occ lip tar
photo: @nickylus / Instagram

It's the mystery rocking the beauty internet. Popular indie makeup brand Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics vanished off the face of the Earth, seemingly overnight — and fans want answers.

How — and WHY — did this popular beauty brand ghost the entire world? The answer may lay in a labyrinth of reviews, cryptic Instagram comments... and a "devastating" battle with a beauty giant.

The mystery began on April 2, when the official Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics website shut down and began displaying this message:

obsessive compulsive cosmetics closed
photo: OCC

Per Racked, "Upon emailing, an automated response came back saying to expect a response in one to two days “due to heavy email volume.” Calling the customer support number resulted in being stuck in an automated messaging loop. Trying to call the actual OCC store in New York went to another automated message, which played the store hours.

The actual storefront on Ludlow street currently has brown paper covering the windows and all the signage has been removed. I have no idea how long it's been closed. The OCC store was last reviewed on Yelp in November 2017.

There are a number of Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics still available (and sold full price) at Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters. Riley Rose currently only sells the OCC loose glitters.

Notably absent from this list of retailers? Sephora — and as it turns out, that's not an accident.

Even more tellingly, OCC's social media accounts have all been shut down, seemingly out of nowhere.

The brand's Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — all gone. For a brand with an estimated social following of around one million people, nuking all your platforms at once is pretty extreme. Brand founder David Klasfeld has also made his Instagram account private.

All of this has led Reddit, Twitter, and Instagram to wonder where the hell OCC went, and why? While there has been absolutely NO public statement issued by the vanished brand, anyone associated with it, or any of the retailers that still carry OCC.

So what the hell happened? To understand that, we have to go all the way back to 2004, and the founding of Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics — and the legal problems the company would soon face.

Back in 2004, David Klasfeld, a former employee of The Body Shop and MAC Cosmetics, created two 100% vegan lip balms, named them Tarred and Feathered, and began selling them online to makeup artists.

OCC closed down
photo: Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics

While now it's very trendy for brands to announce they carry vegan and cruelty-free products, in 2004, that was a VERY niche deal. Equally niche was the idea that a beauty brand would not just make, but SPECIALIZE, in "crazy" lip colors — Tarred was straight black, and Feathered was dead white.

As a makeup artist, Klasfeld created products that would allow him to customize everything in his kit — these were professional-grade makeup products designed primarily for artists and performers. Adding complexion products, nail polishes, and vegan brushes to the lineup over time, Klasfeld sold these products online and in select stores that catered primarily to beauty professionals. "Mainstream" beauty retailers like Sephora and Ulta weren't interested in niche, indie brands like OCC... yet.

This led directly to OCC's most famous product — the legendary Lip Tars. Launched in 2009, OCC's line of Lip Tars were likely the first liquid lipsticks on the market.

lip tar sephora
photo: Sephora

Originally packaged in small squeeze-bottles with narrow nozzles, Klasfeld envisioned Lip Tars as the answer to every professional makeup artist's prayers. These lip colors were BOLD, they were designed to be mixed together, and most importantly, they were easy to keep clean.

Speaking to Beautylish in 2014, Klasfeld said of his groundbreaking product "Lip Tar answered two questions. One: How, as a makeup artist, do I carry a varied enough selection of lipsticks that I can blend as necessary in a hygienic way? Most lipstick palettes I see out there look like they should have a biohazard symbol embossed on them! Two: For those times that you just want to wear lipstick, how can you offer that option along with the same convenience of application as a gloss? The answer to both is Lip Tar."

If you make a super-bold lip product in shades that don't exist anywhere else, word is going to get out. So it wasn't long until civilians, as well as professional artists, were falling in love with Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics' Lip Tars — and the major makeup giants were taking notice.

occ lip tar
photo: OCCMakeup / Instagram

Though now even drugstore makeup brands offer "crazy" lipstick colors like blue, green, and purple, back in the day this was a revolutionary concept. Obsessive Compulsive provided bright colors that you simply couldn't find anywhere else, and opened up doors for self-expression through makeup that a lot of people didn't even know were there.

There was just one problem: Even if you LOVED Lip Tar, you had to admit that it was a pain in the ass to apply.

obsessive compulsive cosmetics closed
photo: OCC

Even the people who lived and died by OCC would tell you that Lip Tars took WORK to wear. Many colors feathered. Some stained, many felt sticky or were too drying or didn't really stay put during daily wear. Plus, you had to apply them with a lip brush, which made it tricky to touch up throughout the day.

Message boards lit up with tips and tricks for application, layering, and hacking the OCC Lip Tar line to make it easier and more comfortable to wear. The trickiness of the formula meant that its fan base was limited primarily to experienced professionals, drag performers, and die-hard makeup junkies. You know, the ones who were willing to work hard for the lipsticks they loved.

That was about to change with a deal that would change OCC — and the beauty world in general — forever.

In 2012, the unthinkable happened: Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics products would officially be carried by Sephora.

occ lip products
photo: Sephora / OCC

In 2012, WWD reported that Sephora would start carrying OCC's products, including the Lip Tars, in stores and online. The brand was projected to make $2 million dollars in its first year. Everything seemed rosy.

Unfortunately, as soon as the Lip Tars were released, Sephora's customers had major issues with them.

The products were fussy. They were hard to apply and remove. They were sticky. They weren't REALLY that long-wearing. You needed a brush. The squeeze bottle was messy, and wasted product. Reviews from as late as 2014 showed that Sephora shoppers were UNhappy with OCC's Lip Tars. They were simply too much work for the average customer.

