Retail Is Ready To Take On The Sexual Wellness Biz In 2023

In the past few years, we've reached a turning point in terms of sexual health. Not long ago, it wouldn't be possible to pick up a sex toy and your pantry essentials in the same shopping trip. But today, the conversation surrounding sexual wellness is shifting, and major retailers are following suit. "Intimacy is something we need in order to survive and feel good. In general, intimacy and sexual wellness [have] been becoming more normalized," Rebecca Alvarez Story, CEO of intimacy brand Bloomi, tells Business Insider.


Still, sex toys aren't the only thing you can expect to see more of at your local pharmacy or department store. Brands big and small are approaching sexual health from entirely new angles, with everything from "pleasure serums" to sex-conscious skincare making an entrance. In fact, brick-and-mortar stores are just the beginning — several online startups are working to make sexual healthcare accessible to all. Ready to take your self-care to the next level? Ahead, we'll look at expert predictions for the biggest sexual wellness trends in 2023.

Making pleasure accessible to all

As the movement surrounding sexual wellness evolves, brands are approaching the subject in a far more inclusive manner. In the past, products such as sex toys were often grouped under the category of "family planning" in stores. "The term 'family planning' is essentially a conservative one, especially when we use it today. And accessing sex toys has zero to do with family planning. Reproduction and sexual pleasure aren't the same things," Carol Queen, Ph.D., tells Well + Good.


Of course, gendered toys present another conundrum. His and hers products, from toys to lubricants, were once ubiquitous sightings on retail shelves. Today, however, many brands and retailers are shifting the focus away from gender. "We're definitely seeing an increased demand for sex toys which are marketed and packaged gender-neutrally. People are becoming more experimental and less prescriptive in the ways that they enjoy sexual pleasure," Julia Margo, co-founder of sex toy brand Hot Octopuss, tells Forbes.

A new approach to lubricants

There's nothing wrong with your standard, run-of-the-mill lube –- in fact, for some sensitive users, it's quite preferable. That said, the average lubricant is enjoying a bit of a makeover these days, from cleaner formulations to the advent of a dynamic new product known as "pleasure serum."


So what exactly is a pleasure serum? Simply put, it's a lubricant that enhances sensitivity during solo play or sex. Sustainable skincare company WLDKAT states that its luxury lubricant, the Prebiotic + Probiotic Pleasure Serum, "helps promote focused awareness and increased captivation while keeping down-there in balance." Unlike stimulating lubricants of the past, pleasure serums are meant to produce subtle, not painful, results. "The sensation was enhanced but not overwhelmingly so. After my session, I immediately went to order more," said one WLDKAT customer. Other products, like Vella's Women's Pleasure Serum, incorporate transdermal CBD to relax vaginal and clitoral tissues and produce stronger orgasms.


Increased focus on feminine care

Feminine care has come a long way, and the sheer variety of intimate products available in stores continues to grow. In response to consumer demand, companies are emphasizing a more gentle approach to intimate health. "Before, there weren't many choices. Women would buy the same products. There's also increased awareness of what people put in their bodies," Clare Morgan, CEO of Organic Initiative Corporation, tells Drug Store News.


The focus on natural, supportive ingredients has led to the success of female-led startups like The Honey Pot. Since its launch in 2014, the Atlanta-based feminine healthcare company has become one of the most popular choices in personal care. The Black-owned brand offers a variety of bestselling products for vaginal health, from plant-based pads to refreshing herbal wipes. "The goal is for your body to take what it wants and use that. One of the ingredients in our wash is marshmallow root extract, an herb that helps to lubricate mucous membranes tissues," founder Beatrice Dixon tells Marie Claire.

Sexual healthcare available online

One of the most important components of sexual health is, of course, healthcare. Thankfully, companies like Hers are making it easier than ever for consumers to access healthcare and sexual wellness services on demand. "Our vision and passion [at Hers] is ultimately to help more people access personalized care and treatment via a high-quality, convenient, and welcoming setting," Melissa Baird, COO at Hims & Hers, tells Healthcare IT News. In addition to offering primary care and mental telehealth services, Hers provides its users with everything from birth control to antiviral prescriptions for cold sore outbreaks.


Others, like Nurx, supply comprehensive STI testing packages that people can use in the privacy of their own homes — meaning no more uncomfortable visits to the doctor or clinic. After a patient submits their samples, Nurx delivers results within seven days and, if necessary, provides appropriate treatment. What's more, those who use Nurx's STI testing services can communicate directly with their providers. "When you test with Nurx, you have unlimited access to our medical team. You can privately message them, any time, with questions about testing or STIs," states Nurx

New sex toys on retail shelves

Back in 2008, Durex brought one of its earliest toys, the Little Gem vibrator, to pharmacy shelves across America — except for Alabama and Mississippi, two states where sex toy sales are banned. "Now a soccer mom in her minivan can be comfortable buying these types of products right along with her toothpaste and shampoo," Durex executive, Tim Cleary, told Newsweek at the time of its release. Today, you've probably noticed that the Little Gem is long gone — but in its place, several contenders have appeared within popular retail stores.


At drugstore giant CVS, the plusOne Vibrating Bullet is a top seller, with over 6,000 5-star reviews from presumably satisfied customers. Those looking to earn Beauty Insider Points at Sephora can pick up the Dame Pom Flexible Vibrator, an ergonomic slab of silicone that the retailer stresses is, in no uncertain terms, a final sale. While not all sex toys offered by retailers like Sephora are available in-store — many are still online only — there are frequent new arrivals in physical locations. One eye-catching wellness brand sold at CVS, Hello Cake, recently introduced the Buzzy Butt, a "vibrating plug for backside play."

Sex-conscious skincare takes off

It's safe to say that many of us take our skin routines seriously, so why do we hear so little about intimate skincare? The concept of sex-conscious skincare is just beginning to take off in the beauty industry, and it's hard to believe it took this long. Just as you might imagine, these products are meant to fill a niche that many lines have historically overlooked: sophisticated skincare for your most delicate regions.


Premium skincare brand Beia was developed by entrepreneur Brittany Lo to address intimate areas with a focus on sexual well-being. "The sexual wellness category and its products have such an opportunity to be elevated and luxurious. And we have an opportunity to create this new understanding that they're truly skincare products," Lo told Forecast. Beia's products include the Body & Intimacy Serum, an elegant approach to lubricant that doubles as a soothing moisturizer. Furthermore, the intimate skincare line may even boost your confidence in the bedroom. Although sex-conscious skincare has only just begun to make waves, we can't wait to see what's next for this budding category.