Axiology, according to Collins English dictionary, is within philosophy “the theory of values, moral or aesthetic. For Ericka Rodriguez, this was the concept she wanted to bring to her cruelty-free and ethical beauty brand, which aptly bears its name. Starting with vegan and cruelty-free lipsticks that Rodriguez sold via Etsy, in two years her company has expanded to three-in-one face products as well as hand care.

Now, the brand is on a mission to reduce our damage to the earth, by reusing the bouts of plastic that would be thrown away – 91% of plastic isn’t recycled – they’re repurposing it into tubes for their lipsticks. As well as sustainably minded, the brand is using its platform for social change. For a limited time only, Axiology will be donating 100% of the products from the sales of these lipsticks to The Bail Project and Centre for Policing Equity, two Black Lives Matter charities. 

Find out more about the brand and their use of PCR plastic (that’s post-consumer recycled plastic for those not versed in sustainability lingo) below.

How did Axiology start? Why did you want to get involved in cruelty-free and vegan beauty?
I've been an animal activist since I was a little girl. When I was in my early twenties, I found out that animal testing still exists, which I was horrified by because I thought that was a thing of the past. So I started purchasing only vegan, cruelty-free makeup products, and I just couldn't find anything that I was super excited about. A lot of the vegan products at the time were really drying. I remember this one brand was ‘the’ vegan brand at the time, and so I bought five of their lipsticks and every bullet that I put to my lips broke before I could even use it. I felt like all of the marketing just wasn't relevant to me and people of my age group, it just wasn't cool. So, I started just making lipstick in my kitchen, mostly as just a passion project for me. And then, two years later, after many formulations, I decided I was going to start selling on Etsy and we just grew organically from there.

What is PCR plastic and why did you feel it was important to use it?
We strive to be a planet first beauty company. We're definitely not perfect, but we're trying as much as we can do. We just launched our zero-waste products, which are a first of its kind, as they are wrapped in paper packaging and we got so much excitement from that. We also had been working behind the scenes for over a year and a half trying to recreate our lipstick tubes, because during the lifespan of the company they've been aluminum which can be recycled, but there's no such thing as a hundred percent aluminum lipstick tube. They all have to have at least a little bit of plastic in order for the bullet to sit in. So, if someone didn't have the mixed recycling option, then they wouldn't actually be recyclable. And they're so small that we found out later that they probably weren't even getting recycled even in the cities that did respect mixed recycling. So we'd been working for a year and a half on post-consumer recycled tubes and that basically means that we take plastic that's already on the planet and we repurpose it so it has a new life.

How difficult has that been to achieve?

It's been very difficult. I think that usually with smaller indie brands like ours, we kind of depend on the bigger companies to create the moulds, because the cost of moulds is between $40 and $70,000. There just weren't any moulds in existence for post consumer recycled plastic. So we had to wait a really long time and just keep trying to find a manufacturer that would do it for us.

How was the process making the lipsticks vegan and cruelty-free?
We don't use beeswax, which is usually in pretty much all lipstick products, and so we had to play with other waxes. We also don't use Palm oil, which isn’t necessarily animal derived, but it does have negative consequences for animals as the cutting down of the rainforest is causing extinction of animal species. A lot of butters we were trying to use were mixed with Palm oil, and it actually still happens, where our suppliers will just start adding Palm oil to some of our ingredients, so we have to be really careful and double check everything. We also don't use carmine, which is a red pigment that comes from crushed bud, so it was a challenge for a long time to be able to make red lipstick.

What is your community of customers like?
We actually put out a meme recently that was just kind of like a joke, but it was so true to like how I feel often. It was of Rihanna and there were a load of people behind her asking her questions. And so we changed all the questions to like, is this sustainable? Does it compost? Is it organic? And she's just like, ‘oh my gosh!’ And that's kind of how I feel in a good way, because our customers really check us. They are very concerned and they're very conscientious. I get emails in my inbox every day of just people triple checking, like, ‘Hey, just want to make sure you guys are vegan?’ or ‘Like how do I recycle this?’. They definitely keep us informed on the things that they care about. So we’ve just continued to evolve our brand and our company based on what those concerns are and how to make people happy with their purchases.

How attainable is it to be sustainable within the beauty industry?
If you're a small brand, it's not that easy, but if you're a bigger brand, I'm sure it's not so much of a big deal because you're not worried about the cost of these things. There’s little things that brands could be doing that would make a huge difference. Just for example, the outer packaging, the box that all of these beauty products come in, like a lot of companies will coat those boxes in plastic just for the look and then it's not recyclable. So if they just made simple changes like that, then I think we would be in a much better place. There are some simple things they can do and there's some not so simple things they can do, but they have to have the pressure. My customers definitely put on that pressure, for example, with a company like L'oreal, if no one puts on the pressure on them to make a change then they’re not going to.

Shop Axiology products here.

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