A Fireside Chat with Rhitu Risal, CEO and Founder of R2R Cosmetics
What started out as a childhood dream to CEO and Founder of R2R Cosmetics, Rhitu Risal (otherwise known as Rhi), is now the luxury vegan beauty brand, created to cater to each individuals’ identity and makeup routines.
We sat down with Rhi to talk all things R2R Cosmetics and what it means to create a unique, multi-purposeful product that is vegan and cruelty-free in the beauty industry.
Read on to learn about the brand’s journey and why you should incorporate the multi-pots in your beauty routine.
What is the story behind your brand? Tell us a bit more about where the idea of R2R Cosmetics came from!
R2R Cosmetics has been a dream since I was a kid. When I was 12, I was inspired by a random documentary on perfumes, and since then, the seed of “leaving a legacy” and “beauty entrepreneurship” was planted in me.
I grew up in a very diverse immigrant community that gave me insights to how people culturally see beauty differently. I was constantly exploring the concept of beauty and I was fascinated on how women used beauty products differently depending on so many factors that make an individual. In the process, I became more and more passionate about creating a brand and products that represented diversity, lifestyles and to create clean products that work for the consumers.
Over the years, I had a strong vision and lots of ideas. When I finally got a job out of college, I was then able to fund those ideas. I started to hustle and network to build the team I have now. Everything came together slowly — the perfectionist that I am — but nevertheless, it’s officially R2R Cosmetics now.
I believe that the idea behind R2R represents more than beauty products — it represents all the beautiful matters in life. For me, beauty goes beyond than just how we present ourselves or how we look outside. It is a social construct that we abide by, however, beauty derives from history, culture, environment and everything that contributes to giving us an individual identity. I find that beauty is a perfect route to explore the concept of individualism and the interaction and views among people; furthermore, it is an exploration of my personal interest of what I believe to be beautiful and why.
Seeing as you also have a full-time job aside from R2R Cosmetics, you’re a busy woman! What is your beauty/makeup routine?
It has changed over the last few years. I used to wear a lot of colorful products and did full makeup looks with eye shadow palettes, liners, foundation, etc. and never really focused too much on skincare. Once I started juggling my job and the start up, I shifted my focus to skincare (lots of moisturizers — day and night, SPF products, eye creams, toner and facials sprays) and natural beauty routines.
However, I still like to have fun with my colors. This shift occurred as I started developing my multi-pots. I wanted to decrease the time I spend on makeup, and having a product that does more than one thing gives me the flexibility to look natural all day at work and then still look bold for my social life after work.
After the gym in the mornings, I do my skincare regimen and then I move on to a natural makeup look. I dab and smudge ‘Empire’ or ‘Oasis’ with my fingers on my eyelids for a subtle glow. If I’m not feeling that and I have an eyeliner brush around, I make a thin line with ‘Cacophony’, add mascara, a little concealer under my eyes and a few light strokes of powder foundation. To complete the look, I dab and smudge ‘Oasis’ quickly on my cheek and dab a little chapstick. I am a huge fan of using my fingers to make things subtle and minimal for my morning looks since I only have 15 minutes between the gym and getting to work. This makeup routine takes me about 10 minutes to do and it lasts me until I remove everything when I get home in the evening at around 8pm.
For date nights, brunches, or vacations, when I have more time to do my makeup, I’ll apply mascara, a little concealer and little bit of foundation. I like to go bold, so I use a brush to get the full bold red color of ‘Chromatic’ or bold pink of ‘Entranced ’on my lips. For a smokey eye makeup, I mix ‘Chromatic’ and ‘Empire’ and together use as eyeshadow. For an even bolder look, I sometimes use ‘Chromatic’ on my cheeks and finish off with ‘Empire’ as a highlighter. It really depends on my mood, but I utilize the colors to fit the outfit and the vibe of the evening. Even though it sounds long, I don’t spend more than 20 minutes on my looks. Yes, the hustle of living in New York City has made me very conscious of my time, but I still want to look my best.
