A lip colour sceptic reviews a compostable lipstick



True maturity is realising a lot of what you don’t like, you just don’t understand. Sea urchin, progressive rock, gothic poetry – I’ve surrendered myself to the fact that I don’t have an aversion, I’m just a little naive. And I’m okay with that. Ignorance is bliss!

After embarking on my journey as a grossly underqualified beauty writer, I’ve realised my ignorance spans the world of makeup and skincare too. I’ve been sceptical about lipstick since applying a crimson smear of it for my first-ever driver’s licence photo, in which I looked like a forlorn clown. Since that incident, I’ve found any follow-up attempt resulted in stained teeth, bleeding product and a dry pucker.

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I’ve concluded this is probably because my lipsticks were cheap, my pout was un-moisturised and the colours I chose were all wrong for my skin tone. When sustainable New Zealand beauty label Ethique launched its range of home-compostable shades, I decided to challenge my lipstick aversion once more.

Founded in 2012 by Christchurch woman Brianne West, Ethique was born “out of frustration for the abhorrent amount of waste created by the cosmetics industry and in particular, the amount of plastic and waste created by our bathroom essentials”. As a poor university student, Brianne successfully created a range of conscious water-soluble beauty bars and plastic-free shower products.


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A decade later and the brand has expanded into the realms of haircare, skincare, household products and – most importantly – makeup. The new plastic-free lipsticks come in seven very wearable shades (pinks, nudes and reds), claiming a nutrient-rich formula, buildable colour and a smooth satin finish. It’s also biodegradable, home-compostable, palm oil and cruelty-free and totally vegan. Sounding exponentially more promising – for both my lips and the environment – than its prior runout-bin variations.

I trialled the colour Poppy, which is a ruby red with warm-ish undertones. The packaging is simple and sturdy, a little black tube that feels a little softer – kinder – than its plastic counterparts. The product itself comes in a thicker, flat bullet form, which I thought wouldn’t work on my disproportionately small-and-thin lips (the botox has worn off). For some reason it felt like without the classic pointed bullet, I’d manage to smear it all over my mouth à la driver’s license photo 2012.


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Instead, it went on smoothly and smear-free, feeling more like a lip balm than stick. The product’s Chapstick-style bullet really grew on me and with such a soft, buildable formulation, I can see myself dipping a little brush in it to dab on my cheeks or eyes. If I’m honest, usually those ‘feels a like a balm’  formulations wear off within the hour, but girlies – for natural lipstick, this had some serious staying power.

It wasn’t drying at all, didn’t bleed and stayed off my teeth through lunch. I wore the nudey-peach shade Honeysuckle on a movie date the following day, and slowly but surely found myself becoming a lipstick convert. Is this… maturity?

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