University of Alberta engineering students launch all-natural lipstick line

Disturbed by the ingredient lists on major lipstick brands, two University of Alberta engineering students have launched their own chemical-free line.

Organic ingredients and philanthropy top of mind for University of Alberta entrepreneurs

Seleste Lipsticks are made with all-natural ingredients, such as coconut oil, beetroot powder and beeswax. (

When was the last time you read the ingredients list on a tube of lipstick?

For most people, the answer is probably "never."

But two University of Alberta chemical engineering students did just that, and were surprised by what they saw.

Akash Gupta was shopping at West Edmonton Mall with his mom and sister and, naturally, he said, they ended up in a cosmetics store.

"They bought some lipsticks," Gupta told CBC Edmonton's Radio Active. "I saw the ingredient list, and I was just a little shocked. I couldn't even pronounce the ingredients. And that's when I thought to myself, there needs to be a better solution to this, and a more natural one."

He shared his discovery with his friend, Sravya Kalyanapu, who was also disturbed to learn what goes into products she has been using for years. 

"I was extremely shocked, because I've been wearing these lipsticks since I was 14 years old, and I never thought, 'Why don't I read these labels? Why don't I read these ingredients?' "

Kalyanapu started Googling, and quickly determined that the ingredients — heavy metals, such as lead, and complex compounds — weren't substances she wanted on her body.

A natural alternative

"The biggest thing with lipsticks is that we actually consume them when we eat food," Kalyanapu said. "These are definitely not things I want to consume."

The pair launched their own company, Seleste Lipsticks, in response.

Instead of hard-to-pronounce chemicals, they use commonly found household ingredients such as coconut oil, cacao powder and avocado oil. To hold the lipstick together they use beeswax, and for colour, natural ingredients such as Australian red reef clay and beetroot powder.

Gupta and Kalyanapu, both originally from India, are passionate about empowering women, and their business has a philanthropic angle as well.

For their first initiative, they provided medicine and organic foods for 170 anaemic girls in an Indian village. They also worked with local doctors to educate the girls on how to maintain their health with natural medicine.

"We believe that girls need proper health to focus on their education," said Gupta.

Seleste Lipsticks are $20 each.

Gupta said they'd eventually love to bring their products to Shopper's Drug Mart or Costco, but for now they're available on the company website

Listen to Radio Active with host Portia Clark, weekday afternoons at CBC Radio One, 93.9 FM in Edmonton. Follow the afternoon crew on Twitter @CBCRadioActive