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The Beauty CEO on a Mission to Change How You Think About Body Care

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Main image – Luna Daily

When it comes to women’s body and intimate care, Katy Cottam wants to clear a few things up. For a start, she doesn’t believe that the two should be any different, as long as you use the right products. 

Applying the same product on all areas of the body, private parts included? Who knew?

Not many of us, as it turns out. Which is why she created Luna Daily, a body care range clever and gentle enough to cover all bases, and that she has given *possibly* the greatest tagline in the beauty industry – ‘head, vulva, knees and toes’.

Here, Cottam explains why she wants to improve education around intimate care, why the skin on your vulva should be treated in the same way as the skin on the rest of your body, and why she hates the term ‘feminine hygiene’.

 


Creating Luna Daily

Cottam’s experience in beauty and wellness led her to setting up Luna Daily. Having started out at L’Oréal, she then moved on to work for a plant-based food company for four years which she says had a key role in teaching her about values in business. 

“It was a spin-off of Innocent drinks and honestly I wouldn’t be here today without that,” she says. “It showed me from day one that I was setting up this business to be a force of good.”

She ended up as global head of brand at Charlotte Tilbury, but the idea for Luna Daily actually came well before her career even began. “I was 19 and I’d been studying in India,” she explains. 

 

Image – Luna Daily

 

“I came back to the UK, I was severely unwell, and I was put on a course of antibiotics for six weeks, a really intensive course. And it completely screwed my microbiome – my skin, my guts, everything went to shot, I had so many issues. I got thrush the first time and I can still remember how ashamed and embarrassed and confused I felt.”

Cottam says from then on, she couldn’t use any normal body and hair washes or soaps on her intimate skin. “I really resented that the only solutions available to me were these awkward, outdated, awful products and that they were in a category named ‘feminine hygiene’,” she says. “I take such umbrage with even the name.”

Cottam realised that as time went on, the face of categories like menstrual care and menopause was changing. But for intimate care, it was not. “This category is stuck in the dark ages,” she says.

“And it was when I was at Charlotte Tilbury that I was chatting to a friend about this and the idea I’d had and it got me questioning, why are we so embarrassed about this part of our body? 

Why do we even need specific products for our vulva? When we got into the research, [we found out that] your vulva is just skin. This industry has been marketing to people that the pH of your vulva is different to anywhere else on the body and it’s complete bullshit.”

 


Vulva vs vagina

Cottam doesn’t beat around the bush (if you’ll pardon the pun) about educating anyone who will listen on the topic of intimate care. Starting with a few facts about the vagina that might surprise you. 

“So very simply the vagina is the internal part of our anatomy,” she explains. “It cleans itself and it never needs to be washed with anything – even water. You should not be putting anything up there because it’s very sensitive.”

 

Image – Luna Daily

 

She goes on, “most of our skin pH is about four and a half to five and a half and that’s where we’re happy. Your vulva is just skin. It’s got a slightly different gland on it, which is why typically we grow pubic hair on our vulva and underarms, but it has the same pH as everywhere else.”

As a result, Cottam says that the idea of women needing specific products for their vulva is a myth. “We don’t, and it’s what drives this myth that it’s a separate body part that needs a separate body wash and it needs to smell like roses and we’re going to call it feminine hygiene.”

Cottam feels the shame put on women through the marketing of so-called feminine hygiene products is unfair. “This category of products has marketed lies to women and also really driven the shame and the confusion, the embarrassment,” she explains. 

“If you have an odour coming out of your vagina that isn’t normal for you, it might be that you need to go and see a gynaecologist or expert about that and not mask it with a feminine wash.” Or any other products for that matter. Because there is also the danger of using other products – powerful lotions or oils for example – in the hope of overcompensating for things like odour or dryness that will likely be too harsh to be applied around the vagina. 

And Cottam says this confusion comes from not knowing the difference between the terms ‘vulva’ and ‘vagina’. “We’re not taught that they’re different,” she explains. “43% of women’s body washing routines are causing them to have gynaecological problems and that’s probably because we’re not talking about vulvas – we just call it all our vagina. One in three women are washing inside their vagina.”

She likens this to washing the inside of your eyes. You wouldn’t do that so why would you wash the inside of your vagina? “Because we’re not taught anatomically correct language,” she says.   

“Also our skin pH is 4.5 to 4.5. Shampoo is typically 8-10. So, the most common ingredient in solid soaps and in lots of body washes is pH 10. Bleach is 12.” Well, when you put it like that it instantly makes me want to cross my legs.

 

Image – Luna Daily

 

“So, in a way, it’s no surprise that the body washing products we’re typically using have an impact on our skin microbiome. And as your vulva is near your vagina (which is a different pH and can be more sensitive) so it’s the body washing products that are causing problems.”

It doesn’t help either that we always think we should be doing what everyone else is doing. “I really believe it should be someone’s choice what they do, so if you’re somebody that wants to just wash with water, that’s totally fine,” she says.

