Read my Lips

How one woman is on a mission to create her own organic Vietnamese beauty brand and teach others along the way

Around a large wooden table in the Pandora Studio in Thao Dien (, Queenie and Huong, the workshop facilitators, make sure each participant has a small glass beaker, a long glass mixer, a plastic spoon, gloves, a small spatula, a sheet of plastic and a list of ingredients in front of them. This is everything they will need to create their own, unique lipstick.

Firstly, the participants need to calculate the percentages of each ingredient so that they can be correctly weighed, the ingredients comprise of waxes, oils and color powder. Queenie explains, “We use five different types of waxes to ensure that the lipsticks will hold and last in the Saigon heat, the waxes help to make it stable and not melt.” Queenie ensures me that her products are organic and natural—all ingredients are FDA approved and imported from the US.

Queenie has been running cosmetic, soap and candle workshops for almost a year now. Her interest in creating her own products began four years ago when she started experimenting with different recipes and ingredients. Queenie has a degree in International Relations and now splits her time working in the Bank of Taiwan and running her workshops.

With no background in science or cosmetics, Queenie set about learning how to create organic products by herself, “I spent the first two years learning techniques and creating recipes and then for the past two years I have been perfecting the recipes and teaching people how to make their own products.” She now has over 20 recipes for all her homemade, organic products, including lipsticks, blush, foundation, shampoo, soaps, candles and more. For lipstick alone, she has a variety of recipes to make them matte, semi-matte, a balm or a lip gloss.

Once all of the waxes have been weighed and added to the beaker, the oils can be added, these help to make the lipstick smooth and nourishing on the lips. Next, the group must decide what color they will make their lipstick. Participants can mix reds, oranges, pinks, browns and more to create their own unique shade, however, Queenie advises to “not start with a purple or brown base as it can be hard to mix in brighter colors and make it lighter.” Using the small spatula, the participants have to repeat the process of cutting up the powders and smoothing them out until they have a fine, non-grainy mix that can be added to the wax and oils.

Huong, the owner of Pandora, has worked with Queenie for a while now and provides the space for the workshops to be held. Huong partners with local craft talent and frequently hosts a variety of events and workshops, she also runs her own workshops including marbling art and jewellery creation. Huong has been running Pandora for two years and has recently moved to Thao Dien, and as a talented artist she has a fantastic collection of paintings as well as her own unique baby clothes line. She hopes to host more workshops and even teach people how to make their own clothes.

Before the color can be added, the wax and oil mix needs to be melted down by placing the beakers into a large pot of boiling water, gently stirring it using the long mixer. Once the mix has completely melted, the beaker is taken out of the water and the color powder is mixed in. This has to be done quickly otherwise the wax will harden. The beaker then goes back into the hot water until the mix has reached 80 degrees Celsius, which can be checked with a laser thermometer.

When it has done so, the mix is then whisked to ensure that all of the powder, wax and oils have combined. This only needs to be done for a few seconds then it can be poured into the lipstick mould. The liquid needs time to set before it can be taken out and put into the lipstick container. Queenie has sourced stylish containers for the lipsticks to be stored in and due to the amount of lipstick mix everyone can take home two lipsticks, one for themselves and one for a friend. Learning how to create your own lipstick is a very interesting and fun process that is great to do with friends, it’s also a good way to meet people in the local area and bond over something you have in common.

In the future, Queenie hopes to have her own fully organic and natural Vietnamese product line. She tells me “a lot of people use cosmetics from Korea, but I think it would be really great to have an organic, natural Vietnamese beauty brand.”

Images by Vy Lam

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