Lük Beautifood’s Cindy Lüken on Production Considerations for Sustainable Beauty Entrepreneurs

Producing beauty products that are both good for the skin and the environment comes with it a number of considerations. Cindy Lüken, founder of Australian makeup brand Lük Beautifood, shares her advice with Hannah Gay.

Natural beauty brands have held a prized place in the beauty market for many years. Many craft their product lines with the intention of offering external care that complements users’ internal well-being. They understand that relying solely on chemical-laden formulas is not the ultimate solution.

While there’s no one right way to go about formulating makeup, recently there’s certainly been a push to go about it in as sustainable a manner as possible.

Having launched Lük Beautifood 11 years ago, food scientist and chef Cindy Lüken was one of a handful of Australian beauty entrepreneurs who got the recipe right early-on.

Lük has since amassed a healthy network of Australian and international stockists – nearly 1,000 – from beauty salons to pharmacies, health food to gift shops. Such a sizable network reiterates Lük’s position as a ‘made-for-many’ makeup offering. “This type of brand ambassadorship means the world to us as customers can resonate with their sincerity,” Cindy tells Professional Beauty.

Having a background in food research has provided Cindy with a unique understanding of how cosmetics can be formulated. “I feel it’s important to make food choices based on their nutritional value as wholefoods will always be more nutritious and bioavailable in sum than a supplement or synthetic alternative,” she says. Her same principles apply to choices for the skin.

Her interest in beauty products piqued while writing a piece on ‘eating for beauty’ in 2003. Cindy, a new mother at the time, began researching a range of edible ingredients and how they held up when exposed to the elements. “I spent countless hours researching the multiple seed, nut and fruit oils available, including the endless list of waxes and butters, and how they vary in colour, nutrients, taste, viscosity, finish, and shelf life. I also developed a greater understanding of their molecular blueprints, and what ingredients could withstand or melt at body temperature,” Cindy says.

This period of Cindy’s life would later reflect in the early stages of Lük’s development. In 2012, Cindy would begin formulating makeup products in her kitchen, after having gained insight into the beauty manufacturing process after working with friend Jane Mckellar. “It was not until I started to research the category further that I soon realised a gap in the market, particularly around lipsticks. While traditional lipsticks generally contained oils, waxes and emulsifiers (and perhaps a vitamin or two if you’re lucky), many of them were mostly synthetic and provided little-to-no nutritional value and tasted terrible.”

In place of known carcinogens linked to skin disorders, hormonal impracts and cancer, Cindy worked to develop science-based formulas free from processed actives and tonic ingredients. “Every ingredient needed to serve a nutritional purpose for the customer which is why our products are packed full of vitamins, minerals, and protective antioxidants, and contain concentrated levels of skin and lip-loving nutrients from a host of natural food and botanical sources.”

In its decade since launch, Lük Beautifood has released a series of face, lip and eye products. Lip Nourish – a creamy natural lipstick available in 14 nude and pink variations – was the brand’s first release. A repeat buy for many customers, its formulation has remained the same since. Cindy says, “it was ahead of its time then, and it’s ahead of its time now.” The same manufacturer still produces the bullets today.

Lip Nourish embodies Cindy’s attention to sustainable product practices. Each tube is made from recyclable aluminium and features a swivel mechanism constructed from 52 percent PCR plastic materials. Packaging is made with PEFC certified paper with vegetable-based printing ink. “I do have a yearning to develop a completely vegan formula but unfortunately this will have to wait until technology can deliver on a true plant-based alternative,” Cindy admits. “In the interim, we are working on some new shades for our customers, including gorgeous warm lattes hues and rich chocolates with hints of blackberry.”

Lük Beautifood Lip Nourish shade range

Working with natural ingredients hasn’t always been an easy feat. Producing lipsticks with natural colour has proved difficult. “While it would be great to formulate with natural pigments such as anthocyanin in beetroot and carotenoids in carrot, you simply don’t get colour intensity or payoff. They are also light sensitive.” To overcome this, Cindy opts to formulate with carmine: a natural red food colourant commonly used in household food items such as ice cream, yoghurt, and lollies.