“Amazingly the NHS guidelines now say not to wash with just water because water is pH 7. So actually, it’s drying.  The recommendation from the NHS is to wash with a non-soap-based formula, but not everyone understands that.” And so, Luna Daily was born. 

 


Luna Daily to the rescue

Cottam explains that before Luna Daily, the matter of body and intimate care could be both confusing and detrimental to the health of the consumer. “Before, on one hand you had these intimate care products at the pharmacy that weren’t pleasant to use,” she explains.  

“And on the other hand you’ve got this this body care category which is booming. It’s filled with luxurious formulas and clinically backed, amazing, active ingredients. But unfortunately they’re causing gynaecological problems for lots of women because their pH is too high. And so I wanted to bridge the two sectors.”

 

Image – Luna Daily

 

So how does Luna Daily fit into the market? “I see ourselves primarily as a body care brand, but one that you can use on all your skin, even your most intimate areas,” she says. 

“Our strapline is head, vulva, knees and toes. The key tension is that you really trust the efficacy of the products. They’ve been backed by medical experts and clinically tested, but they’re really enjoyable to use, which is so important.”

And she says getting enjoyment out of any product is key. “We don’t want products that just wash our face in the water. We use products to strengthen, nourish, protect. And so that’s a really important tension within the daily range and they’re designed to be gentle enough to use everywhere and enjoyable enough that you want to use them everywhere, with ingredients that you trust.”

Luna Daily is catered towards all ages and stages. “Because there are very specific category entry points, emotional and physical changes,” she explains. “Like when you enter womanhood and get your first period,, become a mum, or you enter the menopause. There are hormonal, psychological, physical changes that happen through those life stages, and we understand that not all of our womanhood experiences are the same.”

Luna Daily has different ranges for different life stages which before, Cottam says, we weren’t given any choice on. “When we did focus groups with women, they could tell me their seven step routine, their haircare routine, but when we talked about their body care, how they go about their routine, especially their intimate routine, was an unconscious thing, often only considered when there was a ‘problem’.”

Unfortunately, Cottam says there is still a lot of work to do on the education surrounding her cause. “I think there is still unfortunately, a lot of miseducation and misinformation,” she explains. 

“When we did our research, I assumed in my head that it was going to be getting better amongst the younger generation. But unfortunately, pretty much every single stat of gynaecological issues, including understanding of anatomical language, when you last went to see your gynaecologist, whether you’ve had your cervical screening, is getting worse. So whilst the conversation is improving, I think there’s still a massive job to be done.”

 

Image – Luna Daily

 

But the good news is that her brand is growing. “We were the first intimate body care brand ranged in Sephora stores in America and we’re now available in over 500 Boots stores, Cult Beauty and Sephora UK. We’re seeing huge traction.”

 


Panel goals

One of the most attractive things about Luna Daily is the team of medical experts working behind the scenes with Cottam to make it as accessible to women as possible. 

“Whilst I can talk really passionately about my mission and I’ve got years of experience in product development, packaging and formulation, I’m not a medical expert,” she explains. “So having the credibility and the guidance of the medical team is really, really important.

We have a gynaecologist, dermatologist and pelvic floor physiotherapist in both the UK and the US and they’re really my confidants – what are they seeing in clinic? What are the things that people are coming in for? And they approve all of my products.”

 


The products

And speaking of the merch, let’s hear more about what the range has to offer. “I wanted products that what you want to leave out, not hidden in a cupboard, products that are actually beautiful,” Cottam explains. 

“We have three ranges. Our daily care, our fragrance free and our hydrating. Our body wash is a low pH natural body wash, formulated with something called Therma-Biome+, a trademarked base formulation made up of prebiotics, thermal water and vitamins E, C and F. It’s designed to balance, nourish and protect the skin so it really supports the skin microbiome.”

 

Image – Luna Daily

 

She goes on, “we also have a product called the (No) Soap Bar which looks like a soap but has no soap in it, because it’s an irritant and we shouldn’t be using it anywhere. And we have a clinical corneometer study on that product which shows it’s 30% more moisturising that traditional soap.”

And the one she is most proud of? “The Everywhere Spray To Wipe – our on the go product,” she says. “We could see people wanted to freshen up on the go. So, if you’re on your period and you’ve got more blood than usual around your legs. Or after sex, in between meetings, going to gym class and if you don’t have time to shower, or you’re halfway through the day and you’ve got a bit smelly. 

It’s like a pocket power shower in a bottle. And basically an alternative to wipes because wipes are horrific for our skin and for the environment.”

Cottam says this is the product Luna Daily has probably become most famous for as you spray it straight onto the skin or a piece of toilet tissue and it turns into an eco-friendly, biodegradable wipe that you can even put down the loo. “One of the mini bottles is equivalent to 100 single use wipes and the bigger one is equivalent to 300,” she says. 

