Talking About Lime Crime, A Historical Controversy

Hello! You’ve been directed to this post because you disagree with me in some way related to Lime Crime, OR you’ve asked me to explain the “controversy”. (Or you’re just reading this post because you’re interested in my blog, in which case, awesome!) This post is directed more towards new people who are looking for information about LC’s history, and people who are familiar with the history and want to understand why our opinions might differ. Let’s just dive right in because I’m never going to be able to start my liquid lipsticks comparison post if I don’t get this out of the way.

Lime Crime is hated by a lot of people. They’re also loved by a lot of people. A lot of the people who hate them are quick to inform you that the company is horrible, the owner is racist, and they can’t make cosmetics worth a damn. There were, at my last estimation, three tumblrs devoted to keeping “receipts” of LC’s horrible behavior and trashing the company (and founder) in general. There are several prominent old guard beauty bloggers who refuse to purchase or review them. A lot of internet beauty folk are of the opinion that if you like LC, you can’t be trusted because you must be a paid shill.

I complimented someone’s lipstick the other day and asked her where she had found it. She apologized for not knowing how “awful and unethical” LC was. She promised me that, as a lipstick lover, she would never purchase from them again and that she knew better now. She told me that I should never purchase from LC because she read a post on the internet from over six years ago. (A post I had read when it was published, and had agreed with at the time.)

A lot of people who love them ignore the hatred (which I think is a side effect of the beauty community moving away from blogs and to social media blogging platforms like Instagram, the drama of yesterblog looks less relevant), but I don’t think this is a good solution. Mainly, I want to avoid getting feedback like “let me inform you about how horrible this company is” if I review, mention, or use their products in a look, or at least have a way to address it if it’s unavoidable.

The internet lacks nuance. Companies and people are treated as though they can’t change, and everything is black and white. This is the easy way to interact with people, but I don’t think it’s the best way.

When LC was getting started, they made a lot of mistakes. After making these mistakes, they handled customer feedback poorly. I’m saying “they” instead of “she” (implying the founder, whom a lot of people REALLY hate) because I can’t personally know who was in charge of what, how many employees they had at the beginning, etc. etc. Companies are not people, they are made up of people. It could be that the founder was a huge raging bitch who took it upon herself to be awful. It could be that there were several customer service people who really weren’t right for the job. I didn’t buy from LC during this period because frankly, their branding and products were not what I was interested in, and the negative hype discouraged me.

That’s one of the things I want to express here. I followed the drama between LC and bloggers, LC and haters who never purchased products but started campaigns against LC based on blogger feedback. I vowed never to purchase from them because I was A Good Consumer and I Did The Right Things. I ignored the nuance.

One of their biggest mistakes, in my opinion, was the alleged repackaging of their eyeshadows (which were called something like “Magical Dust” and are loooong gone) and the response to the initial wave of reviews for their Unicorn lipsticks (which are currently being phased out after several reformulations.) To make a very long story short, LC had some loose eyeshadows that looked a lot like bulk pigments offered by TBK Trading, a company that sells cosmetic productions supplies. They were so-so in quality, and priced fairly high. Bloggers pointed out the similarity, LC sort of denied it in their social media. After six months or so, LC discounted all of their remaining stock and never brought those products back. Bear in mind, this was in the beginning of the indie makeup market. There were other companies that had sketchy sources for their products. Most of those companies are gone. I’ll talk more about that later.

My take: I don’t think that the eyeshadows were 100% repackaged. Despite some poor reviews, they stuck a little too well not to have some sort of base and binder. However, there was little creative thought behind the eyeshadows, and the consumer could’ve made something very similar (albeit in different packaging) for much less money. I think that their decision to discontinue the products was a very, very good one.

Their response to the first wave of review for their Unicorn lipsticks was unprofessional, ill-advised, and the original reason that I jumped the “let’s all hate the company” bandwagon. Bloggers reviewed these lipsticks, found the formula lacking, and said so. LC responded with “cease and desist letters” which didn’t appear to be proper legalese, but were quite full of themselves. The bloggers didn’t cease or desist, and no legal action against anyone was ever taken.

My take: this was in the earlier days of indie makeup really taking off, but it was still fantastically unprofessional. I’m surprised that the company survived this, to be honest, and I think that they did survive because it was quickly realized that this was NOT the right way to do business before they burned too many bridges. That being said, I PERSONALLY never saw a public apology, and some of the bloggers that experienced this will not talk about LC to this day.

 

A big part of the reason why these mistakes weren’t “enough” for me to “boycott LC” comes from how the company has handled itself since these incidents (which happened over six years ago, now.) Despite never publically apologizing (to my knowledge), the company did learn, and these behaviors stopped. The poorly-reviewed lipsticks were reformulated, and are quite lovely despite being on the way out (I have two Edit: I now have 5 as of August 2016.) The “repackaged” eyeshadows were phased out, as I mentioned before, and never really brought back. Instead, LC started doing pressed eyeshadows.

