Tracy Toler-Phillips wants to make a plastic-free beauty brand, starting with lipsticks.
A beauty and fashion photographer for more than two decades, Toler-Phillips had worked with celebs, models, and industry leaders. At heart, she says, she’s been an animal lover and environmentalist who wanted to build a brand that integrated all of these interests.
Last year, she took the leap to start her own company, Cupid and Pysche Beauty, after nearly two years of researching how lip colors could be made using primarily natural ingredients and packaged in paper and more eco-friendly materials, as opposed to plastic tubes.
“I get why people use plastic. But I wanted to see what other alternatives were available,” she says. Thus all the packaging is made from post-consumer recycled paper and the tubes are currently recycled aluminum. She’s not stopping there, but intrigued by new technologies that will enable materials such as sugarcane to be formed into lipstick tubes as well.
The brand is also vegan-friendly, forgoing beeswax and other bee-based products. But it’s something that irks Toler-Phillips as she sees larger beauty brands use the term of vegan on products that are laden with chemicals. If they’re meant to be “green” beauty or vegan, they should be made of better ingredients, she says, “There’s a fair amount of greenwashing going on, and the use of synthetics and animal products, such as lanolin, which doesn’t add up to what’s on the label or communicated to customers. People think they’re getting a cruelty-free or safer product, but that’s not always the case.”
She advises customers to take the lead and read ingredient lists, use resources such as the Environmental Working Group’s website, and rely on clean beauty marketplaces like Credo beauty, instead of just accepting what brands market to them. “If we want to see change, we have to educate ourselves a bit more.”
A self-funded venture, Cupid and Psyche launched with their first lineup of lipsticks, which are all semi-matte wearable shades, designed to be built up for a more pigmented look or worn lightly for just a tint. To get the right mix, she tested on clients, friends, and industry contacts.
Based in New York, Toler-Phillips has worked with makeup artists and models, and her own roster of clients include Kate Spade, Health Magazine, Sony Music, among others. Tapping into those resources, she says, has been helpful in getting feedback on the product and learning more about what consumers want, particularly those that are keen on cruelty-free and environmentally-conscious products.
Made in smaller batches, she personally hand-pours all the lipsticks. They’re free of parabens, beeswax, and gluten, she notes. The formulation concentrates on candelilla wax, shea butter, jojoba and grapeseed oils, instead of petroleum-based products. A percentage of sales goes to non-profits in line with her vision: organizations working on saving bee populations, elephants, domestical animals and rhinos.
As a smaller brand, Toller-Phillips recognizes that it limits her in some capacity. For instance, she would love to have 100 percent ethical sourcing for all her ingredients, and not be dependent entirely on third parties for her raw materials. But as a startup, cost becomes a factor, she says. It is something she’s looking to achieve in the future.
“I want the brand to be of service, educating consumers on what’s going on behind the scenes in the beauty industry as well,” she adds.
Thus, the company’s social media offers consumers a swap for some of their favorite colors from luxury beauty brands. “We want to make that switch as easy as possible for people.”
Priced at $23 a tube, they’re also more cost-effective than trendy beauty brands. Now at Nordstorm’s clean beauty counters across the country, Toller-Phillips and her team are able to interact directly with customers and explain those nuances of the product.