This Makeup Brand Has Created The Perfect Red Lipstick for Every Lip Tone

Pound Cake wants to change the way the beauty industry approaches all color cosmetics.

BEAUTY BOSS: Pound Cake/Camille Bell
Photo: Courtesy of Camille Bell

Have you ever heard of a makeup brand with a "universal" shade of foundation?

That's the question Pound Cake co-founder Camille Bell is asking the beauty industry. The brand approaches color cosmetics the same way they would foundation, starting with red lipstick. The Cake Batter liquid lipstick, Pound Cake's first launch, is a perfect true red for all skin tones.

Along with partner Johnny Velazquez, Bell has achieved this feat by offering the lipstick in five different shades, which complement various skin tones and lip tones.

"Skin tones and undertones are only really spoken about regarding products that are skin-colored like foundation or concealer. That's easy –— just match the color to the skin tone. Now when you say, reds, blues, yellows, and all other colors also look different on different skin tones, companies are like, 'how do we fix this?'," Bell tells InStyle. "This is a thing that hasn't been addressed since the beginning of the cosmetics industry when only one skin tone was deemed important, so companies just continue to release one-size-fits-all colors. I hope Pound Cake teaches companies that they're not doing enough for BIPOC and customers that they're not asking for enough."

And Pound Cake's mission isn't going unnoticed. The brand was a recipient of Glossier's grant initiative for Black-owned businesses in 2020 and Cake Batter sold out within 48 hours of launching last fall.

Ahead, Bell shares the painstaking process of getting the lipstick shades just right, her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, and more.

What inspired you to create Pound Cake?

I've always loved makeup and being a participant in the beauty community. However, I often felt excluded. I remember specifically being in Sephora one day and picking up a beautiful blush. I was really excited about it, but I wanted to make sure I liked the color before getting in the long line to pay. When I went to swipe it on my hand, I couldn't believe my eyes because it looked like I didn't put anything on my skin. The color was completely see-through, and I remember being really disappointed. I knew if I was lighter, the color would have showed up on me. I asked some of my friends who are darker than me if they have this problem too and they told me, "all the time." They suggested I do something about it, so I started Pound Cake.

How did you land on the name Pound Cake?

The name is our mission statement. It means "disrupt beauty." When I was thinking of what to call the company, I wanted something that was digestible enough to not turn away customers but also defined who we are and what we're doing. At the beginning of the cosmetics industry (about 100 years ago), there was a huge boom that catapulted it into the harmful, beauty standard, marginalizing machine we know today — and that can be attributed to the release of "pancake" or "Cake" makeup. So, we use "Cake" as our stand-in for the industry and all its problematic components and companies — and "Pound" as a very direct action we want to have against it.

Why did you decide on red lipstick as your first product?

I've always loved a red lip, and I know that in the Brown and Black communities there is a lot of historical pain surrounding red lipstick. Often timed dark-skinned women are chastised and criticized for wearing it. I wanted to challenge that hurtful stigma. The reason why we created five different red lipsticks is that most brands don't account for people of various skin and lip tones. Folks with darker skin tend to have darker lip tones, which can affect the way the color shows up. You don't hear people say they came out with a universal shade of foundation – they make an entire line that includes shades for different skin tones and undertones. So I wanted to tackle lipsticks in the same way brands approach foundations, and that's how we'll approach all of the products we come out with.

How did you land on the final five shades?

We began with one color we wanted all customers to be able to achieve (in our case, it's a true red). Knowing colors look different on different lip tones, we made variations of it until each one looked like a true red. We tested and tested for four years and had focus groups where folks would come in to test the prototypes. Johnny and I also referred to Pantone's SkinTone Guide. We would send the cards to our lab for reference and we would swatch the prototypes on them and look at them in different lighting to see how the lipstick shades shifted. We're really proud of the final result, and so far, our customers are pleased with it too.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to break into the beauty industry?

First and foremost, you have to be passionate about what you're doing. This is what someone told me when I first started out. Unless you're coming into the game with a large following, celebrity status, or a lot of money, you're going to get a lot of noes. But what's going to keep you going is that passion. You have to have a brainstorm session with yourself to figure out if you're truly passionate about whatever industry you're in. If the answer is a strong yes, then definitely go for it.

VIDEO: Here's Exactly How to Create Your Own Lip Scrub

Shop Pound Cake's Cake Batter Red Lipsticks

Pound Cake Cake Batter Red Lipsticks

To shop: $24 each;

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.

Beauty Boss profiles the brains behind the brands making waves in the beauty industry. From the ideas that first inspire brands to how best-selling hair, makeup, and skincare products are made, find out how these leaders get it done.

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