Natural Beauty Brands

Eco Lipstick Queen: KAREN MURRELL

August 23, 2014

Love a splash of lip colour to brighten up your outfit—or even your mood? While on-trend lipsticks may look the part, there are many that hide dirty little secrets under their hot seasonal hues: namely toxins that ultimately get ingested with the potential to cause all sorts of health issues. Lead anyone?

And it’s not just hearsay. University of California researchers tested 32 lipsticks and glosses used by females in a local youth program. What did they find? “Concerning levels” of nine heavy metals in many of the products. The toxic ingredients also didn’t discriminate: low and high end brands, between $5 and $24, were all found guilty of including them in their formulas.

Lead was detected in 75 percent of the lipsticks and glosses—however—they found daily exposure rates were lower than government-recommended guidelines for lead consumption. What does this mean? The United States government is a-ok with people swallowing lead if it’s below a particular number on their “scale of averages”. Yet, as any lipstick or gloss wearer will confess—what goes on the lips gets swallowed with every lick of the lips or food or drink consumed.

What the official bodies aren’t telling the public is that heavy metals accumulate in the body. Long-term ingestion of low amounts of lead causes toxicity.

“No level of lead exposure appears to be ‘safe’ and even the current ‘low’ levels of exposure in children are associated with neurodevelopmental deficits,” says David C. Bellinger who conducted a study, Very Low Lead Exposures and Children’s Neurodevelopment.

Researchers and health experts have found that lead can affect the central nervous system as well as the immune system and kidneys, showing up as reproductive problems, fatigue, irritability, joint, muscle and headaches, sleeplessness, poor appetite, constipation and nervousness.

The Eco Lipstick Queen

Having worked in the beauty industry for years, eco lipstick queen Karen Murrell was well aware of the toxins lurking in lip colours.

The entrepreneurial Kiwi decided to do something about it by creating her own brand, a line that boasts all-natural ingredients—except for those colours which, she says, can’t be produced by nature.

It’s then she resorts to FDA-approved colouring to enhance the natural colour palettes. The consumer is made aware of what lipsticks aren’t all natural with package labelling.


Were you ever daunted entering such a competitive market as the beauty market?

Before I launched Karen Murrell Lipsticks I had been working in the beauty industry for a quite some time. Because of this I was not daunted at all, more so excited and exhilarated to introduce the world to my lipsticks. I think that lipsticks are like flowers, they have an instant feel-good factor that will brighten anyone’s day.

How do chemically produced and naturally produced lipsticks differ?

Naturally produced lipsticks feel different on the skin than chemically produced lipsticks. In my experience chemically produced lipsticks feel dry and slippery on the skin, where as naturally formulated lipsticks create a second skin on your lips which makes it feel like you are not wearing lipstick.

In designing my lipsticks I work on 1) touch, it must glide on; 2) smell, it must smell great; 3) wear, must wear well and not rub off easily; 4) hue: I like strong natural hues that do not change from person to person.

What are some of the health hazards people might not realise about everyday lipstick?

Did you know that some very cheap lipsticks still contain formaldehyde which is highly toxic, allergenic, and carcinogenic! In choosing a lipstick it is always best to purchase from a reputable brand which clearly lists its ingredients.

How do you go about developing seasonal, on-trend colours?

Karen Murrell Lipsticks are always on trend with fashion and I am very instinctive about the colours that I introduce to my collection. Each season I test my newly design colours for a period of time before I release them to ensure that the colour is right and will be adored when they are produced.

What natural ingredients make the colour?

We use naturally derived pigments enhanced with naturally derived tianium dioxide and iron oxides. This ensures that each lipstick has intense colour, is long wearing, and does not feather.

Is producing a natural lipstick colour palette restrictive?

There are restrictions when producing brightly coloured natural lipsticks. To achieve the intensity of some of my brighter colours we have had to compromise and add a small percentage of FDA approved colouring to enhance the natural colour that most importantly is still safe to wear. This is stated on my packaging.

What sort of staying power do your lipsticks have?

Because Karen Murrell Lipsticks uses natural pigments you should use your fingers to lock the colour into your lips; this will make it last for around three hours after first application. However I have received feedback from customers saying that they love my lipsticks because they last all day!

What does the future look like for Karen Murrell lipsticks?

The high demand for my lipsticks is great but it is a struggle to produce enough lipsticks to meet this high demand. Therefore my core focus is lipsticks and, like any cosmetic house, I will be introducing more and more colours to expand my collection.

Where Can We Buy Karen Murrell Lipsticks?

Karen Murrell Lipsticks are currently sold in New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, China, Dubai and Hong Kong. I plan to expand into other markets as I am also sending online orders to America and the United Kingdom as well.

What’s in Karen Murrell’s Make-Up Bag?


Karen Murrell Lipsticks of course! At the moment I’m loving wearing Poppy Passion – a vibrant Poppy flower inspired pink is bursting with passion and drama – tipped to be the must-have colour of the season. Also my fail safe colours are Carnation Mist; an admiring rose petal pink or Sand Storm, a perfect nude lipstick shade.

karen murrell


Kiokio Fragipani and Puriri range. I use this instead of a synthetic perfume. It is natural based and divine and I am stopped all the time and asked what I am wearing.

karen murrell


Oxygen Women’s Skincare. It is economically priced and comes in a pump bottle. As a skincare formulator you cannot pull one over me, it has all the right ingredients.

karen murrell

Karen Murrell’s Top Lipstick Tips:

  1. Exfoliate: buff away any dry skin. This step doesn’t need to be complicated; a little cleanser onto your lips with a flannel in the shower works well.
  2. Apply lip liner if you like a more defined line;
  3. Apply lipstick with your finger – because all Karen Murrell Natural Lipsticks use natural pigment you can use your fingers to lock colour into your lips;
  4. Avoid blotting with tissue as this can create tissue ball residue on the lips and remove vital oils that create shine on the lips.
  5. If you smudge your lipstick during application, run over the edge with a cotton bud or use a lip brush over the lipstick.
  6. To apply brighter lipstick shades to your lips, use your fingers to press in the colour. The heat of your fingers fixes the pigment onto your lips and creates a more natural finish
  7. Your lips look fuller when you dab lipstick in the centre of your mouth and blend it out with your finger. Then press lips together to refresh colour.

Visit the Karen Murrell website here.

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  • The Green Flat
    October 19, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    SUCH a scary thought to think that lead along with petrochemicals are still being used in beauty products today, sounds so outdated and dangerous. Hopefully everyone realises and make a conscious effort to change.

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