Woman & Beauty

Women’s Viagra-Like Sex Serum Coming To Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks And Nordstrom

After years of scientific research, Vella Bioscience has introduced a revolutionary pleasure serum that promises to increase the frequency, intensity and satisfaction of a woman’s orgasm.

Developed by a medical team, including Dr. Harin Padma-Nathan, the lead principal investigator for Viagra and Cialis, Vella works locally to relax the smooth muscle tissue and increase blood flow to enhance sexual arousal and orgasm in cis women.

Dr. Padma-Nathan is quick to say Vella is not Viagra for women, but from a layman’s – or more accurately, a laywoman’s – perspective, it sounds a lot like it.

“Viagra for men is very different. Viagra is a prescription medication that works systemically to treat erectile dysfunction,” he explains. “Vella is applied locally and doesn’t treat sexual dysfunction. Rather it works to enhance sexual pleasure from the potential that is already there.”

Unlike menthol-based drugstore topicals, which can irritate, or lubricants that only lubricate, Vella delivers a carefully-regulated dose of cannabidiol (CBD) through a nano-encapsulated serum that penetrates the delicate tissue in a way the topical application of oil can’t.

“Ours is a simple serum that’s applied 20 minutes or so ahead, though in some cases it works as quickly as five minutes,” Dr. Padma-Nathan explains. “There’s no systemic or total body exposure, which may have undesirable side-effects. You use it when you want to and then it goes away in a couple of hours.”

Rather than taking a pharmaceutical approach, as a comparable Viagra for women would, Vella aims at the rapidly growing sexual wellness market.

“We wanted to give half the world’s population – women – equity in sexual fulfillment in a manner that is safe and effective,” Dr. Padma-Nathan continues. “We are focused on augmenting a woman’s normal function or recuperating a lot of that function if lost, as in post-menopausal women. And in our studies we found two out of three women overall will respond.”

A second sexual revolution

A second women’s sexual revolution is happening now, the first being the introduction of birth control pills in the 1960s. Many women would say it’s about time.

“Biologically, women were never required to feel pleasure to procreate, unlike men who have to climax to make a baby,” shares Bulbul Hooda, chief marketing officer at Vella Bioscience. “Then there is the complexity of female anatomy and the hormonal spectrum a woman goes through as she ages, monthly at one end and perimenopause and menopause at the other. As a result, women were underserved and never a top-of-mind priority. But it’s finally arrived in 2021. If not now, when?”

Arrived it has, as the the sexual wellness market catches fire. “The sexual wellness boom started even before the pandemic, but we saw it gain momentum with it,” she says. “Traditionally, women’s sexual wellness products were hidden in the nightstand like a dirty secret. We want to normalize female pleasure as self-affirming and remove the stigma around sex so a woman can celebrate sexual positivity.”

While the estimates of the size of the sexual wellness market vary widely, it is gaining a lot of investor interest, most notably the $1.2 billion merger of Lovehoney with WOW Tech Group. Specializing in sex toys, the new company, called The Lovehoney Group, expects to generate more than $400 million this year to become the world’s largest sexual wellness company by revenue.

And because many sexual wellness companies are at the early stage of growth, there has been over 100 U.S. deals this year in “femtech” totaling some $812 million in value, Glossy reports.

Coming to a store near you

With women now demanding equal time in the pleasure department, established retailers are scrambling to find ways to serve her. Bloomingdale’s, for example, has opened a “Sexual Wellness” shop online, offering “body-positive, female-led” brands as the “ultimate in self-love essentials,” with an emphasis sex toys.

Vella Bioscience is taking a different route, positioning its pleasure serum with prestige beauty brands, rather than in the small appliance department. “Sexual wellness is the next frontier of beauty,” Hooda says. “In beauty we say we sell hope in a jar, but more than hope, Vella actually makes a difference in your physical health, emotional health and your mental wellbeing.”

Having worked 15 years in the beauty industry, for such brands as Shiseido, Unilever and L’Oreal, Hooda has applied her prestige beauty experience into launching the product into the category.

Vella’s packaging is designed to look like prestige beauty and sit alongside a woman’s beauty products and on a retailer’s beauty counter.

Priced at $65 for 16 carefully-regulated doses, it is pricey but its research-based technology justifies the price tag. However, it is also available in a single-use packet for $8 and this holiday the company is releasing a gift-boxed skew for $30 with five applications.

In May it was introduced on the company’s direct-to-consumer website and quickly gained interest from retailers. Bergdorf Goodman’s trend-spotter and creative director Linda Fargo was one of the first to bring it into the store.

Also taking the in-store plunge is multi-brand luxury beauty retailer Cos Bar. It is now carried in five of its 19 stores, though it is planning to add two more locations soon. Cos Bar was founded in 1976 and is renown for leading with beauty innovations.

Other luxury retailers, including Neiman Marcus, Saks and Nordstrom

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, offer Vella online, but not yet in store.

“Every retailer we spoke to said they want to bring it into the store, but they don’t know exactly how to do it,” she explains. “It could make for awkward conversations, since women don’t generally walk into the store and ask if they have anything for orgasms. But as we’ve worked with sales staff, they are getting comfortable talking about sex. It won’t be long now.”

Realizing her full body potential

Vella fills a void in the sexual wellness market that sex toys can’t, though it can be used with them. It’s for women at every life stage with the company finding women on both ends of the age spectrum – young adult women discovering their bodies and mature Baby Boomers – showing strong interest in the product.

“Legacy beauty brands and retailers are losing customers who are exploring new brands, emerging beauty philosophies and alternative ways to shop. We expect other retailers to join us as women of all ages seek out sexual wellness after spending a lifetime not able to realize the full volume of her pleasure,” Hooda relates.

“The fear of labels and sex-shaming have prevented us women from maximizing our sexual agency and embracing a culture where female pleasure is a priority. It is about time that changed. With Vella, the pleasure is ours,” she concludes.