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Nechami Tenenbaum, owner and CEO of Karmela Cosmetics.

These days it can be hard for businesses to set themselves apart from the herd and make an impression. In the fast changing beauty industry, one company, Karmela Cosmetics, has managed to maintain its quality, authenticity, and mission, while continuing to be a mainstay for its customers around the world.

Nechami Tenenbaum is the owner and CEO of Karmela Cosmetics, and has managed to position her brand to not only supply women with gorgeous, highly pigmented lipsticks but to also create a community for women to support other women. Nechami has used her platform to raise awareness for various diseases and illnesses, as well as donating a portion of her profits to these causes, giving women a sense of support that they’ve never had before.

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Karmela Cosmetics lipsticks are formulated without parabens, GMOs, petrochemicals, triclosan, synthetic fragrances, phthalates, and talc. The lipsticks are rich, glide on smoothly, and are packaged in a gorgeous magnetic case. You can peruse the multitude of nudes, pinks, purples, and reds that are available, and purchase your favorite, at https://karmelacosmetics.com. Use the code THEFASHIONDETOUR20 for a 20% online discount. You can also browse through makeup looks featuring Karmela Cosmetics on the Instagram account @karmelacosmetics.

 

What inspired you to start your brand, Karmela Cosmetics?

Nechami Tenenbaum: I was never one of those kids that grew up knowing that they wanted their own makeup line. I was always into makeup, but it was more of a hobby and a form of art. In college I was on the path to become a clinical psychologist, but after I graduated with my undergraduate degree I wasn’t sure what to do next. I took a year off to figure things out, and my grandmother, who is an artist, was visiting. I had this book written by a celebrity makeup artist and I took it out and was showing her pictures from the book. She turned to me and said, “Why don’t you go to makeup school? You are so passionate about it.”

After that I enrolled in makeup school, and while I was there I realized that there was a real need for high end, all natural makeup products. Products that do not contain harsh chemicals, but that would still perform well. I did my research and went to grad school to get my MBA. After that, I came out with my lipstick line, which was designed to be long lasting and richly pigmented. I also give makeup classes which enables me to help others on their journey.

It’s so special that your grandmother supported you! Do you feel like your MBA helped you embark on this career and start your brand?

I feel like I learned a lot more on the job and in the field than from what I learned in school. I also see the value of my schooling and the business knowledge I gained from it.

What challenges have you faced in starting your brand?

Deciding what to outsource and what to do yourself is one of the biggest challenges. You have to decide what you want to put your energy into, and how to give [things] over and trust someone else. Especially in today’s world, where social media is key, I need to make sure that everything that is put out there is a true reflection of my brand and my core values.

How has the coronavirus impacted your business?

They say that during a recession women still buy makeup, and thankfully I’m finding that to be true. I’m not working as much as I used to and it’s been nice to take advantage of the family time, but I’m still working hard and getting things done.

Your lipsticks are naturally formulated without parabens and GMOs, and are gluten free. Why is this important to your brand?

I wanted to give women a safer option. People don’t realize that your skin absorbs whatever is put on it. All those chemicals that are put on your skin have been tied to various diseases and harmful illnesses.

Was it a hard process to perfect the formulations of your lipstick?

I wrote down a list of the things that I wanted out of my lipsticks. I wanted them to be super silky, last all day, and be weightless. I also made a list of ingredients that I did not want them to use. I gave these lists to a lab, and we went back and forth for about a year. There are so many differences and variations, and it took time to get it perfected.

How important is female empowerment to you?

Women need to have a voice, and a lot of them suffer in silence with different conditions and illnesses. Some of my friends have dealt with eating disorders and breast cancer, or they know other women who have gone through it. I wanted to create a place for women to feel supported and safe. It’s so important to have a community and a support system in these situations. I wanted women to know that they are not alone because that can make such a big difference. When you have other women cheering you on and supporting you, you feel better equipped to surmount hardships.

With a customer’s first order, we include our Perfectly Imperfect bangle to celebrate female empowerment. Of course we have flaws and imperfections, but that’s what makes us special and unique.

