Beat the heat of menopause with the Zera Cooling Crescent

In the world of innovation, some of the most remarkable creations are born from personal experiences.

Meet Aphra Hallam, a recent Industrial Design and Technology graduate from Brunel University, whose innovative design, the Zera Cooling Crescent, has the potential to transform the lives of women globally.

This article originally appeared in the Sept/Oct issue of Startups Magazine. Click here to subscribe

The beginning of Zera

Twenty-two-year-old Aphra’s journey was inspired by witnessing her mother and other women’s menopausal struggles, their constant battles with hot flushes, and the stigma it brings. This, compounded with the lack of non-invasive and discreet solutions on the market, spurred Aphra to design the Zera Cooling Crescent for women globally.

Staying true to keeping the inspiration personal, the name 'Zera' is a fusion of two words, which are a symbol of its purpose, reflecting her mission, and encapsulating her vision perfectly.

“The name of the product comes from two words so the ‘Z,’ as in zen, means calm and tranquil, and then ‘era’ (ilera) is the Yoruba word for health.”

The Cooling Crescent aims not only to mitigate the symptoms of menopausal hot flushes, but also to embrace the diversity of women's experiences during this life-altering phase.

The racial disparities in reproductive aging

It was whilst researching the menopause that Aphra was led to a crucial revelation – the racial disparities in reproductive aging, where women from different backgrounds would experience symptoms at different levels of severity. As a black woman herself, and through the lens of her mother's experience, Aphra was driven to create a solution that not only acknowledged these disparities but also catered to the needs of all women, regardless of their backgrounds.

Competing in a fierce market with products like the Embr Wave and the Menopod, Aphra hopes that the Zera Cooling Crescent will stand out for its discreetness and inclusivity. Because unlike its competitors, whose products are either large or obvious, Zera can be discreetly worn on the back of the neck, and its range of skin tones ensures it doesn't draw unnecessary attention.

The technology

But how does the Zera Cooling Crescent actually work? Aphra explains: “It has a reusable silicone gel on it which attaches to the back of your neck. And then it uses thermal electric cooling, and that’s via a Peltier module, to go onto the back of your neck, and it alleviates the symptoms of hot flushes."

The device can be easily activated through the accompanying app, which not only grants users control over when they activate it, but also offers them tracking capabilities.

“When you're experiencing a hot flush, or if you think you're going to experience one, you can turn it on via the app.

“The app also has a tracking feature, so you can track other medical symptoms and not just hot flushes. You can receive data visualisation on what you've tracked, and how certain things you've done during the day or during the week have affected the severity of the symptoms. And then there's a community feature that allows women to talk, discuss, and support each other through the menopause.”

Aphra's choice of the back of the neck as the cooling point is rooted in science. The neck, with its intricate network of arteries, offers an effective cooling spot for the body.

“If you look at recommendations from doctors, and cooling yourself down in general, whether that's because you're too hot or suffering from heatstroke, one of the recommendations is the back of the neck.”

Solving a real problem

For Aphra, the development of the Zera Cooling Crescent was about solving a real problem. Menopausal hot flushes can be disruptive, uncomfortable, and upset mental health, making daily life challenging. Zera aims to empower women by allowing them to manage their symptoms, and to reduce the stigma surrounding menopause and aging, reminding women that they can continue to lead fulfilling lives.

Aphra's vision for a discreet, empowering, and inclusive product was ambitious, and tackling racial disparities in a physical device required thoughtful design – so ensuring it met all her objectives was no small feat. However, her determination and the feedback from users have kept Aphra motivated.

What’s next?

The Zera Cooling Crescent is still in its early stages, but Aphra is actively seeking funding to further her research and development. The current version of Zera is an aesthetic prototype, however, feedback from users has been overwhelmingly positive, affirming the need for the product on the market.

Aphra’s journey is a testament to the power of innovation rooted in personal experience. Her product has the potential to make a significant impact on the lives of women experiencing menopausal hot flushes, offering them comfort, confidence, and a sense of community. As she continues to develop and refine her creation, Aphra is poised to contribute to a more inclusive and supportive world for women going through this transformative phase of life.