Which brings us to LC’s third blunder. This one is trickier to talk about, for a variety of reasons, one of which being that I am white, and cannot speak to this issue with the nuance that it deserves. If you’re on the fence about LC and find my opinions here lacking, please investigate the Asian American makeup blogging community (which you really should be looking at anyway) for their opinions.

LC started their pressed eyeshadows with a “China Doll” palette that many customer and members of the beauty blog-o-sphere felt was misappropriative of Chinese culture and aesthetics. The palette itself was not the problem, but the ad campaign used a variety of insensitive tropes (something like “she is a lotus flower but also a tiger”) and featured a white model. People raised very justified concerns, LC issued a non-apology and eventually phased the palette out after released a “Marie Antoinette” palette, a “sparkly mermaid” palette, and a “witch couture” palette (all of which are gone now as well).

My take: super not cool, LC. I think that phasing the palette out was a step in the right direction. I understand their reluctance to pull the palette entirely (that loss of revenue would’ve been a major blow to them, potentially fatal, and I’ve never seen a company completely pull a product or line because it was controversial), but they could’ve apologized, and rewritten the ad copy or redone the entire campaign. I am VERY glad that they didn’t continue in this vein, and started doing palettes inspired by fantasy tropes (instead of cultural ones), before moving on to baroque art in their current “Venus” palette campaign. If they had, I wouldn’t be defending them, and they probably wouldn’t be around anymore.

LC is not the only company with an issue like this in their past. Various other ad campaigns have been deemed appropriative or unprofessional by public opinion, and there are brands whose product names and even company names have been decried. They were, however, one of the first, one of the smallest (relatively speaking, based on where they were when the “China Doll” palette was released), and handled it poorly.

Makeup Monster Cosmetics’s recent release is great example of a recent company dealing with an issue like this more respectfully and productively. They released a liquid lipstick shade named “gypsy”, and when their fans pointed out that this word is disrespectful of the Romani people and a lot of people are trying to move away from using it, MMC pulled the Instagram post, renamed the shade, and everyone moved on. Luckily for them, this happened early enough in the process that they were able to rename the shade easily, and I’m looking forward to what this company does in the future.

 

Other notable things that come up in discussions about LC: their eye primer that was supposed to be vegan but contained beeswax (which was pulled and reformulated, and eventually discontinued, this was a few years ago), their loose glitters that very clearly said they were not for the eye area being “controversial” because they “should have been eye safe” because they looked like eyeshadows (this is a problem other companies have had as well, namely Melt Cosmetics’s Radioactive “Stack” and Urban Decay’s Electrics palette, both of which contain pigments that aren’t approved for use on the eye area and are marketed as “pressed pigments”), photos of the founder dressed at Hitler at a Halloween party in the early aughts (which she has publically apologized for several times, and has little to do with the actual company), the website getting hacked a year or so ago (unfortunate, but they were upfront about it, and this has happened to a lot of commerce websites), and accusations that they don’t actually give to charity (LC dicusses these donations here.)

 

LC has done some stuff right. They listened to customer feedback, and changed their policies and products in response to it, and have only been getting better at this with time. They’ve moved away from potentially appropriative and offensive themes. The quality of their products and packaging has increased with company growth, without raising prices. I was personally very happy to see that they had a diverse and literally very colorful staff at LA IMATS last year, though I wish that they featured a higher percentage of non-white customers on their Instagram.

The Lime Crime of today is very different than the original company. The founder isn’t nearly as involved as she was, and seems to be pretty removed from the creative process. Their brand identity is really strong, and a lot of thought and effort is put into each release. Their products perform well, and poorer performing ones have been pretty successfully phased out. They have some products that are unique, and some that aren’t, like many higher-end indie companies.  The quality of their customer service has improved dramatically as well (I had a very good experience recently that I’ll probably discuss separate from this post).

Out of all of their products, I own the Unicorn Lipsicks in Cosmopop and Chinchilla (both are being phased out, and are on sale), the Perlees (lipsticks) in Gemma, Third Eye, Denim, Asphalt, Penny, and Lady (LE), the liquid liners in 5th Element (discontinued, performs poorly), Citreuse, Blue Milk, Orchardacious, Lazuli (all of which seem to be being phased out, all are on sale), and both the Venus and the Venus II eyeshadow palettes. I owned the Marie Antoinette eyeshadow palette, but gave it away to someone who wears more pastels than I do. I also own a truly obscene number of their Velvetines, which I admit feel a bit overpriced (they are the most expensive liquid lipstick per ounce, by far!) I’m going to give them their own separate post with listing. Edit: I now own the Unicorn Lipsticks in Mint To Be, Styletto, and Coquette, the Perlees in Beetle and Roswell, and more of the Velvetines as of August 2016.

 

I’m going to use Lime Crime products in my looks, I’m going to review them, swatch them, and include them in analytical comparisons. I think that most of the products I own from them are good quality (there is a now-discontinued liquid eyeliner that I have that is SO not waterproof, it’s kind of sad), and I enjoy the colors and packaging. I’m not going to debate the merits of their history, and I’m not going to argue about whether or not they’re a “good” company.

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