For the past year, Michelle Calderon has been working to create a line of sustainable color cosmetics for people who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or post-partum.
After testing more than 20 blends of lipstick personally and among volunteers, Calderon is preparing to launch the initial products of her startup, Addition Beauty.
“We are the first sustainable makeup line that supports fertility and pregnancy,” says Calderon, who earned a Northeastern MBA in September. “Our goal is to empower women with the knowledge to select safer cosmetics during a critical time of their lives without compromising beauty.
“Oftentimes, women who are about to get pregnant in one to two years, or who are pregnant, may just stop wearing makeup altogether. Or they may use it much less often because they hear that they need to change their lifestyle. But women shouldn’t have to do that. There should be safer options available.”
In support of her efforts to launch Addition Beauty, Calderon has received an inaugural $2,500 Innovator Award from Northeastern’s Women Who Empower inclusion and entrepreneurship initiative. The awards recognize 19 women who are graduates or current students at Northeastern. The organization is distributing a total of $100,000 in grants to help fund 17 ventures.
Calderon, who from 2014 to 2017 was a color cosmetic chemist for a major beauty company, spent the summer developing lipsticks in her lab. Most of the colorants that are used in cosmetics are derived from petroleum or coal tar, which may contain toxic heavy metals. The field is relatively unregulated. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has banned 11 chemicals for use in cosmetics, while the European Union has banned more than 1,300.
“The reason I’m starting with a focus on lip products is because the lips are a vulnerable area for ingesting cosmetics, and chemicals can also be absorbed,” says Calderon, who has been developing a line that does not involve heavy metals and other toxins that people may wish to avoid as they approach pregnancy. “There is a need for this, and it’s surprising to me that there has not been a focus on fertility and pregnancy in the beauty space—especially with such non-stringent regulations from the FDA.”
Calderon didn’t realize her entrepreneurial potential until 2015, when she created a geolocation app that peaked at more than 2,000 users before going under. That experience provided her with lessons and motivation that she has been applying to Addition Beauty.
She has combined the Innovator Award with a National Science Foundation grant to develop prototypes. The money is also being applied to website development and logo and packaging design.
“Michelle’s latest venture, Addition Beauty, seeks to protect women from harmful, often hidden or unknown chemicals in everyday beauty products which affect fertility and pregnancy,” says Betsy Ludwig, executive director of women’s entrepreneurship at Northeastern. “This is a great example of women solving problems for women. Michelle is a fabulous, forward-thinking innovator and entrepreneur and we are thrilled to be supporting her with an WWE Innovator Award to help women everywhere.”
Calderon has been identifying strategic partnerships for research and development, website and IT security, and packaging. Education via blogs and other content creation will be a big part of the company’s marketing. She encourages people who are interested in her company’s mission to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
She hopes to put her first products on the market early next year.
“I’m leveraging my chemistry education and real-world experience to help make things easier by providing information around the safer ingredients that you can use during pregnancy or fertility,” Calderon says. “I want to provide an option that’s easy for you, so you don’t have to go online and research these long chemical names and avoid the countless hours of sifting through the conflicting information that leads to frustration.”
“It’s time that there’s a focus on general good hormone health, fertility, and pregnancy in the beauty space.”