Dr. Beri Ridgeway and Susan Goldsberry are a unique duo in the startup world: Ridgeway, an obstetrician-gynecologist and Goldsberry, a successful cosmetics and skincare formulator. Through their new company Ina, they’re looking to solve problems that affect nearly 50 percent of the population at some time or another, but are rarely discussed: vaginal health and comfort.
Goldsberry was tending to her elderly mother, when she realized that there are very few products on the market for women over 55 years in age who deal with vaginal dryness, due to reduced estrogen levels. When she scoped out drugstore options, they were laden with ingredients she found problematic: chemicals and fragrances that, as a formulator, she knew shouldn’t be used on a tender area of skin.
So she turned to longtime friend, Dr. Beri Ridgeway to develop a new line of vaginal care products free of these ingredients. In 2018, Goldsberry put the idea to paper, developing the concept, the possible lineup of products, and the branding. In 2019, Goldsberry allocated some of the funds she had acquired from her previous job as owner of Benchmark Laboratories, which was sold to KDC/ONE to get Ina up and running.
This week, they’re debuting their flagship products: a cleanser, balm, oil elixir, hydrating serum, and anti-chafe cream. Priced between $29 to $42 each, they hope to be able to help more women, especially mature women, who want gentle products for the vulva.
“These are very common issues that women complain of but there are such few products out there, made of safe, gentle ingredients,” says Dr. Beri Ridgeway. Vulvovaginal dryness can start to occur in perimenopause, during menopause, or post menopause, she explains, because women’s bodies go through a hormonal shift. With less estrogen, the skin in the vulva region can tighten, leading to painful sex, general irritation, and overall dryness. “Not everyone is a candidate for topical estrogen, and not everyone wants to pursue that. So what are the alternatives?”
For this, Ina recommends their cleanser and serum. But the second common issue, she notes, is somewhat the opposite — excess moisture in the vulva, which can lead to infection or a bacterial imbalance. “This can be due to excessive sweating, leakage, or regularly wearing pads, which means the area is often damp,” she adds. “When that’s happening on the most thin sensitive skin in our bodies, it begins to breaks down and it causes irritation.”
She recommends the barrier balm to protect the skin. “It’s an elevated safe product with nothing like it on the market. Remember the skin on the vulva is more delicate than the skin on your face.”
Goldsberry, who has been formulating for over 40 years, notes that their products are made of 97 percent natural ingredients, and have been clinically tested for safety and effectiveness. But she’s also puzzled as to why the industry hasn’t come out with something like this sooner. Some of it, she says, boils down to companies not having the in-depth knowledge or relationships with their formulators and manufacturers. Since Ina is made in-house, and she’s been a seasoned formulator, it’s easier for her to pinpoint ingredients she’d like to avoid, and others she’d prefer to incorporate.
In fact, much of the collection reads like any other skincare line, infused with botanicals, aloe, and other soothing ingredients, she says. But getting there took time; in fact, the barrier balm she said went through 50 iterations before they arrived on the final formulation. “It’s also about the feel. So many of the products on the market I saw didn’t have a good user experience. They were sticky, tacky, not pleasant to use.”
While Goldsberry did develop Ina with her elderly mom in mind, the products are not limited to mature women. “We say that they’re for everyday or regular use to maintain a healthy vulva. And they’re for all women.”