Natural Vegan and Cruelty-Free Lip Products from The Lip Bar

Melissa Butler, founder and CEO of vegan and cruelty free beauty brand The Lip Bar, hasn’t seen a dull moment since launching her beauty empire. The Lip Bar, now located in Detroit MI, was started in Melissa’s NYC apartment kitchen as a personal project while she worked full time on Wall Street. Determined to create lip products that were environmentally conscious at a friendly price point in an array of colors, Melissa tested formulas, mixed ingredients until she found the perfect combination. Six years later, after a memorable experience on The Shark Tank and taking her beauty products on a cross country road trip, The Lip Bar is now available in over 40 Target locations nationwide and online at thelipbar.com. Melissa and the lip bar represent a unique spot in the cosmetics industry and bring a fresh perspective to inclusive beauty.

1. What inspired you to start creating your own natural lip products? Were you always interested in cosmetics?

I’ve always felt that the standard, the world standard for me was exclusive, and it didn’t include a lot of people and women of color. It was just a very linear industry, so I’ve always had an affinity for creating this more diverse idea of what beauty is and I think that ticking point that made me say, you know what I’m going to start doing this, is when I started taking a more holistic approach to my lifestyle.

I always tell people that I’m not passionate about make up and it’s true. I’ve always had an interest in make up but I’m not the person who feels that they need to wear make up every day or that I’m not completely put together without make up. I like make up and I enjoy it and I have a ton of it, but it didn’t necessarily define me.

2. What were some of your frustrations when you were creating shades and textures?

I mean, the reality was that I didn’t know what I was doing! I had no idea how to make lipstick, but I was determined to do it. I didn’t come from a science background. I didn’t even know any chemists back then. I’ve done everything else from Facebook and LinkedIn and stalking Google articles on chemistry and asking them questions, so frustrating but also like the exciting part was just like I was fresh and I had no idea what I was getting into, which I think was almost a benefit because I wasn’t afraid of anything. I wasn’t afraid to try things. I wasn’t afraid to do blue lipstick.

There were tons of trials… and I experimented for about 13 months before I felt like I got a formula that was good enough.

3. Were there any unexpected positive discoveries as you were creating your products?

Making The Lip Bar was from my research, and it was completely on accident. At first, I was making soap because I’ve always been into products. I’m a product junkie through and through! So when I started making the lipsticks, it was after I was coloring around and I was looking for pigments for the soaps I was making.

4. How do you come up with the unique names to your shades? Are there stories behind each name?

I came up with all the names. The names basically describe people. They describe everyone’s personality. I think your personality has a lot to do with the look. I’m very eclectic and so I am also just like the explorer. So I look at my clothes and my lip color and I never wear nudes. I never ever wear nudes, but I always wear bright vibrant colors like orange is my go-to lip color. I wanted to create a brand that told stories of our selves. That’s why the names are very descriptive of people. Like red, if you think of red, it’s a power color, so that one is called “Bawse Lady.” We really just try to describe our customers.

5. What are some mistakes you’ve made in your journey that you’ve learned from?

I’ve made so many mistakes. Hiring good people, retaining good people, managing good people… it’s very difficult. So when you’re under budget and you don’t necessarily have the resources, it’s never a good thing to work with friends or family.

For years our shipping process was so inefficient and now we’ve made our process so much easier. Sometimes we took too long for product development. We’ve made a ton of mistakes and I’m sure we’ll make a ton more, but it’s just a matter of believing in what you’re doing.

6. What are some tips you would give to someone interested in creating their own make up? Is there any ingredient you would recommend staying away from?

I would recommend staying away from parabens because those can lead to cancer. Parabens are a preservative and it doesn’t have any proof that it causes cancer or anything but you never want to put yourself in the position where you have to defend your brand.

My advice to any small business or business owner is to do your research and that’s not even exclusive to the cosmetic industry, I think in general. You have to convince your customer why your product deserves to exist. Figure out what your lane in the market is. You can’t figure out your lane without doing a ton of research.

7. Are there any current projects you’re working on/looking forward to?

We just launched our new collection. There are 16 new shades. I’m excited about that product launch as well as some additional product launches we have in the pipeline. So we have our really fun and pop of color spring/summer collection launching pretty soon. Also, I’m just excited about our expansion with Target. We went from target.com to 42 Target stores and doing really well in those Target stores. So now we’re working on getting into more Target stores. I’m excited about that!

8. How did you learn to achieve the different textures (I.e smooth and creamy lipstick, lip gloss, and liquid matte)?

It really just comes from a need with the customer. What does the customer want? So I didn’t have to achieve the different textures of lipsticks or lip gloss. It was already standards that were made. I wasn’t reinventing the wheel when it came to making lipstick or lip gloss. It wasn’t really about achieving it. It was just deciding this is what our customers are worth.

The Lip Bar Lipsticks

Top to bottom: Cosmo (Lipstick), Boy Trouble (Liquid Matte), Bawse Lady (Liquid Matte), Vixen (Lip Gloss)

9. What are the top three things you hope to inspire in the people who use your products?

I don’t think I have a top three, but my entire goal with The Lip Bar is to influence the need from within. We’re very tough on ourselves as humans and we’re living by often times someone else’s standard of beauty. My goal is to have this mentality where everybody has their own standard of beauty and not be dictated by the media. Like you know what, I look in the mirror and I see me and I am enough. That is my entire goal and that’s why I do what I do every day.

10. What are your top three favorite lip products (could be your own or other brands)?

Well of course they’re all from The Lip Bar! My number one is Boy Trouble. It’s a liquid matte and it’s just a really bright and bold fire engine orange and has hints of red. It really just describes my personality like how I’m really a firecracker. My second favorite is Bawse Lady because I think everyone needs a good red. Bawse Lady is our best seller in the entire company because it looks good on every single complexion. Finally, it’s probably going to be our latest product line that is a nude gloss called Miss Independent. Earlier I said I don’t wear nudes and it’s true and it’s rare that I wear nudes, but this gloss that we have I’m obsessed with it and all of our glosses are organic!

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Jessica Lee

Jessica Lee is a third generation Korean-Canadian currently working and living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She graduated from Michigan State University in 2013 with a BA in Education and had a career shift that led her into the automotive industry where she is now a project manager at General Motors. In her spare time, Jessica enjoys blogging, plating (and eating) charcuterie, watching crime dramas, and hitting the snooze button.