I was at a walk for NEDA, the National Eating Disorder Association, and a woman with endometriosis came up to me to tell me how much she appreciated the community and support she has felt through Karmela Cosmetics. There are a lot of illnesses out there that people don’t really talk about, and these women feel alone. When they hear people talking about it and coming to an event in support of a cause, some of that burden melts away.

You also donate 10% of the net profits from every lipstick to organizations devoted to women’s healing and empowerment: eating disorders, breast cancer, endometriosis, and more. Has this always been something that’s important to you?

I grew up in a family in which kindness was key. I didn’t want to just create a makeup brand – I wanted to create one in which women could feel understood and supported. Therefore I decided that I wanted each lipstick family to correlate with a different organization, and have ten percent of the profits from that lipstick family go towards that cause. Ten percent of the profits from the red lipstick collection goes to NEDA, and ten percent of profits from the pink lipstick collection goes to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Similarly, the purple lipsticks correspond with the Endometriosis Foundation of America, and the nude lipsticks with the Rapunzel Project.

What are your personal favorite lip colors?

I am drawn to Eternity, a vibrant baby pink and Immortal, which is a true nude. It’s always about what color looks best on you and what your personal preference is. I also love pairing my lipsticks with a gloss over them once in a while.

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What advice would you give someone who is picking out a lip color?

I tell people to tell me what the colors are that they are drawn to. In terms of matching your skin tone, it’s about cool and warm skin tones. If you are cool-toned, I’d say to go with pinks and reds with a blue undertone. If you are warm-toned, I’d go with the corals, orange reds, and any color that’s in the warm family. You should check out our highlights on Instagram, which includes a guide to colors and undertones.

What are the most versatile colors?

High Vibe, which is a red, looks great on so many skin tones. Bitten, a nude pinkish color, is so versatile as well. Our lipsticks have a silk matte formula, which has a moisturizing effect while still appearing as a matte on your lips.

What are your lipstick applicating tips?

A great tip is to take a thin makeup brush and highlight the outline of your lips. Another trick is to use the tip of the lipstick applicator to apply it. If you want the lipstick to last, I tell people to blot their lips in between layers. If you want to take it another step further, you could softly dust a translucent powder over your lips.

I love the High Vibe and Allure lip colors. How would you suggest to do the rest of the face when wearing these colors?

Allure is great for giving you that sun-kissed look. Whenever you wear a bold lipstick, you always want to make sure that you keep the rest of the face neutral. A super dramatic eye and a dramatic lip don’t complement each other. It’s really important to maintain that balance.

You have different collections such as the Empowered Collection – which are your favorites?

My favorite collection would be the Give Back: The Breast Cancer Collection, because it has all the pinks in it. Every woman has a pink in their makeup bag, so I find that this collection has something for everyone. If a woman loves super bright pinks then I’ll suggest Aloha. If they gravitate towards corals, I’ll recommend Radiance.

You have such a comprehensive collection of nudes – is there one nude that is universally flattering?

Mystery is a gorgeous nude and it can look so pretty with a shimmery and/or natural eye. You can even do a beautiful pink or purple smoky eye with a nude. With my nudes I swatch them so that people can see the nuances between them.

What is something you would like to see change in the makeup industry?

I’d love it if more companies would stop using the harsh chemicals in their makeup. I feel that all makeup should be hypoallergenic, and that women should be able to wear any makeup that they want, without them having to be worried that they will be allergic to the products.

What would you want people to know about your brand that they may not be aware of?

I would love people to know that behind every brand there is a person. I love when people message me and talk to me and are not intimidated to ask questions. I want people to know that I want them to be happy and that I’m there for them.

What are the goals for the future of your brand?

I would love to have a full line of products that are all natural and high performance. I would want them to be great for all skin tones and skin types. I would love to add more causes to give back to, as I add on more products. It feels amazing to be a part of something that is bigger than oneself.

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Michal Goldfein is a personal shopper, influencer, and podcaster. Her fashion posts and outfits can be seen on Instagram @thefashiondetour. You can listen to her weekly podcast, The Fashion Detour, on Apple Podcasts, iheartradio, Spotify, and J*TribeRadio. Her newest podcast episode will air this Sunday, featuring the owner of Shabbos Brushups, Allison Chait. For fashion inquiries, please email your questions to michal@thefashiondetour.com.