[This feature was originally published in the September issue of 1859 Magazine]
Ericka Rodriguez never set out to change the beauty world. She simply wanted a lipstick made from ingredients she could pronounce. Ingredients commonly found in lipstick like Red 20 or Yellow 4 are made from coal or petroleum, and Rodriguez said the labeling loopholes don't stop there.
“Fragrance is usually a combination of thousands of chemicals, and because it’s labeled ‘fragrance,’ you don’t have to tell the consumer what’s in the fragrance,” said Rodriguez, founder of Axiology, a natural lipstick line. Fixated on creating the most natural lipstick possible out of her studio in Bend, Rodriguez adds orange essential oil as a fragrance. When she first ventured into making her own beauty products, she started with lip balm. Soon she realized she could make lipstick as well. After receiving many compliments when she wore her lipsticks, Rodriguez decided to create them for others.
Now, three times a week, Rodriguez, 29, and her only full-time employee create handmade lipsticks, 200 strong. It’s not a short process. They mix and melt down the ingredients, pour them into molds, wait, pop the “bullets” of lipsticks out and then hand place them into custom lipstick tubes.
Rodriguez takes a stand against using palm oil in her lipsticks because of its environmental impact. “Palm oil harvesting is causing deforestation in lots of places in the world, and it’s wiping out orangutans and other animals. A lot of species are endangered because of palm oil,” Rodriguez said. Not afraid to put her money where her mouth is, six percent of all Axiology’s profits go to the Orangutan Foundation International.
The line, now sold in more than fifty retailers around the world including Free People, is all organic, natural and cruelty free. “People think all that happens is they put a little lipstick on a bunny and make it look pretty, but, in reality, bunnies are living really cruel, hard lives,” she said. “They’re stuck in cages and getting chemicals put into their bodies.”
Rodriguez’s message isn’t particularly new, nonetheless, people are taking notice. Elle Magazine featured Axiology in its May issue and countless natural beauty bloggers have sung her praises for creating a natural lipstick that comes in bright colors.
Because she doesn’t use synthetic colors, only non-toxic earth pigments like iron oxide, Rodriguez has to get creative to create the colors her customers crave. She’s currently working on coming out with a red lipstick called True. “It’s really hard to make a true red without using synthetic colors. We’re pulling together a lot of things like cherry powder and pomegranate powder and combining that to make a classic red,” she said.
Before starting Axiology in 2014, Rodriguez studied business at Cal Poly. After graduating, she started a blog focused on connecting people and companies in the raw vegan community. She also worked for a raw vegan juice and smoothie company in New York.
During a five-month stint living in Bali, Rodriguez met women who now create the packaging for Axiology lipsticks. About forty women are part of a cooperative that collects trash from hotels and offices around the island and recycles it by hand. They boil the paper down to a pulp, lay it out in the sun to dry and then hand fold and hand stamp all of Axiology’s boxes. “The gift in these boxes is that they help reduce trash on Bali as well as give women in a developing country an economic gain,” Rodriguez said.
In the near future, she plans to expand her line by creating natural eyeshadows and blush along with other green beauty products. Rodriguez hopes her success with Axiology continues, so she can fund an animal sanctuary.