Karen Murrell is a New Zealand-based entrepreneur known for her eponymous lipstick brand, Karen Murrell. Ariana Pezeshki spoke with Karen about her brand which is recognised for producing natural, cruelty-free lipsticks that are made from high-quality, sustainably sourced ingredients and her heartfelt approach in the sustainable beauty landscape.
Karen Murrell is passionate about creating lipsticks that are both environmentally friendly and luxurious.
Her lipsticks are made with natural waxes, oils, and pigments, and do not contain any synthetic preservatives, fragrances, or mineral oils. The lipsticks are also free from harmful chemicals such as parabens, phthalates, and sulphates, making them safe and gentle for the lips. She believes that those who wear lipstick should not have to sacrifice their health or the environment with harsh chemicals.
Inspired by the beautiful crimson Pohutukawa Blooms of 2008 along with the influence of Karen’s Nana Gwen, Karen Murrell lipstick was born. Karen was inspired to create her own sustainable lipstick brand 15 years ago when she says, “There were no sustainable lipsticks on the market and this sparked inspiration.” The brand founder believes everyone deserves to wear beautiful, clean and long-lasting lipstick with the tagline she coined in the early beginnings of the brand ‘Nothing nasty touches my lips’ that fans of the brand will recognise today.
Since the brand’s inception, the lipsticks were formulated in five shades. Since then the natural lipstick range has enhanced the beauty across different complexions without sacrifice and remaining true to the brand’s ethos of sustainability. The ingredients allow for a hydrating and nourishing application while being treated with every swipe. Karen says that “Lip hydration levels increase every time you wear our lipsticks, our lipsticks are creamy, smooth and heavenly to wear.”
The desire to create a clean natural lipstick brand came naturally to Karen, “I grew up in very rural New Zealand, my hometown is Te Awamutu which is in the Waikato. Growing up in rural New Zealand during the 1970s we lived very clean, sustainable lives. Most people had gardens and grew their own food. I remember my grandmother making soap and her own cosmetics and it was normal for me to have clean, natural products,” Karen said.
One of the notable features of Karen Murrell lipsticks is the creative form of eco-friendly packaging made from renewable and recyclable materials. Each lipstick is packaged and printed with vegetable-based inks on sustainably sourced paper by an FSC-certified printing company, which also means that they are committed to caring for forests.
As of late, the brand has received many requests for samples, which Karen recognises is a loss for sustainability even though samples may be a win in some respects. “The large majority of plastic packaging used for beauty products goes unrecycled, either due to improper sorting or size (plastics less than three inches in height are typically too small to be processed in recycling facilities. These plastics eventually end up in landfills or bodies of water, where they continue to break up into smaller — and more dangerous — microplastic particles until the end of time,” Karen said.
“These particles then infiltrate the air and the soil and are consumed by both marine life and humans. According to Greenpeace, plastic never fully decomposes, meaning every piece of plastic ever created still exists.” Karen Murrell lipsticks are not tested on animals. Additionally, the brand supports various charitable causes and organisations, including environmental and social initiatives. Karen shared that ‘women ingest 2kg of lipstick over a lifetime’, with this in mind the brand is proud to present products that are ‘free from all nasties’ and free of coal tar, carmine, triclosan, parabens, or mineral oils.
The lipstick brand has gained a global following from its humble beginnings and her lipsticks are sold in numerous countries worldwide. Karen’s lipsticks have been praised for their quality, performance, and commitment to natural and sustainable beauty and Karen says that brand loyalty is high. “How we look at customers has changed so much in my career. The original target market philosophy is out the door.”
My customers are lipstick lovers, from a mother to a daughter to friends from school who collaboratively find our lipstick together through Instagram or someone who simply stumbles across our brand in person. What we do know is that lipstick has a very intimate resignation,” Karen said. The lipsticks are designed to be highly pigmented, providing rich colour that lasts throughout the day without fading or feathering. The lipstick glides effortlessly with the pure and natural formula that consists of avocado and evening primrose oils, candelilla, carnauba wax, cinnamon, and sweet orange.
Inspired by nature, beautiful flowers, shape and colour the brand believes that beautiful lipstick can brighten a room like a bouquet of fresh blooms – which is at the heart of captivating confidence and inspires everything the brand strives to do. Karen’s dream of creating a sustainable lipstick brand was met with hesitation in the brand’s inception, she said, “Initially finding a manufacturer that would take me on and that would even think about a natural lipstick was impossible 16 years ago. However, after a few knocks, I found a long-established manufacturer in Melbourne, it is fair to say our love story began then and still continues to this day.”
Despite the brands’ success, Karen remains humble when asked how she felt about being a successful woman in the beauty industry, “Success is a strange word. Your professional life or business is never linear. There are so many factors that can affect our brands now more than ever before. Experience or time in our craft teaches us how to manoeuvre the good times and the unexpected things that pop up. I really enjoy my career, if you had said to me as a teen I was going to be doing this now as a 49-year-old woman I am not sure I would have believed you,” Karen said.
Karen Murrell, the brand and founder are goal oriented for the year ahead, Karen said, “This year I am very focused on refreshing our look throughout Australia and Asia and I am taking a much more hands-on approach to this more than ever before and I always love to hear customer feedback.”
This article originally appeared in the May-June 2023 print issue of Professional Beauty.
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