We truly enjoyed chatting with the founder of Healthy HooHoo, Stacy Lyon who is a 20 year ski veteran turned, feminine care brand. As we chatted about parabens, women's bodies, fitness and her gypsy soul - time and time again she continued to echo her sentiment of "you can't pick your lightbulb moment."
ATHLEISURE MAG: Why did you create Healthy HooHoo?
STACY LYON: I always say, it was the perfect storm. One of the main reasons I started a few years ago when my roommate from college called me up and said she had breast cancer. It was one of those conversations where your inner eagle comes out. I had never had a friend who had cancer and so you start asking all of these questions. You want to know, what did she do that I don't want to do that causes cancer?
So I asked her, "now that you know that you have cancer, what are you doing to change your diet - what are the doctor's saying?" She explained that the doctors found a paraben in her breast tissue biopsy. I had never heard of that word "paraben" before and I felt that I was pretty aware - but it caught me off guard. She explained that it is a preservative that is found in a lot of our products and that they found this toxin in her breast cancer tissue. It lives in fatty tissue like in our breasts and reproductive areas where women carry all these fats.
She joked that she had changed all of her products, except for her feminine wash. I thought, "who still uses that?" That was early in the week and by the middle of the week my triathalete buddy was training with me for the Danskin Triathalon and she complained that she had issues down there and what I had done. I explained that you should let it be and not douche. But it made me research this. Then that Fri, my gynecologist said she was getting out of the practice and that a lot of peoplewere getting vaginities and vagitosis. She said that 10 - 20 years ago she didn't see this because women now have a high sugar diet, we're over cleansing and we wear tight synthetic fabrics. At the time, she was referring to the tight polyester thong. As the pelvis moves, the thong moves from back to front as you walk and it relocates microscopic bacteria.
I'm here in Bend, Oregon, home of the most fit human beings - and I will be heading to the gym and am already in my active clothes. Everyone runs around with kinseology tape because we're home to some of the best runners and it's all about active leisure. I walk a fine line, because I wear all of this stuff but then I have to also tout the fact that I am here for one thing only - vulva and vaginal health.
AM: We love wearing the gear when we're running errands or hitting our studio fitness centers. Various workouts put you in more contact with bikes and other apparatuses.
SL: You hit it right on the head. I found this because I had a light bulb moment after this strange week of hearing from women. My background comes from spending 20 years in the ski industry. I came up with the idea 7 years ago and we launched 4 years ago. All my ski industry buddies now joke that I used to talk verticals and now I talk vagina! I always joke that I wished it had been something in the wine industry but you can't pick your lightbulb moments.
Parabens actually do their job as they keep bacteria from growing in our products. Many times, the bacteria is worse then the parabens. My semi-business partner who is a retired gynecologist, she figures out that the parabens' fragrance is the worst chemical of them all. We run into problems when we layer this stuff on everyday. So think about your makeup, skincare, hair products etc - it's not just one product that we're using but the culmination of the mass use.
I had never used any wipes before. Years ago, I did a long backpacking trip in Nepal which meant being out there for weeks without showering. So I thought I would use a feinine wipe and I literally used one and immediately got a rash! I threw them out.
So the wipes were created as I love to travel and have a gypsy soul and needed something for those times. The other products are for the shower obviously. What I like to say is that my gynecologist and partner says that we should all be washing with water, but the vulva has a lot of sweat glands and creates a lot of heat. When you are sweaty, you need to remove the sweat as that is where the bacteria grows.
So if you are working out, you have to do a little more then just water and this is the healthiest option out there.
AM: What is pH and what is the best range?
SL: pH is the alkalenity of the vagina. The big thing here is, I spend much of my day educating people on the difference between the vagina and the vulva.
The vagina is all the inside bits. It's a self cleaning oven, we leave it alone and don't need to touch it. It's really similar to the inside of the nose (we wash our faces but not the inside of our noses). You wash your vulva. So it's the vagina's pH that is the whole key to keeping everything happy. If you can keep the pH of the vagina in a certain range - it keeps it at its age appropriate acidic environment.
I say age appropriatebecause it changes. We're very alkaline as little girls and then when our periods start, we drop to a very acid state sometimes as low as 4.2/4.3. That acidity goes up and down everyday based on our thyroids, hormones, stress levels, what we have eaten etc. The pH can change without our massive intervention by messing it up with soap and other things like that. Periods really can kick off the alkaline and some people receive yeast infections at that time because during menses the pH can rise. As she goes into menopause, the acidity starts to climb and she will go from the low 3s to the low 5s. 7 is right down the middle (it goes from 0 - 14). So if you think about it this way, the vagina's acid environment is there as a protective barrier. The bacteria can't multiply in this environment so it is brilliant by design. It's there because the neanderthal gal was getting bread and she was protected by her acid environment. The key is to keep it as acidic as possible and it is affected by dozens of things. We can control it by our diet, exercise, what we wear and how we cleanse ourselves.
AM: Will there be additional products?
SL: These products are the core and I have 3 products that are in development now in the hands of the coolest gal who really loves to work out! She's a Yale graduate and natural product chemist and she is the one that comes up with the formulas. She tests them and then we test them on friends and then perform stability tests, pH tests, paraben tests - and third party laboratory tests. These care products will be out late Spring '17. They are there to help women who have a few more issues. They are not FDA - they're really gentle and mild.
AM: Where is Happy HooHoo sold?
SL: Right now we're expanding within Whole Foods as we're in 5 regions currently. We're not in the NYC region just yet, but from Connecticut all the way to Maine. We have been expanding in the natural world. I love my products being sold in natural homeopathic clinics as it seems to be doing really well there. Since we're there, the doctors will say, we know you're using something more then just water and you can't talk many patients into just using water.
We're weeks away from launching our brand new Shopify website. So we've always been wholesale, pharmacy, etc but this is one of those products that women want to buy from the comfort of their home. We know that we do well on Amazon so we were like, ok if we're doing this well, we need to sell direct.
Anna Kaiser just called me up as she has our bottles in her gym shower. We did a trunk show with her last fall so we included the single wipes within her AKT in Motion Road Show swag bag. She's a big fan and she has that great A list clientele.
AM: Do you guys work with any charities?
SL: I don't have a direct charity but we do a lot of philanthropy. We work with #HappyPeriod, they do menstrual kitsfor homeless teens and women. We donated 20,000 wipes to Togo Africa for their Clitoral Mutalation Clinic. We work with a lot of homeless shelters!
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