Maria Martinez is a balm addict. Two years after founding X.Compound, her Houston-based line of organic lip balms, she's still obsessed with the product.
"I have a lot of it around, so I'll use the clear balm in my eyebrows and on my hands as a moisturizer," says Martinez. "There's only a handful of ingredients, and the vitamin E and shea butter are natural antioxidants, so if you scrape yourself you can put the balm on it and it will help it heal and stop the bleeding."
The self-described beauty junkie took classes in make-up as part of her college foray into theater, and has some experience as a make-up artist at the occasional wedding. But for Martinez, who lists Poppy King of Lipstick Queen and Sophia Amoruso of NastyGal among her heroes, the goal was always to be an entrepreneur with her own brand.
After doing a lot of research and experimenting to find the perfect formula—on her friends, not animals—X. Compound launched in 2012 with ingredients like sweet organic almond oil, shea butter, organic beeswax, and local honey to reflect Martinez's focus on natural and organic components. The brand quickly found local traction, with stores including The Tinderbox, Bungalow, and Space Montrose and salons like Lucky Cat Beauty and Noggins Hair Studio carrying the line.
In addition to the clear, unisex balm (known as X.Ray), Martinez has added a range of colored balms. Minx is a sheer coral that's perfect for spring and summer, while Inx comes looks black in the pot but goes on sheer for a berry stain that's both edgy and wearable.
Users can up the drama with X.Rated, a classic red hue that starts subtle but can be layered on lips for a bombshell pout. Maria recommends X.Rated as the best balm for severely chapped lips because it includes lanolin, a natural emollient found in sheep's wool that essentially waterproofs anything it touches.
2015 is set to be a big year for X.Compound. The brand was just nominated for a Texas Maker Award from Pop Shop America, and Martinez recently debuted her first fragrance, Flora, with the scents of jasmine, lily, tuberose, and a hint of lavender.
"It's floral, but it's not too sweet. The base is a clean, organic almond oil so it has a clean, light scent that smells a little different on everyone," says Martinez. The perfume is packaged for now in a small rollerball bottle so women can tuck it in their makeup bags or their purses and carry it when they travel.
"I always imagined that to start a makeup line you have to go to a manufacturer, and the cost of entry would be impossible. Once I started and I got this positive reaction from the community, it really gave me a fire!" says Martinez. "Starting is the hardest part."