A heavy workload can also accompany a green product line, Cindy warns. “A waterless base such as lipstick is easy to formulate from a safety perspective, but once you introduce water, a natural ingredient, you need to also introduce a preservation system to avoid bacterial growth.”

“Moreover, the paperwork required to substantiate green formulations can be time-intensive and costly; particularly in the EU and UK where regulations are the strictest around natural ingredients and claims.”

Budding Australian beauty entrepreneurs should enter the market ready to expand, Cindy says. “Have deep pockets and be ready with internal systems and processes that allow you to scale. While many decisions are reactive and situational, I would recommend entrepreneurs to develop a unique proposition curated for their intended local market, a global pricing strategy inclusive of duties and taxes, and a robust supply chain and inventory forecasting system.”

Confidence can also go a long way, particularly when developing international partnerships. “Exercise due diligence when developing international partnerships with ground teams, agents, and distribution centres, and don’t be afraid to ask questions and vocalise intended outcomes,” she advises. 

Lük Beautifood is often used by beauty therapists and makeup artists as a preferred brand. Cindy enjoys partnering with passionate beauty business owners, buyers and sales team who share her brand’s clean and conscious vision.

“We are also competitively priced and accessible to a wide range of budgets, so we become an easy choice for customers looking for high quality, natural pro­­ducts suitable for everyday wear. In fact, I often joke that Lük Beautifood sells makeup for those that don’t wear makeup!”

Cindy works with sales agent Margot Woolcott of Agencie Plus, who oversees state representatives available to assist Lük partners with in-store merchandising, ordering, training, and promotional support. “Lük Beautifood invests in a wide range of marketing services including public relations and digital, so stockists often find the increased brand exposure and publicity helps drive additional foot traffic and sales. We have no minimum order quantity or value, and free Australia-wide shipping for orders over $450.”

Looking to the future, Cindy hopes to continue expansion into more retailers across Australia. “We have done a lot of work in the last few years to expand Lük Beautifood’s offering, and with the recent launch of our Instant Glow Complexion Balm and Lash Nourish Mascara, we now offer customers a full range of everyday makeup options that celebrate their natural beauty.”

Incoming Lük Beautifood stockists are looking for “service, sales, and simplicity!” Cindy notes. “For each of our core clean colour collections, we have created what we have termed a ‘BIB’ – Business in Box – that quickly and effectively captures shopper attention when placed near the point of sale or on a shelf. Each of our opening bundles comes with a free display unit, testers, training notes and consumer marketing material, so stores can maximise sales from day one. Our bespoke display units and eco-friendly packaging tells a unique story that resonates with our mature and low-barrier 35-65+ demographic.”

Hannah Gay shares her top three Lük Beautifood product picks:

Lük Beautifood Instant Glow Tinted Complexion Balm

“I adore Lük Beautifood’s Instant Glow Tinted Complexion Balm for those casual work-from-home days and to wear on daycare drop-off. It provides a great level of coverage for those after an even, flaw-free complexion minus the weight of a traditional foundation. I wear the shade ‘Fair’.

Lük Beautifood Lip Nourish in Nude Sugar

“Here’s the product I tell all my friends about: Lip Nourish in the shade ‘Nude Sugar’. I’m picky when it comes to finding the perfect nude lippy to best suit my skintone, and Lük is one of the few brands I’ve found that meets the mark. It’s a dupe for MAC’s Creamsheen in Creme DNude, but with greener, antioxidant-rich ingredients and a lower price tag.”

Lük Beautifood Supergreens Lip Scrub

“I keep a pot of Supergreens Lip Scrub in my bedside table during the winter months. It’s an effective (and tasty!) exfoliant that scrubs away at dry lips without stripping the delicate skin. I’d love to see this product used during a facial as the lips are one area of the face often left behind.”

Read the current issue of our digital magazine here:

Have an idea for a story or want to see a topic covered on our site and in our pages? Get in touch at info@professionalbeauty.com.au.

Back to top