Founded in 2008 by Doe Deere (née Xenia Vorotova), Lime Crime built a cult following for its eyeshadows and lipsticks, formulated in super-bright, unconventional shades. Major retailers including Urban Outfitters and Nasty Gal snatched up its products, a win for the independently operated brand.
In 2014, Sephora — the holy grail of beauty retailers — began stocking Lime Crime. But, thanks to several well-publicized controversies, what would have been a significant achievement quickly morphed into disaster.
Just one week after becoming a Lime Crime stockist, Sephora dropped the brand. Apparently, the retailer received a deluge of complaints regarding the quality of Deere's products, as well as her own problematic behavior.
Below, a recap:
About one month into Lime Crime's launch, Deere took to her "blogazine" with a photo of herself dressed as Adolf Hitler for Halloween.
In 2009, members of the indie beauty community — a relatively small, tight-knit group of beauty bloggers — began to suspect that Lime Crime was buying eyeshadow pigments from wholesalers such as TKB Cosmetics, repackaging them, and selling them for outrageous mark-ups.
(To be clear: repackaging is fairly common practice in the beauty industry, but Lime Crime's lack of transparency upset customers, understandably so.)
In 2010, beauty blogger Christine of Temptalia wrote a negative review of Lime Crime's Unicorn lipsticks. In response, Deere shared Christine's personal e-mail address with customers, urging them to contact Christine with their own positive reviews of the product.
In 2012, Lime Crime released a "China Doll" eyeshadow palette featuring a white women in a Japanese kimono, along with the entirely inappropriate description: "Don't let her milky skin, pouty mouth and flushed cheeks fool you, underneath the poised facade, there lies a heart of a tigress."
In late 2014, Lime Crime's website was hacked. Instead of notifying customers of the data breach via e-mail, the brand posted about it on Instagram.
Lime Crime at Sephora was dunzo, and Deere's past iniquities were a hot topic of conversation. But that didn't stop the brand from landing in hot water again — in 2015, the FDA issued a warning to Lime Crime regarding its Velvetine lipstick, which included two banned ingredients: ferric ferrocyanide and ultramarines.
By 2016, Deere had (wisely) stepped back as the public face of the brand.
Despite a mountain of controversy, that wasn't the end for Lime Crime. In 2017, beauty industry veteran Kim Wall was tasked with cleaning up its act. Her tenure at Lime Crime resulted in lucrative partnerships with Ulta and Riley Rose, and ultimately concluded with private equity firm Tengram Capital Partners acquiring the brand.
2020 marked a real turning point — Blieden, former general manager of The Body Shop, was appointed CEO and Deere stepped down from Lime Crime's board, her last remaining post at the company. Finally, a fresh start!
Since then, Lime Crime has expanded into haircare, doubling down on the category with a range of products including dye, styling tools, and shampoo and conditioner. (According to Blieden, hair color now accounts for nearly 70 percent of sales.)
And most recently, the brand announced it was slashing prices and repositioning itself as a mass market — rather than prestige — brand.
Its pivot to "masstige" is a bold move, especially amid rising costs. But by becoming more accessible, Lime Crime may open itself up to an additional swath of customers, once deterred by the brand's higher prices.
Lime Crime's future isn't guaranteed, but things are looking up for the once-contentious brand. After all, the brand made it this far without folding — now that Deere is out, Lime Crime's comeback story might just get a happy ending.