Melissa Butler, CEO of The Lip Bar, Is Paving the Way for a More Inclusive Beauty Industry

The former Wall Street financial analyst created her vegan makeup and skin care company to fill a void in the market for Black women and women of color.

melissa butler of the lip bar
Photo: Courtesy of The Lip Bar

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While working as a financial analyst on Wall Street, Melissa Butler, the CEO and founder of The Lip Bar, a cosmetics and skin care company, couldn't help but notice the lack of options in the beauty market for Black women and women of color. So, she decided to take matters into her own hands—literally. In her Brooklyn kitchen, she began creating her own vegan lipsticks from scratch. Although she didn't have industry experience at the time, her passion and instincts led her down the right path.

By February 2012, she founded The Lip Bar as her way of dismissing the industry's "one-shade-fits-most beauty standard." "I wanted to see more diversity [and] less toxic chemicals," she says. The entrepreneur also wanted to showcase more inclusive imagery and examples of what beauty truly is, as opposed to what she saw in many company's ads and on store shelves.

"As a woman, I know first hand that how we look often impacts how we feel, and how we feel is often a direct indicator of how well we are able to go out into the world, present ourselves, and accomplish the things we set out to do," says Butler. "Our mission at The Lip Bar was bred from a desire to empower women through beauty."

the lip bar beauty products
Courtesy of The Lip Bar

Honoring the Mission

The mission has always been the same for Butler: "From the beginning, my mantra was to challenge the beauty standard," she says. "And from day one, we were able to do that with bold, clean, affordable, vegan, and cruelty-free lip products."

On her own makeup search, particularly for lipstick, she always saw the same reds and nudes. As soon as she launched her brand, she created an array of statement shades, like blues, greens, purples, and yellows. "We also made bold marketing decisions. For example, casting models with deep tones and putting them in bright-colored lips to showcase that, yes, women with deep skin tones do look beautiful in bright colors," Butler says.

Quality Beauty Products

There is intention behind every product Butler creates. For starters, The Lip Bar has always been a trailblazing brand for making lipsticks in distinct shades that are also affordable—and today, the company now offers shade-inclusive face makeup that is seamless to apply. "Our goal is to continue to create products that are easy to use and have rich pigment, but are still clean, vegan, and cruelty-free," she says. "I have to admit, it feels good being able to offer maximum impact products that require minimal effort for customers."

melissa butler

When I started The Lip Bar, I made sure to give visibility to all shapes, sizes, and complexions of women to say, 'Hey, there is no beauty standard. Ignore everything you learned as a kid that made you dislike yourself a little. You are the standard. You are enough.'

— melissa butler

Tapping Into the Skin Care Space

A 10-step beauty routine can be fun, but it's tough to maintain on a daily basis. That's why Butler's new skin care line is so simple to use. "We all know that your makeup is only as good as your skin care, and we wanted to make sure that the base of your face is as flawless or clean as possible to have a smooth application for cosmetics," says Butler. "Our goal with launching TLB Skincare was to make products that are makeup adjacent. Our customers know us for our bold and rich pigments, so naturally, it was the number one request we received."

the lip bar skin care products
Courtesy of The Lip Bar

This launch has been about two years in the making, and like all products offered by The Lip Bar, they are ethically made and free of animal byproducts. "For TLB Skincare, it all started with mushroom extract. We wanted to go with reishi mushroom extract, because it's a superfood and it's one of the original organisms on this planet," says Butler. "Everything is infused with this mushroom complex, which is going to help with anti-aging and is filled with antioxidants."

Hyaluronic acid is another key ingredient, since it hydrates skin and helps it retain moisture. "Beyond that, we are really trying to shine a light on the idea of gentle and soothing skin care," she says.

Leaving a Legacy

Butler's end goal with creating The Lip Bar has always been to ensure that all women feel seen and truly represented in the beauty industry. "When I started The Lip Bar, I made sure to give visibility to all shapes, sizes, and complexions of women to say, 'Hey, there is no beauty standard," she says. "Ignore everything you learned as a kid that made you dislike yourself a little. You are the standard. You are enough.'"

As for her advice for other entrepreneurs? When creating your own business, bring your own mission statement and effort to the forefront. "Keep working towards your goals because your idea will never become reality if you don't do it," she says. Always put your best foot forward in the process and allow yourself time to ensure you are bringing your best work to the market, she adds. "If you need another day, week, month to perfect something, give yourself the time. That said, once you launch, be open to change," she says.

Butler only has growth in mind for her business. "In September 2022, TLB's parent company, The Lip Bar Inc., announced that it had raised an oversubscribed $6.7M fundraising round to further grow its house of brands, including TLB," she says. She plans to work with new retailers in the coming years and continue challenging societal beauty norms through her business.

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