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by Thea Wood, TheaWood.com
All frightening activities if you live with urinary incontinence. Historically, women hid leaks with panty liners, maxi pads, even diapers depending on the leak severity. The visibility of these preventive measures are almost as embarrassing (not to mention uncomfortable) as the leaks themselves.
Your inner dignity may just be restored thanks to technology breakthroughs from THINX. Owner Miki Agrawal originally created THINX period-proof underwear as period absorbing alternative/supplement. Agrawal later developed the ICON pee-proof underwear line for incontinence using a revised fabric technology.
Kejal McDonald, VP of Marketing, answered questions about ICON’s fabrics and how humor is key to helping women overcome UI (and menstrual) stigmas.
The first thing I thought when I read about Icon underwear was “What material can absorb up to 5 teaspoons of liquid without bulk or smell?” How does it work?
It seems too good to be true, right? We spent years sourcing, developing and refining the technical fabrics we use so it’s been a big labor of love. We use really fast-wicking, fast-drying and absorbent fabrics (sort of like what pro-athletes wear to stay sweat-free during games), as well as natural anti-odor and anti-microbial treatments that get embedded into the fabric.
The underwear themselves have 3 layers:
- The inner-most layer (what touches your skin) is the fast-wicking, fast-drying fabric. It grabs all moisture, pulls it in and then dries almost instantly so you won’t feel wet even after a little leak. This is also where the anti-microbial treatment is (which also fights odor!)
- The middle layer is the absorbent fabric, so it holds the liquid and keeps it contained (much like a pantyliner would, but without the plastics or chemicals).
- The outermost layer is the leak proof barrier that makes sure no moisture escapes to your clothes.
All 3 layers are just as thin as regular piece of fabric, so the underwear themselves look and feel like a regular pair.
THINX “period panties” came first, created by millennial social entrepreneur and author Miki Agrawal. Why did she make the move to ICON for bladder incontinence? And what’s the difference between the products?
When THINX launched, we got a flood (pun intended) of emails from women asking if they could use our period underwear for bladder leaks. Miki realized this was another super common issue (1 in 3 women) that no one really talks about. The actual needs of the underwear are really different for blood vs. pee, so we went back to the drawing board and engineered Icon specifically for leaky ladies. Icon just had it’s first birthday and in the past year we’ve heard from thousands of women that by wearing Icon they’ve gotten their confidence back, and feel sexy and free again for the first time in years. It’s astonishing how life-changing something as simple as a pair of underwear can be for a woman. It’s the most rewarding part of our jobs.
Both THINX and Icon have similar purposes (absorbing liquids and keeping women dry) but their construction and the fabrics we use are completely different. The inner lining of Icon is really fast absorbing since pee is released quickly compared to blood that tends to ooze out more slowly. Icon also has bonded edges (aka heat sealed) instead of stitched to provide additional leak-proof barriers. And Icon has the additional anti-odor treatment in addition to the anti-microbial treatment on both, since urine requires more odor management than blood. All the fabrics and technology are actually completely different.
Many peri-menopausal women experience both bladder leaks AND severely heavy periods (rarely discussed, but very common). We’re talking 36+ maxi pads a week! How do we best protect ourselves using your products during these extremely uncomfortable and self-conscious days?
We’re no strangers to heavy periods or bladder leaks (or both at the same time!), so lots of solidarity there. For really heavy periods, THINX is best as back-up coverage, so in addition to a tampon or menstrual cup (you don’t want to wear them with a pad since the pad covers up the most important part of the panties). As for the bladder leaks, Icon can hold up to 6 tsp now, and we’re working on a version for early next year that can hold 10 tsp.
What is your most popular style of Icon undies? And which size you do you sell the most of?
Our most popular style by far is the Hi-Waist, which is also a unanimous team favorite. Our size popularity is really spread pretty evenly across our range of XS – XXXL. Women of all shapes and sizes are scooping up Icon!
We also have a new style coming out this month (December) which is a hiphugger. It’s a cut where the waist falls between the bikini and the hi-waist and has a little more full bum coverage, which are two requests we’ve heard a lot.
This is not a “shh-shh” hide-the-granny-panty marketing campaign. In fact, you have Youtube videos and blog posts/comments of real women talking about life and body experiences. How is the public responding? And what are you learning about midlife women along the way?
It’s really exciting to be able to create a platform for real conversations about our bodies and topics that have been taboo to talk about for so long. We’re really unapologetic about it because we don’t think there’s anything to be embarrassed about. We’ll talk about anything, from battling bladder leaks on a date, to our preferences on how to style our pubic hair. We don’t believe in TMI!
Women have responded very positively. A lot of them thank us for tackling these subjects with humor and playfulness. One thing we’ve really learned about women in the middle of their lives is that the majority of them have – as the saying goes – run out of f*cks to give. There’s a freedom that comes from several decades of experience under your belt and the self-assurance that no one else’s opinion really matters. We love that. It’s super relatable and also aspirational to women in their 20’s and 30’s. Our customers range from teenagers to women in their 80’s+ and we’ve realized we all have a lot more in common than we might think.
I love that we’re not just relieving women of discomfort and potential embarrassing situations, we’re also saving the planet by minimizing use of disposable pads and products. What other initiatives does THINX have in the works for major social impact?
YES! Being eco-friendly and conscious of the waste we produce on our planet is super important to us. Both Icon and THINX dramatically help reduce (or eliminate entirely) the waste produced by disposable feminine hygiene products. We also have a third sister brand, TUSHY (www.hellotushy.me), a clip-on bidet that attaches to any toilet and helps reduce our reliance on toilet paper, while getting our butts WAY cleaner (Right now 15 million trees are killed per year to make TP for American butts alone and there are 26 million cases of UTIs, hemorrhoids and yeast infections that could be alleviated by using a bidet instead of TP), In the new year we’ll also be launching the THINX Foundation which will fully fund Girl’s Clubs in developing countries that provide a safe space for girls to go to learn about their bodies and connect with one another.
We also have a few other new product innovations that we can’t talk about juuuust yet that will be replacing other disposable products. Stay tuned!