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Founder, Madeleine White

We speak to the Founder of @junicosmetics, Madeleine White about the first-ever truly plastic-free lipstick they created, conventional lipstick ingredients, and what her motivation was behind creating a 100% plastic-free lipstick full of organic and natural ingredients.

In this conversation we chat about:

  • Madeleine White’s journey with skincare and makeup.
  • Innovating and creating a 100% plastic-free lipstick.
  • Juni Cosmetics’ lipstick ingredients vs. conventional lipstick ingredients.
  • Microplastics in lipsticks.
  • Juni Cosmetics lipstick colour recommendations.
  • Madeleine White’s lifestyle and wellness recommendations.

I refuse to compromise when it comes to sustainability and was adamant that Juni must be 100% plastic free, so we had to innovate our own packaging.

Madeleine White, Founder

Madeleine White’s Journey With Skincare And Makeup

You began with an intimate relationship with the industry before the inception of Juni Cosmetics, I would love to learn more about how that may have informed your experience of building a new brand, and the story behind the brand. 

The story began when I was born. Because I was born with extremely sensitive skin. So even when I was a little girl I always struggled with different products and my parents would have to try and find alternatives because I would have to hide my eczema. It was always painful and itchy. When I was about 13, I started to get really bad acne as well. So, I’m sure a lot of teenagers go through this where they get acne or get spots. And they use really harsh ingredients and a harsh product to try and combat that and it just exaggerates the problem. So I’ve also struggled with my skin. And anyone who has a sort of eczema acne or any sort of skin condition, I can really sympathize with how it can affect your life in a lot of ways. All of that happened and then I decided that I wanted to be a make-up artist. So I kind of went between doing make-up and modeling for a few years. And both of those jobs you are obviously surrounded by hundreds of products every day. The make-up artist will use whatever is in their kit, which is not necessarily suited for you. So there’s a lot of experiences where I would come home and my skin would just be raw and painful and it really made it hard to work actually. That’s the background of how I became interested in ingredients.  And why I then thought then there are a lot of people out there that have similar problems to me. We’re told that certain products will be great if you have sensitive skin but when you look at the ingredients list, they’re full of irritants, fragrances whatever it may be. I mean everyone has a different reaction to different things but the marketing is very very strong. So that’s kind of the backstory to Juni. And why I decided I wanted to create something that was so gentle and organic. That’s how I began.

Innovating & Creating A 100% Plastic-Free Lipstick

One of the really important aspects to mention about Juni Cosmetics is that it is one of the only Lipstick brands out there that are currently 100% plastic-free, that includes from the formula itself, to the packaging as well. 

So this kind of relates back to the first question. My priority when we started the line was to create something that is suitable for sensitive skin. So the packaging wasn’t really something I thought about a lot until we started researching it. It wasn’t until, as a founder and the brand owner, was about to purchase thousands and thousands of pieces of packaging that I suddenly realised that’s a lot to be responsible for. I’m no longer buying one thing for myself but creating something that can affect other people as well. So that was kind of the turning point and it made me realize how much plastic waste would come out of creating this product. So, we started speaking to companies about what we can to make it more sustainable. What is the best option out there? And there were some things that were kind of intriguing. You know, a lot of big companies would say we’ve got recyclable plastic or bio-based plastic. But the more we researched, the more we realized actually they’re not as good as they sound. They still have their own problems. A lot of plastics even if it’s recyclable doesn’t get recycled. We eventually decided to create our own packaging. This process went on for about two years. It was a big challenge, as it was very expensive. We spoke to university researchers and environmentalists and many experts. Eventually, we decided to use aluminium. Aluminium is very sustainable because it’s infinitely recyclable. It doesn’t lose its value and its structure when you recycle it so you can keep reusing it. We are the only 100% plastic-free lipstick available. So the entire casing is completely aluminium. All of it can really help recycling and it will be recycled. So you don’t have to separate anything. There’s no glue, there’s nothing. It’s just pure aluminium. So it’s very special and very unique.

I thought it was quite interesting how the lipstick glides straight up, rather than twists up.  

Yes because we haven’t used plastic, usually in lipstick the twist mechanism is corks made out of plastic and they twist it so that your lipstick comes out. We couldn’t do that with aluminium, so we used this slide mechanism which seems quite new but actually if you look at old make-up from the 20s and the 30s that’s how they were. They were made out of metal and they slide it like that. So it seems very innovative but it’s actually based on older designs and how make-up used to be before plastic was invented.

It’s come full circle, and new is not always necessarily always better. 

