An Illustration Installation

The Journey

The Journey explored the social and environmental impacts of the 23 ingredients that make up Kjaer Weis's iconic KW Red lipstick.
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David Ralph
Content Beauty & Wellbeing, Soho House, Dean Street for Eco Sessions London

Artist's Statement

Is there a truly more iconic representation of makeup than a bullet of red lipstick? A bold, vibrant and dominating red. A perfect red.
I wanted to better understand the journey of the ingredients that find their way into our favourite cosmetics.
“Even in times of economic uncertainty, it’s lipstick that really triumphs (The Lipstick Effect).“

Inspiration & Motivation

I chose the Kjaer Weis KW Red lipstick as my ‘subject’, because I feel the brand has truly hit the trifecta in the green beauty arena. The packaging is sustainable, and impeccably well designed. Almost all of the ingredients are certified organic - all are responsibly sourced, and the product does the job I need it to do. It stands up to its mainstream counterparts with elegant gusto. Also…it’s honest, and compromises only in places where there is no alternative – which is freely available for consumers to know about.

KW Red is one of only a handful of uncertified finished products in the Kjaer Weis stable, and this is because, in order to achieve this pitch perfect red, a very small quantity of a synthetic colourant is required. An unavoidable compromise.

This piece was not designed to demonize or glorify any of the ingredients, but merely to gain a greater understanding of the actual journey each ingredient goes on to reach our lips (in this case).

The Ingredients

Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil•/ Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax/ Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride / Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax / Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter•/ Cera Alba (Beeswax) • / Mica, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil• / Rosa Rubiginosa (Rose Hip) Seed Oil• / Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Peel Oil• / Gardenia Florida Fruit Extract / Tocopheryl Acetate / Ammonium Glycyrrhizate / Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil• / Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract / Glyceryl Stearate / Gallic Acid / Limonene* / Dextrin / Citral* / CI 15850 (Red 7 Lake) / CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide) / CI 77491 (Iron Oxide).

  • organically grown
    * naturally contained in the used essential oils

The Research

While most brand websites now openly display their ingredients list, very little information about each ingredient is actually available - beyond why it is used and if it is certified or not. Also, many websites contain contradicting information, making it even more confusing to the enquiring consumer.

So, I dug a little deeper. While most of the information I was after was readily available, much of it was complex and convoluted scientific babble. Other ingredients proved harder to verify, with little explanation of how it is made, or the environmental and social impact it has at source.

While every effort has been made to ensure the information provided is true and accurate, I don’t want you to write it in your beauty Bible just yet. I would rather encourage you to do your own research. It’s enlightening.

By choosing organic brands that can back up their claims, you are assured that the best possible practices for environmental and human impact are considered.

Some ingredients are derived from numerous sources, but I have chosen a single item to represent the final ingredient.


As some of the raw state ingredients were unavailable due to being out of season, or simply unavailable in the UK – similar items were illustrated or photographed as an artistic representation.

(Carnuba Palm, Red Iron Oxide)

Although KW Red was my starting point – the resulting research is not in any way representative of any ingredients used by the Kjaer Weis Company, but simply an investigation of the general practices of ingredients listed above.

This installation has no official or financial affiliation to the Kjaer Weis brand. (However, they are aware the piece was inspired by their lipstick.)

This artwork was personally funded, with contributions from several private benefactors and donations-in-kind from Therapi, TWELVE Beauty and Brandy Carr Nurseries.

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