The new menopause market is well and truly exploited | life and style
For my birthday last week, the algorithm gave me perimenopause ads. Happy birthday Eva, here’s to a future of anxiety, mood swings, brain fog, hot flashes and irregular periods, no gift receipt available sorry goodbye love you. To be clear – Instagram is going precedent. I remain calm, cool and bloodthirsty, but also a member of the first generation of women actively aware of our impending menopause. Which has obvious benefits but also, less discussed, irritations.
The menopause revolution happened in stages. The first step was to talk about it. People like Davina McCall began discussing the impact of menopause on her life — her body, her mental health — in ways that opened up conversations between women and their doctors, employers, and families. Data emerged: one in three women chose not to see their GP, while 77% found at least one symptom of menopause “very difficult”.
Things started to change. A month after McCall’s first documentary on the subject aired in 2021, a pharmaceutical company reported a 30% increase in demand for HRT products. Then companies like Channel 4 and Google announced dedicated ‘menopause policies’, leading to 600 companies signing the ‘Menopause Workplace Pledge’, pledging to support women in the workplace. This week, MPs are calling for NHS health checks for women aged 45 and free HRT prescriptions. All good. All good! It was around the time of workplace engagement, however – this summer, a heat wave predicted – that Stage Three arrived and with it came things to buy.
An article on menopause wellness in vogue reported “an untapped market worth an estimated $600 billion.” In addition to supplements and “menopause doulas”, new products and services marketed to postmenopausal women include special underwear, scented hot flash sprays, a “fluctuating cycle” skincare range, shampoos and dedicated beauty treatments, one of which left the vogue writer with “the skin much less inflamed than usual, and my soul soothed”. It was flowing. In August, Boots’ No 7 brand released a line of beauty products in the anti-aging mould, “[choosing to] proudly put ‘Menopause’ on its packaging” and Primark introduced a range of menopause sleepwear with “anti-flush technology, cooling wire and odor and temperature control”. Consider this now exploited market.
I don’t mean to minimize the mental or physical impacts of menopause: it sounds difficult and is an ordeal for thousands of people, who just want to get on with their work without sweating through a shirt or suffering from panic attacks on the bus. . I have no doubt that some of these products are useful (pajamas look cool, a big sister to brilliant vintage pants), but many of them show opportunistic greed. Because what is surely missing here, at the heart of most people’s pain around menopause, is the fear that life as they know it is coming to an end.
Fertility proves to be fleeting and a person’s femininity is seriously questioned. We talk about feeling “invisible” as we age out of the period when women are valued, as childbearers or workers or figures of great and glorious beauty. Men retain their value as they age, are propelled in fact, by their wisdom, salt and pepper hair, but women’s value diminishes as our bodies sag – we are stuck in the narrowest definition of femininity . These are the things, these are the realizations that we struggle with as we approach menopause. There should be a feeling of freedom, no – the feeling that we’re finally free from motherhood and those long dawn hours trying to be beautiful, but of course there isn’t. Our world has not granted us that yet. But it takes more than a scented spray to change it.
That’s why the rise of menopause marketing has me mumbling darkly into my tea. The joyous moment when women were suddenly allowed to talk about their bodies, their hormones and their fears was cut short by a shampoo commercial.
One problem with menopause is the lack of support for its symptoms. But the solution to the biggest problem, that women are not valued after reaching middle age, is not: “buy 100 products that make you look younger”. Maybe a “glow cream” helps a postmenopausal woman feel better for a night out, but it doesn’t help postmenopausal women as a whole. In fact, one could argue that these ambitious products damage them more, perpetuating the idea that looking young is the answer. And beyond that, imposing a pressure familiar to most women, whether it’s motherhood, aging, sex or work – the pressure to win. Or, as a menopausal friend told me yesterday, “Do I really have to have a ‘good’ menopause? Can’t I just feel a little upset? »