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Nicolas Gerlier of La Bouche Rouge Paris

The lipstick revolutionary on his edible, refillable creation, why sustainability should begin with luxury brands and what makes him put a beauty product back on the shelf.

Remember that haunting National Geographic cover of a plastic bag floating in water with the tagline: “Planet or plastic?” and how it emboldened us to think of new ways to cut down our plastic consumption? Well, we’ve found the lipstick answer to that question.

Founded by beauty veteran Nicolas Gerlier and fashion polymath Ezra Petronio, sustainable lipstick label La Bouche Rouge has big plans to turn the manufacturing process of arguably the industry’s most symbolic item on its head. Designed to be refillable and customisable, each rouge à lèvres is a sustainable objet d’art — its case crafted in Baranelle leather and developed in the classic French artisanal tradition, finished with saddle topstitching and a chevron-effect cloth to keep it all pristine and polished.

Supported by LVMH and housed in Helios, the conglomerate’s cosmetology research centre, La Bouche Rouge’s goal is to encourage people to buy less, but better. Limiting plastic to its absolute minimum — only in the refill, which Nicolas says one can’t get around, but there’s no micro-plastic (plastics less than 5mm in diameter) — the formulation is also absent of endocrine disrupters, allergens, polyethelene, PMMA (polypropylene and polyoxymethylene) and perfume. If all of the above has got your attention, you’d be ecstatic to know that the maison de maquillage has also created a technology known as 3.0 Atelier to allow customers to select the exact shade of red they want on their pouts.

Finally, for each lipstick sold, La Bouche Rouge is donating 100 litres of safe drinking water through Eau Vive Internationale, which is in line with Nicolas’ belief that product sustainability should be at the core of every brand’s strategy. It’s a different type of lip service, if you will, and we’re listening.

La Bouge Rouge Values

“A billion lipsticks are thrown away every year in the world — an eighth continent of waste is ready to implode!”

What does La Bouche Rouge mean?

La Bouche Rouge means “red lips”. It stands for the classic red lips Parisian look but also for the idea of having a different voice.

La Bouche Rouge was co-founded by myself and Ezra Petronio. It all started from a conviction. I’ve been working in this industry for more than 10 years and I see it gradually evolving, transforming and fluctuating. Both of us are convinced that our generation cannot continue to think, produce and consume like previous generations. Ezra and I believe in a new way to create, design and think about cosmetics and makeup. This is how this beauty house was born — a brand that cares about the environment and becomes a part of a socially responsible project.

One and a half years ago, on the 9th of September 2016, my encounter with Ezra was decisive. He is responsible of the creative direction of La Bouche Rouge. He is the house’s eyes and hands. Our signature lipstick is called Rouge 9.16, as a symbol of our collaboration and sign of the great pleasure we have working together between Paris and New York. This is a beautiful creative story that’s the result of common work.

Why is it important that we stay away from lipsticks that are made with endocrine disrupters, allergens, polyethelene, PMMA and perfume — ingredients which you’ve specifically highlighted?

Our formula is pure! Our generation pays closer attention to what we eat and what is good for our bodies. Lipstick is the only cosmetic formula that women (or men) eat. From this, studies have shown that this is how we end up consuming micro-plastics, plastics and toxic molecules.

While creating a new brand, I wanted to offer the first edible lipstick with incredible makeup results, and was long-lasting and super comfortable. That was the challenge we tackled all of last year. Avoiding micro-plastics is not only good for your body but also for the environment.

Which shades of La Bouche Rouge lipsticks suit Asian skin tones best?

The perfect shades for Asian skin tones are:

– Innocent Red, which is a really nice red for Asian complexions.
– Nude Red is the perfect nude!
– Le Rouge Chloë is a perfect coral for Asian skin tones.
– The peach balm is a perfect every day product for high comfort and moisture.

A new pink colour is currently being developed by our atelier for Asian skin tones too.

What is the average shelf life of a tube of La Bouche Rouge lipstick?

As we produce without water, the shelf life is infinite. Thanks to natural antioxidants like vitamin E, the lipstick can be used for at least two years and beyond.

La Bouche Rouge-Après Avant

How much of a difference can each one of us make if we switched to using refillable lipsticks?

Do you realise that a billion lipsticks are thrown away every year in the world? An eighth continent of waste is ready to implode! Reducing plastic use and product consumption is essential. Objects with souls are so much more interesting. Why not begin with lipsticks?

Do you think sustainability should start with luxury brands?

Luxury brands should be leaders of new ways to consume as they set trends and have such a big impact. Tomorrow’s luxury has to be bold and sustainable!

What are three of your favourite conscious beauty brands and the socially responsible things they are doing?

Circumference is ethical and sustainable skincare; Loli uses living organic and loving ingredients, and Weleda, which was one of the first natural cosmetic lines.

La Bouche Rouge Helios Après Avant

What are three things you look out for when buying products that immediately make you put them back on the shelf?

The presence of endocrine disrupters and micro-plastics, as well as unsustainable or plastic packaging.

What’s your daily grooming routine?

I use Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream, La Bouche Rouge’s Baume Blanc, a Weleda hair mask and the Hermès Eau d’Orange Verte fragrance.

What does conscious beauty mean to you?

Respect yourself, the people who manufacture the products you buy, and the planet!

Images courtesy of La Bouche Rouge