Something had to be done.

It seems that, for Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, that "something" was reformulating and repackaging the Lip Tar line to make it easier to use. By 2015, gone was the squeeze-bottle design; the new RTW Lip Tars had a hard plastic body, doe's foot applicator, and easier-to-apply formula.

occ lip tar
photo: Sephora / OCC

Refinery29 covered this story at the time, calling the change-up "A simple swap, yes, but seriously life-changing for the people who adore this product."

People have speculated that this packaging change, and the overall shift in OCC branding to appeal more to a mass market audience, happened at Sephora's urging.

But the RTW Lip Tars never made it to Sephora stores. Because shit was going DOWN between Sephora and Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics behind the scenes.

Here is where the end began, according to blogger ZadiDoll who uncovered a stash of legal documents. It turns out that OCC attempted to sue Sephora for breach of contract in 2015 — revealing a tangled web of alleged broken promises and debt.

According to the filing — which I am SERIOUSLY paraphrasing — Sephora ordered $590,000 in new product from OCC (likely the RTW Lip Tar). Due to the fact that it took a long time for OCC to deliver the new product, Sephora terminated its vendor relationship with OCC in April 2015.

Sephora canceled the $590K order and allegedly refused to pay for half the cost of "permanently branded in-store fixtures." This caused OCC to file the suit claiming breach of contract.

In the legal documents, another fight over a sale emerges. In addition to the cancelled order, Sephora requested $832,700 from OCC to be put in escrow for all unsold product that needed to get returned to Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics. If OCC could not do that, Sephora would "immediately liquidate such product at whatever price."

The claim was that this was deliberate and calculated. Per the legal documents, "According to OCC, Sephora is purposefully seeking to mark down its products before they are sold in order to drive OCC out of business."

occ lip tar
photo: Sephora / Tumblr

Additionally, "OCC argues [...] it will suffer irreparable harm because an immediate mark down of the outstanding inventory would have financially devastating effects."

OCC attempted to get an injunction that would stop Sephora from "liquidating" the existing Obsessive Compulsive products at a loss to the indie brand, seeking the retailer to simply "sell down" the existing OCC stock until it was gone.

But the judge sided with Sephora, lifting a temporary restraining order that kept the beauty retailer from deeply discounting OCC products. Lip Tars went on clearance at Sephora (for around $9 each, according to Reddit), and by the end of 2015, Sephora no longer carried ANY Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics' products.

As for what happened next? It's hard to say exactly. But there are a few things that we know for sure.

Obsessive compulsive cosmetics
photo: OCC

First, the RTW Lip Tars were sold on Beautylish and Nordstrom starting in 2015. Unfortunately, by this time there was more competition in the market — brands like Kat Von D Beauty, ColourPop, Kylie Cosmetics, and Lime Crime had also emerged with "wild" colored liquid lipsticks that were arguably easier to apply and wear. Additionally, high-quality vegan beauty products, once the exception pioneered by OCC, had become the norm.

By 2017, the brand seemed to be having a LOT of sales on its website, and had increased its Pro discount (a courtesy often offered to makeup artists and students) to 60%. Overseas customers also noted that UK-based retailers had also suddenly slashed prices.

Which brings us to April 2, 2018 — the day that keen-eyed Redditors noticed the OCC storefront had shuttered, and all the OCC social pages had gone dark.

There was literally NO official information about what had happened to Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, and people were starting to panic. Then legendary makeup artist (and longtime OCC fan) Kevin James Bennett posted an image and a statement that seemed to explain a lot.

The caption reads "I've been hounded all day to comment, but I have no info to offer. It appears that Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics has closed, and to say I'm sad would be a gross understatement. David, I'm sending waves of love and light for whatever the future brings. #OCCRIP. (Sephora, the blood is on your hands)."

Based on this comment, and allllllll the other evidence I've looked into, it would appear that Bennett is claiming the Sephora lawsuit effectively sunk OCC. I have reached out to Bennett for additional comment and confirmation on this claim.

Bennett — who again, is an absolute LEGEND in the makeup community, posted this additional message of support for the brand.

"A HUGE thank you to [brand founder David] for your amazing support of the pro community... You gave us innovation (THE liquid lipstick). You fearlessly celebrated diversity and inclusion in all of your advertising. You did this all with authenticity, generosity and true friendship."

So at the end of the day, what really happened to OCC? Why did the brand ghost the entire makeup industry, which its innovation largely helped to create?

Honestly, I don't know. I don't know why a brand so rooted in the beauty world would up and leave without a word. I imagine that if this was not a voluntary exit, it may have been too difficult or painful to say goodbye — but this abrupt departure has left many fans, myself included, with more questions than answers.

I haven't been able to find any public records of Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, Inc legally filing to dissolve the company. Likewise, OCC Inc seems to still own the trademark to Lip Tar, and all the associated branding. It's entirely possible that this is a temporary hiatus, which seems to be what most fans are hoping for.

But as the New York Times would say, based on the portrait that emerges from the documents and the timeline above, it seems unlikely to be the case.

I've reached out to OCC's PR, Nordstrom, Riley Rose, Urban Outfitters, David Klasfeld, and Sephora to try to REALLY nail down what happened to this beloved brand. In the meantime, hoard your Black Dahlia Lip Tar like a dragon... because there's no telling when you'll be able to get another.