Lipstick creator mixes passion for cosmetics, chemistry

Karoline Wells hands out lipstick samples

Karoline Wells (center) hands out lipstick samples at a Women in Science and Engineering event. Photo: Veronica Arreola

By Humaa Siddiqi

Did you know lipstick can be vegan?

Well, that’s exactly what Karoline Wells achieved in her own cosmetics line, The Elixery.

The formulation-chemist-turned-cosmetics-creator, discussed her company Nov. 16 at a talk presented by the Women in Science and Engineering program at the Latino Cultural Center.

Her cosmetics are made from scratch, specifically formulated and hand-poured in her own small laboratory. Wells aims to create a brand as ethical as possible — all products are free from animal testing.

“When you see cruelty-free on a label, it doesn’t really mean much,” Wells said. “There is no regulation on the term. Most [brands] don’t test their products on animals, but the ingredients are tested on animals – and that’s the trick.

“We make sure our ingredients are animal-free. We make sure they have a proven track record and are known to be safe.”

As a child, her grandmother taught her how to make soap and how to identify herbs, spurring her love of science. She attended St. Catherine University with a major in microbiology.

“As a microbiologist, I was never satisfied with what I was doing,” she said. “I’ve always been a label reader and I’ve always wanted to know what the pieces of my shampoo bottle were and what it does.”

In 2009, Wells found her own laboratory space and created fragrances and soaps, but lipsticks were her goal.

From the formulation of one lipstick to color matching, it’s not an easy creation.

“A lot of the pieces I had to learn were from other industries.” Wells said. “I had to study all these types of physics behind paint and figure out the science behind what I was doing.”

Apart from pursuing her true interests, Wells faced criticism for pursuing a career in the cosmetics industry.

“I’ve always been a feminist,” Wells said. “The cosmetics industry has a lot of criticism for objectifying women. But historically, it has been one of the few industries where women have been able to be scientists, entrepreneurs, and create their own companies.

“I don’t believe women wear makeup for men, but for themselves.”

Since 2009, her lipsticks have become award-winning and and she recently launched a celebrity line with hip-hop musician Dessa.

Wells plans to expand her company beyond lipstick.

“My goals were to make a product with my own original formula with high quality,” said Wells. “My larger goal is to build a manufacturing facility and create jobs making that product in this country.”

• Humaa Siddiqi is a freshman in political science.

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