“It’s just the same Therma-iome+ formula as in the washes, it just fits perfectly into any bag and it’s so far removed from what you would think intimate care is. And people are buying it because it’s not embarrassing, it’s cute and desirable.”

Cottam also talks about the Everything Oil which is a core staple. “It’s got a clinical user trial for ingrown hairs, redness, bumps, so it’s great for [things like] intimate skin, under arms and legs after shaving.”

And, perhaps most surprisingly, there’s an exfoliator for all over. Yes, even down there. “Our exfoliator with a gentle 3% acid base,” she says.  “It’s both physical exfoliation through upcycled rice beads, which are really gentle, but also a 3% AIHA blend that can be used everywhere, including intimate skin.” What a game changer.

 


Future visions

Cottam is adamant that the term ‘feminine hygiene’ is eradicated. “My vision is that the feminine hygiene category doesn’t exist in its current capacity in the future and that we remove the confusion and shame around the topic,” she says.

“It might be that no one ever taught you. I was never told, ‘this is your vulva, this is your vagina’. There’s an amazing author called Lynn Enright who wrote a book called “Vagina: A Re-Education”. She reports on the many studies which show what negatively happens when we don’t teach anatomically correct language or when we say, ‘front bottom’ and ‘fanny’.”

And so Cottam feels inspired to change the way people feel and are educated about the topic, even if they simply see a word that triggers them.

“It’s so important because we’re not taught at school, and then we don’t really have the conversations about the correct information,” she explains.

 

Image – Luna Daily

 

“At the end of last year we launched the world’s first free Vulva Therapy hotline.” Come again? “The premise behind this campaign was if you see this word vulva and you feel triggered, call our hotline. It’s free and you can call up for free exposure therapy online to shake off societal shame, simply call 0800 233 LUNA.”

This is a genius idea, because, as much as we all want to speak liberally and live our best free-spirited lives, let’s face it – sometimes talking about our private parts can feel a bit cringe. And Cottam knows it. “We’’re not born feeling embarrassed,” she says. “It’’s learned behaviour and and the hotline is an example of how we can make an impact in a really positive, humorous way.”

This, as well as a campaign against Meta to overturn guidelines around censorship in women’s health, is one of many examples of how Cottam is trying to change the face of intimate care for women.  

“There’s an amazing brand company called the Centre for Intimacy Justice in the US that led the campaign, but we were one of the brands that galvanised it around,” she explains. 

“If somebody is wanting to educate on the symptoms of menopause, that should not be something that is censored at any age. But we’ve got proof to show that female health brands are being disproportionately censored versus males. Erectile dysfunction you can happily advertise. So we have changed the guidelines, but there’s still work to do.”

She wants normalising this conversation to transfer to other topics too. “I feel like opening up the conversations around intimate care is the lever for segueing into other conversations around gender or sexuality or consent,” she says. 

And then, just when you thought she couldn’t be any more brilliant, Cottam answers what has been her proudest moment in business. “I made a very strong decision from day one that I would only do this business if I, and the people around me, were the happiest, healthiest they’ve ever been,” she explains.

“I’ve experienced burnout myself and it’s not sustainable. I’m really proud that I feel like I’m creating that culture with people around me and I’m setting up my business in a way that I’m really, really proud.

I support people that work with me full time, all the way to the partners. Every single person goes on a two-day mental health and safety training course because it’s the single biggest reason the workforce people are not in work, and I want to look after the people who work with me.”

 


The takeaway

Where do I begin? I feel a bit like Charlotte from Sex and The City when she is told to take a mirror and use it to study her vagina. . Because – game changer alert – there should be no shame in getting to know your own body, and certainly no embarrassment whatsoever in talking about what goes on ‘down there’ or how to take care of it.

By launching Luna Daily, Katy Cottam has started the conversation we should all be having. For example, what’s the difference between my vagina and my vulva? Which products or old habits should I be avoiding? 

Why should I be shamed into walking down the awkwardly named ‘feminine hygiene’ aisle to protect my intimate area from problems like redness and eczema when I should actually be able to go down the body care aisle instead? And why should I feel ashamed at all?

Cottam’s rather mind-blowing information about the body and intimate area having the same pH level speaks for itself.  And she is testament to the fact that talking openly about this topic and normalising it can make a real difference to women. “My big mission for the brand is to connect women to each other and their entire bodies,” she says. 

“I no longer have barriers; I no longer feel like embarrassed 19-year-old Katy. I feel free of the shackles of shame. And I don’t care about saying I got thrush when I was 19 or using words like vulva. I’m proof!”

So, considering around 50% of the world’s population has a vagina and, er, it’s 2024, ask yourself ‘what would Katy Cottam do’? Because now is not the time to be apologetic, ignorant or uncaring to this, your most natural (and downright ingenious) body part. 

 

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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University
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