Fascinating and Fashionable: Karoline the Lipstick Formulator

I’ve worked with The Elixery several times and am consistently impressed by the company’s ethics, dedication to quality, and marvelous products. I wanted to introduce you to the founder, Karoline Wells, who launched this product line because her expertise in biology, chemistry, and medicinal herbalism gives her a unique perspective when developing new products. Let’s hear from Karoline!


What inspired you to create and launch The Elixery?
The Elixery is a place that always existed in the back of my mind. I learned herbalism and soapmaking from my grandmother, so I grew up compounding products. This started with simple face masks and tinctures, and grew into essential oil blends, lip balms, and face creams. I studied biology and chemistry at St. Catherine’s and graduated in 2000, but it wasn’t until several years later that I decided to make The Elixery a reality.

It’s a place where many things are created, where passionate people work to make wonderful things. It’s an experiential place with sparkles, fragrance, texture, and fun. We’ve been working hard to build it for the last few years, and we’ve been blessed to work with so many creative people who share the dream.

How long have you been in business? Always in the same Northeast Minneapolis location?
The Elixery lab was opened in 2009, and we’re still in the same location. The lab is not open to the public, but we sell our products in fine retailers such as June, Bespoke, and Honeycomb Salon. In January, we’re opening a shared studio at Northrop King, Ste 180, alongside artists Larissa Loden, DC Ice, and Josie Lewis. The collective will be open for classes and events, and our products will be available there as well.

Why lipstick?
I have always been a fan of high quality lipsticks, although I didn’t really plan to launch the company with that product. I started tinkering with lipstick formulas from day one of the company, and figured it was something I could do in addition to everything else I was working on. I wanted the formula to be vegan, and realized that wasn’t very easy to do. There were all of these weird variables, and while I could technically get it to work, it wouldn’t turn out very good. There’s something about a challenge like that tends to draw a scientist in to a bit of a research obsession, so I spent the first year formulating a lipstick that was not only vegan, but also high quality.


What sets your line apart from the cosmetics powerhouses?
The majority of cosmetic companies are driven by marketing departments, and the product development is outsourced. We focus our attention on the quality of our formulas instead, and we’re constantly researching ways to make them even better. We’re a true old-school cosmetic house, which is a rare thing these days.

Why do you feel it’s important to do everything in-house, from formulation to testing?
I don’t know that it’s important to do everything in-house, but so far we have. It’s definitely a big advantage because we understand our products completely. You wouldn’t believe the number of untrue things we’re told every day about cosmetics, often because the company doesn’t really understand how their product works. That happens quite a bit, and it’s generally just a lack of product knowledge. Understanding your product requires more than just using it or assembling it, you have to be able to build it and explain it, and we know how to do that.

Another benefit to in-house work is that we do our own ingredient sourcing, so we know the origin of everything we use. Since the term ‘cruelty free’ is totally unregulated, we have to do a lot of extra steps to ensure that our ingredients aren’t tested on animals. We’ve got a clear conscience when we say our products are safe, ethical, and free of animal testing, and I think our customers can sense that. We’ve been called “refreshing” on numerous occasions for just being honest.

What’s your best-selling shade?
This is totally inconsistent from market to market! The last few months, though, the top color has been “Dessa,” designed by Crist Ballas. Dessa is an amazing artist with a deep compassion for humanity, and we were really honored to work with her on such a cool charity project.

Do you plan to move into other cosmetics offerings – eyeshadow, foundation, and the like?
We have a rather extensive library of formulas that I’ve developed over the last couple of years. Bringing a cosmetic to market is a slow process, and it generally takes months to years to develop and manufacture a single product type. But yes, we do have some other items lined up for release in the near future. Our customers aren’t shy about sharing their wish lists, and we’re working on it!

How many colors are available?
All lipstick is $18, and there are generally 18-20 colors in rotation. Some that go out of rotation may be brought back through customer requests.

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2 Responses to “Fascinating and Fashionable: Karoline the Lipstick Formulator”

  1. Weesha

    Thank you so much for sharing Sally, it’s not easy to find make up that is vegan, cruelty free, great quality AND affordable! The lipstick junkie in me is too excited!!