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local eco-entrepreneurs go big by going… PRIMITIVEby Jamaine Bell

“Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin. That, or a kick-ass red lipstick.”

Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth may be on to something. If leading economic trends hold, the so-called “Lipstick Effect”, so-named by Leonard Lauder of Estee Lauder in his observation that lipstick sales increase during times of economic turmoil, many more of us may be seen sporting beautiful red lips in the coming year. In fact, several large cosmetic companies are banking on it by ramping up their product lines and promotions for 2010. All well and good, you think. Who doesn’t like to see a beautiful pair of lips with a hint of soft color and shine, or a bold statement of perfectly lined red lips announcing the wearer’s confidence and polish?

Nancy Caigan and Susanna Ronner, founders of Primitive Makeup, their locally-owned, Woodstock-based company, felt Gwyneth's connection to their favorite makeup and after deciding to lead a more natural lifestyle, had a hard time sacrificing their department-store brands. After searching for and trying many different brands, they couldn’t find a naturally made lipstick with a similar quality and a color palette that satisfied their needs.

One morning, Nancy had an epiphany. “I literally woke up one day with the idea of creating my own line of natural makeup. I was trying to live a clean, healthy, natural lifestyle. I had two little girls at home and I wanted to set a good example for them. The one place I felt a total disconnect was with makeup. There were several existing lines of natural makeup, but they didn’t perform well. I couldn’t quite let go of the department store brands. So, I decided to try and create my own.”

Starting with the idea of creating a product that she would actually use—a naturally made lipstick that would have the same quality and colors of the top department store brands—Nancy and Susanna did some research and found a chemist who had experience formulating cosmetics. Susanna explains, “We knew what we didn’t want in our lipstick, so that's where we started. Most of the ingredients in department store or drug store brands are synthetic, created in a chemistry lab. A link on our website will take you to, 'Our Formidable 15: Toxic Ingredients to Avoid in Skin Care,' a list created by Natural Solutions magazine in collaboration with Whole Foods. We stress that our products do not use parabens [preservatives], additives, or artificial colors.”

So how important is wearing natural lipstick? Considering that the average woman consumes (as in eats) over five pounds of lipstick in her lifetime, most would admit that having all-natural, non-toxic ingredients on our mouths is very important. And if you are kissing someone who wears lipstick, you are consuming it too, so the non-lipstick wearing population should be concerned about what ingredients are used in its production too.

The development of the first line of Primitive lipsticks took over a year. The formula for the lipstick was not as difficult as getting the right color palette. Susanna explains, “We use all-natural sources for colorants, and that, we feel, is a really important aspect of our products.” Both women knew that unless the colors were great, the product would not work well in the marketplace.

Their belief that there was a demand for high-quality, all-natural lipsticks, was correct. Sales have grown rapidly. Their Primitive line of lipsticks, lip glosses, and lip liners are now available in over 250 stores across the United States. Nancy and Susanna are also selling in Canada and Sweden and are working to expand their line to include other all-natural makeup products. The next planned product is an all-natural mascara, since the current choices available in the market do not meet their standards.

“There’s a huge desire for a really good all-natural mascara,” Nancy explains. "There are great mascaras out there, and some natural mascaras. We haven’t found one that’s all-natural and great too. So we decided to create one. “They expect that developing a natural mascara will take about a year and a half.

Primitive lipsticks are creamy and feel nice on the lips. When you first apply them there is a slight hint of vanilla. The colors are beautiful and natural, with ingredients like shea butter and natural colorants. The effect, when wearing them, is of having soft, luscious lips with a polished, professional look. And unlike most natural lipsticks, Primitive's colors last.

The lipsticks caught the eye of the Jane Goodall Foundation and Primitive Makeup now carries the Foundation’s “Good For All” label on two of its products. As Nancy explains, “ ‘The Good For All’ brand was created in 2007 to recognize environmentally conscious products that reflect Dr. Jane Goodall’s core values. Jane Goodall personally selected two of our lipsticks, Belize and Tahiti, to carry the ‘Good For All’ to kick off the partnership. A percentage of the sale of these lipsticks goes directly to the Jane Goodall Institute’s programs.” All products are made in the US and shipped from Woodstock.

By starting with a great idea and following through with thorough research and product development, Nancy and Susanna have shown that doing good for the environment is good business too. When asked for their advice for other would-be eco-entrepreneurs, Nancy advises, “Do a lot of research. Read everything you can about what’s out there that is like your product or different from your product, and why things sell or why they work. Look in bookstores and in health food stores; just walking down the aisles and reading the ingredients will give you information. Look at the packaging, go on the websites, things like that.”

“And another thing, I definitely say just go for it. If you have an idea, there’s probably a demand for it. I wouldn’t mortgage the house right away, but definitely go for it. Follow your dream.”

Primitive Makeup lipsticks, lip glosses, and lip pencils can be found online at: and at the following stores in the Hudson Valley:

Beacon Natural Market
348 Main Street. Beacon, NY

Mother Earth’s Storehouse
1955 South Road, Poughkeepsie, NY, 249 Main Street, Saugerties, NY and
Kings Mall, Route 9W North, Kingston, NY

Green Cottage
1204 State Route 213, High Falls, NY

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