Exactly. Sometimes plastic is good for some things but we use it in a wrong way and we depend on it too much. So actually going back to how things used to be done with that craftsmanship is sometimes the answer.

Juni Cosmetics’ Lipstick Ingredients Vs. Conventional Lipstick Ingredients

In terms of the lipsticks could you tell me about what Juni Cosmetics has replaced that conventional lipsticks commonly use?  

This is quite an interesting subject. Going back to the plastic-free element, a lot of cosmetics, make-up products, and bath and body products actually contain microplastic ingredients. So for example when you have a long-lasting lipstick, most likely the ingredients that make it long-lasting are actually microplastics. They are creating a film, you then may ingest that or it washes down the sink and goes to the ocean and the environment. We obviously wanted to make sure that we don’t have ingredients like that. Our formula is 100% plastic-free and full of organic and natural ingredients. I wanted to make sure that it was suitable for everyone. So we’ve got no fragrance, no gluten, and the sort of ingredients that we have got are argan oil and hyaluronic acid which is really fantastic for hydrating the lips. We basically took the conventional ingredients and swapped them with natural alternatives that perform really well. So the lipstick is super moisturizing and actually because of the ingredients used, it’s good for your lips. So I think a lot of times our skin is dry and it can suck in the products that we put on then things go patchy. I don’t know if you ever wore red lipstick and within a couple of hours, it’s kind of patchy, it kind of fades not very nicely. That doesn’t happen with these because of the skincare benefits. So the formula is very special as well.

Microplastics In Lipsticks

What were some important things you learned from understanding more about microplastics and their impact on our environment? 

Microplastics and nano plastics are often washed down the sink, and they end up in the environment in the ocean and then the marine life will then ingest them. I am vegan myself, so probably not as relevant to me now but if you eat a lot of fish or a lot of seafood, you’re then digesting plastics through the fish as well.  So not only is it bad for the ocean and for the fish but if you then eat the fish, it will then be absorbed into yourself and back into your digestive system. The Plastic Sea Foundation has a whole campaign about banning microplastics in cosmetics and the facts that they have are mind-blowing. When you start looking into it, the effect on our health plastic can really interfere with our hormones. And plastic is still quite like a new product, it’s a new material and we still don’t actually know the impact that’s going to have on us in years to come especially when we’re consuming it. I think researching, and looking up people like Plastic Sea Foundation, finding out what they’re doing is something that we can all do from just in our own homes and we can make a big difference.

Madeleine’s Juni Cosmetics Lipstick Colour Recommendations

What would be some of your favourite colours you recommend from the current collection?

I think maple is our most unique and special colour. At first glance it just kind of looks like your average sort of beige nude lipstick. But I really wanted to make sure it’s really flattering for all skin tones. So it has quite a lot of pink rose undertones and also some golden tones. A lot of lipsticks like that tend to have a white base which can be a bit draining and not as flattering on pale or dark skin really. Maple was designed to be universally flattering, just great for every day. 

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  • Madeleine’s Lifestyle & Wellness Recommendations

    Which kind of leads me to lifestyle. You mentioned that you were vegan – how long have you been vegan, and why you decided to go vegan?

    I have been vegan for about four years now. I just really watched some documentaries on Netflix and was shocked. I didn’t know a lot of stuff that I know now. And I just became vegan. But I’ve always had quite a few problems, struggling with IBS or a lot of food allergies and limitations. So actually becoming vegan quickly made me feel a lot better. So it was very easy because if you feel better, you want to carry on. So I’ve been vegan for the last four years. And the main difference is discovering new life from food. Growing up in England and eating meat and dairy, you kind of have a plate of food and you would maybe have meat, potatoes, and vegetables. If I then take away that meat, now that I’m vegan, I am left with an empty space so I need to find things to replace it. So it really got me into cooking and into nutrition and discovering new cuisines. It has really broadened my horizons when it comes to food and nutrition. So I’ve been enjoying being vegan a lot.

    What does a typical breakfast look like? 

    Some sort of smoothie usually. I feel like I can put loads in it and that is a good start of the day. I’m getting lots of nutrition and it tastes good. And I don’t have to necessarily eat ten different things; it’s just all in one. So I’ll just have a smoothie or I might make banana pancakes with some fruit. Porridge but always with fruit and nuts to make sure you have plenty of good fats and protein. I don’t necessarily eat a lot of fake meat or like vegan alternatives. I tend to eat plenty of whole foods. So Indian food is great for that, full of flavour. I love Japanese food, I would say that’s my favorite cuisine. A big bowl of ramen with tofu and mushrooms, noodles, and lots of spices is really satisfying. I think there’s a big misconception that vegan food is just salad, it’s really not. I have a lot of whole and warming foods, so it’s really enjoyable.

