Move Serum ($85), a lightweight, moisturizing serum, and the Full Monty Body Oil ($65), which leaves a non-greasy, velvety finish. The collection was also thoughtfully imbued with an intentionally subtle scent, as those experiencing menopause can have sensorial shifts that make them sensitive to fragrance, notes Watts.
Overall, Watts hopes that Stripes starts a meaningful dialogue surrounding menopause and gives people with a uterus a chance to feel more empowered to take ownership during this part of their lives.
“It feels like we’ve all signed this secret code of silence and that’s probably going back to the fact that we didn’t live this long before,” she says. “We’re now living as the first generation of internet users that are going through menopause, where we’ve been able to dig around privately and figure out that there is a community out there that does want more from this experience in this time, and we don’t want to just exist with agony anymore.”
See the full inaugural Stripes product range in the gallery below.
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