I designed my R2R multi-pots to be very user-friendly, workable with fingers and brushes, build-able, matte, and waterproof – it makes everything so much easier.
What do you hope people get out of using a multi-pot as a part of their daily makeup routine?
I hope that people utilize the multi-pots to their full potential because they offer an incredible range of flexibility and will make life much simpler with these clean beauty products. They can dab on a little from the pots or brush a full stroke of the color to get more pigment; there are no limits to how one can incorporate the products into their makeup routines.
I hope, like me, that they use it daily when they run errands and go to work, or for special occasions like dinner dates and parties. And because the products are waterproof, making them perfect for beach and pool days, they are perfect to travel and go on vacations with.
If you could pick a favorite multi-pot color – which one would it be and why?
I surprisingly pick ‘Oasis’! It’s surprising because coral tones are generally never something I wear. I usually go for black, red or bronze tones.
‘Oasis’ was the last of the 5 colors I developed. It was initially a great challenge for my team and I to find the perfect shade of coral. My makeup artist, Angela Kaeser wouldn’t let it go until we found a shade that looked good on both dark and light skin tones. At one point, I couldn’t tell the difference between the different variations of corals we came up with, but Angela knew the perfect one and she didn’t give up. The moment I tried our final formula that makes the current ‘Oasis’ on my cheeks and eyes, I fell in love with it — I now wear it all day and every day.
If you could choose 3 words to represent R2R Cosmetics, what would they be and why?
While the beauty industry categorizes everything from products, people, characteristics, personalities — I created R2R to understand and untangle them. R2R products can be worn by any type of person with any kind of personality, to create any look that suits them best. I designed them in a way that they can use it to what and how they’d like it to be. It’s not just a bold lip color or a classic eyeliner — it’s all that and everything in between.
Ultimately, R2R is a lifestyle brand. The current multi-pot products and my future collections are meant to mold into every kind of lifestyle — beauty junkie, never-wear-makeup, globe trotters, minimal-natural, I-hustle-24/7, never-leave-the-house-without-makeup, and chic-grunge. Whatever style you have, the everyday grind you have, whatever adjective that describes your personality, there’s a multi-pot for you. My products are meant to be transformed by our consumers to give them power to enhance their lifestyle and not let the products transform the consumers.
While the products’ powerful multi-functionality is a key focus, I am conscious about our environment and being good to ourselves and others. I strive to have a clean, positive affect from skin to our environment to our communities.
Here are the deeper brand goals:
First of all, the multipurpose products will eliminate the number of products you have in your makeup and the amount of products you put on your face and body. You will carry less, spend less and wear clean beauty.
It’s vegan — no animal-derived products and no animal testing. It’s a little challenging to find clean color beauty products that have very high-pigmented colors in the industry.
I strive to be eco-friendly all around — including my packaging. The outer packaging is created in Nepal with eco-friendly and biodegradable paper called Lokta Paper.
Is there a reason why you started with the current 5 hues? What are some upcoming colors you have in the works?
These 5 hues were strategically chosen for its common use across all different types of people, versatility and the range of functions it covers. I wanted to really show the brand’s vision as clear as possible with the first collection.
I have a set of bold colors in the works that deviate from the “common” colors! Stay tuned to find out!
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
Along with my eco-friendly brand goal, the outer packaging is very special to me and close to my heart. My brand has roots from my Nepalese heritage and background, and I aspire to help my community. The boxes are created by women who are paid well and in great working conditions in factories in Bhaktapur, Nepal. I visited the factory and actually worked with the women because I wanted to understand the process, so I physically did the entire process of creating one perfect box. The ladies guided me as I washed the tree bark, rinsed them, poured them into paper making tools, created the colors, dried them, etc. It was an amazing experience because it’s all manual labor and it relies on all the elements of nature — earth, wind, fire, sunlight. It’s fascinating to see how the hue of the dark red can change slightly on a cloud day; they have to be dried directly under the sun. In the end, when I see the complete R2R product and my vision coming to life and the impact it has — it’s all worth it.
Follow R2R Cosmetics on Instagram for all updates.
The Once Upon Team