    Do you have resources that you found quite helpful being vegan?

    Going back to my health as a child, when I had skin problems, I’ve always worked with a nutritionist even before I was vegan and when I ended up with vegan I’ve worked with a nutritionist. And that’s really important for understanding how to eat. In terms of recipes, Deliciously Ella is great because she uses things that are common. You don’t have to go out to a special supermarket or spend a lot of money to recreate her recipes. So I really love her recipes. 

    Have you tried any Eastern Wellness practices? 

    Gua Sha I do myself, I try to do it several times a week. My lymphatic system can be quite sluggish; so Gua Sha is amazing for me and I also notice an instant difference. It is very relaxing. Acupuncture I did consistently for years mainly for my neck and back. I’ve had it in my stomach as well to help with period pain that sort of thing. But that’s a whole other subject but it’s amazing for that. And then I’ve worked with traditional Chinese doctors as well. So taking herbs, acupunctures, special blend teas. I think in terms of my philosophy around medicine and health I definitely resonate with traditional practices where there’s more focus on prevention rather than cure. What can we do every day, one are those simple things even if it just is having a cup of green tea. But the benefits that come with that and just incorporating them every day. 

    Any other favorite beauty rituals that you could share with us? 

    Probably quite similar to Gua Sha. It’s dry body brushing which I find really effective. So you think of some natural dry body brush. And working from the feet upwards. Again it really helped my lymph nodes and got everything moving. It makes me feel energized and lighter. Massage in general and just often a good Indian hot massage can make a world of a difference. Also yoga. I’m not regular, but when I do do it I see a big difference and I feel great. I need to do that more often actually.  What else do I love? Skin care as well. Taking time every morning and evening to do a nice skincare routine, spending 10 minutes by yourself in the bathroom and massaging your face and looking at your skin; what does it need? Does it feel dry or are you a bit spotty and treating that as a form of self care actually can really change your day. 

    How did you usually find inspiration?

    I guess again it’s just throughout my entire life, travel has obviously been a huge part. The design and the concept have come from elements from so many things. Whether my grandmother and her lipstick on or something that I saw in another country, a building maybe. Aluminium is obviously a natural material so taking natural things and kind of working with them and elevating them. there’s inspiration everywhere. Another thing is how I feel. So if I feel good it makes me want to do more of that sort of thing. So with eating and being vegan and dry body brushing, all of those things make you feel good, and you feel inclined to keep doing them.

    Do you have any favorite books you like to gift people?

    There’s a really fantastic book called I Contain Multitudes which is all about how we are made up of bacteria and understanding the gut and how that affects the rest of our health. Things like antibiotics and certain medicines and stress impact our gut health. So really caring for that through food and sleep and how that can affect everything else. It’s not just about the gut, it’s about skin and your brain health and how you function and how you think. So I Contain Multitudes, that’s really a good book. I’d say it’s quite important for everyone if you have gut issues, it’s about overall health.

    I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life – Ed Yong

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    What are some other Juni Cosmetic products that we can look forward to?

    Obviously, with whatever we do, we want to remain true to our ethics. So we always want to use a lot of organic ingredients and be 100% vegan and 100% plastic-free. So in terms of products, that does limit us slightly. Not necessarily limiting us, but it means that things take a lot longer so we have to research a lot more. In the near future, we have some new lipstick colours coming out. We’ve developed an overnight lip treatment so a skincare product that you would put on overnight like a mask and you wake up in the morning and it would really rejuvenate your lips. And with time, the skin barrier will become stronger and function better preventing chapped lips, preventing sore lips and that would be a staple I think. Something that you can just put on before bed and it works overnight, that’s one product. Another product that we are currently working on is a lip and cheek colour. Something a bit more sheer and you can use it with your fingers, minimal to use. Then again with the skincare benefits and they’re easy to use on the go. I think especially with people wearing masks, having those lighter textures. And being able to use one product in multiple ways is where the trends are going, but keeping true to our ethics. Hopefully, they’ll be out next year sometime. It takes a long time to develop products, especially when you’re creating everything from scratch and everything is very unique. 

    What is the best way for people to contact you, who want to learn more about you and Juni Cosmetics? 

    Follow us on Instagram, on our website we are always posting articles about sustainability and our environment and products that we recommend. What you can do for your own health whether it’s through diet or how to shop sustainably.