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Blue Lotus App Pursues Menstrual Equity

By Luce James

March 23, 2023

Blue Lotus Logo
Making Shopping for Menstrual Products as Neutral as Buying Soap

Menstrual equity is a term used to describe equal access to menstrual hygiene products, education, and information. Despite its importance, menstrual equity remains a largely stigmatized and ignored topic in society. 

500 M
Women & Girls Who Cannot Manage their Periods Safely, Hygienically, and Free From Embarrassment
10 %
Increase in Cost for Pads & Tampons from 2021 to 2022
$ 2 B
Spent on Menstrual Products Each Year in the US
17 K
Number of Tampons or Pads the Average Menstruating Person Uses in Their Lifetime

To address this issue, ID student Eva M. Althaus (MDM 2024)  has developed an app that leverages technology and experience design to increase knowledge, accessibility, and connection in support of greater menstrual equity and justice.

I discovered most users correlated menstruation shopping with emotionally charged experiences, like confusion, shame, and inconvenience. Blue Lotus understands the user's menstruation journey and provides solutions that support access and psychological safety through smart vending machines that deliver a faster and impersonal pick up experience.
—Eva M. Althaus (MDM 2024)

Menstruating individuals face a situation that can be overwhelming: complex packaging and numerous choices. The Blue Lotus app (formerly the Bloom app) makes it easier for users to find the products they need through several features. One such feature is the customization algorithm that allows users to create a profile and access recommendations on what products suit their needs and body best. 

Another important feature of the Blue Lotus app is the convenience and psychological safety it offers. The idea is that app users can pre-select products and pick them up at local vending machines with a scan code. This feature addresses the emotionally charged journey of users deciding and shopping in stores, which can often lead to feelings of shame. 

Blue Lotus also prioritizes price and quality. Products sold through the Blue Lotus app require partners to guarantee lower costs, increasing period equity. 

Furthermore, Blue Lotus considers the needs of “all menstruators” by developing a brand with focus on empowerment and belonging with gender neutral packaging and authentic stories and values that speak inclusively to all menstruating individuals.

When Eva came back from her interviews with the idea of ‘making shopping for menstrual products as neutral as buying soap,’ it was clear that she had landed on an idea that would really resonate emotionally with people who menstruate and could have a positive societal impact. As she worked throughout the class, she was quick to pivot based on learnings since sometimes an idea goes astray.
—Dr. Mike Oren, Head of Design Research, Klaviyo and ID Adjunct Faculty
Blue Lotus is a women-led startup involving Mrinal Bhatia (MDes + MBA 2024), Illinois Tech undergraduate Octavia Louis, and Eva M. Althaus (MDM 2023).

Blue Lotus is a women-led startup involving Mrinal Bhatia (MDes + MBA 2024), Illinois Tech undergraduate Octavia Louis, and Eva M. Althaus (MDM 2023).

The app demonstrates its commitment to menstrual equity by providing users with the possibility of donating in support of period justice, which involves setting up vending machines in lower income communities and providing free products for other menstruators. Blue Lotus also allows users to ask for help in purchasing period products. Additionally, users can help other menstruators by pitching in for them in case of an emergency. Blue Lotus also provides access to simplified and trusted learning resources about feminine hygiene, sexuality, and menstruation.

To ensure the effectiveness of the app, Blue Lotus conducted a rigorous series of tests with a global audience, including through the Kano model (an approach to prioritizing features on a product roadmap based on the degree to which they are likely to satisfy customers), SUS testing (a reliable tool for measuring usability) and user testing. Eva focused on understanding inequalities and emotions throughout the market cycle of menstrual period products through a series of deep listening interviews and secondary research that sparked two key solutioning areas: 

  1. How might we enhance the experience of shopping for period products to make it feel as neutral as buying hand soap?
  2. How might we evolve the way consumers shop for period products in support of greater equity and justice?

Blue Lotus continues ideation and real-life testing through evidence-based design methodologies. Results show that Blue Lotus is a promising solution perceived as attractive by menstruators, leading to its development as a women-led startup, involving Eva M. Althaus (MDM 2023), Mrinal Bhatia (MDes + MBA 2024), and Illinois Tech undergraduate Octavia Louis, through Illinois Tech’s Kaplan StartUp Accelerator program where students can develop their own startup idea, validate it with potential customers, and form a team with classmates around the most promising ideas.

Blue Lotus is a venture that acts as a bridge and center of allyship between partners, knowledge experts, providers, tech, and influencers to provide access and break stigmas for the girls and menstruators of our world. It addresses issues of menstrual equity that can only be remedied by connecting a system of actors and allowing them to work together and represents the beginning of a journey towards a more equitable and just world for all menstruators. 

Blue Lotus is currently under construction. For updates on the launch and an upcoming podcast,  follow Blue Lotus on Instagram.