I’m not sure if anyone else has the same experience but between shopping for makeup at either the drugstore or huge retailers like Sephora or Ulta, I unfortunately don’t get much exposure to more independent or smaller beauty brands. By independent I’m referring to brands that are not owned by the big giants like L’Oreal, Estée Lauder, Shiseido, Coty, LVMH or Unilever, for example. While these corporations may be the biggest players in terms of distribution, product offerings, revenue & brand awareness, they are definitely not alone in the field anymore. In actuality the world of beauty is a highly dynamic and ever-evolving one that has widened tremendously thanks to the rise in e-commerce businesses, social media saturation & community-building, and the changing values of its consumer base.
The spike in indie beauty popularity is completely indicative of such a shifting landscape. Now there are a multitude of smaller beauty and wellness brands – most founded and operated by female entrepreneurs – that are handcrafting products in smaller batches; cutting out synthetics and animal by-products to capture the social consciousness of millennial and post-millennial shoppers.
But don’t be mistaken, not every indie brand is “small.” Just look at the explosion in popularity of the e-commerce brand ColourPop in recent years. The company is run by a brother and sister team who wanted to mimic a fast-fashion model by reducing their product’s lead time to market. The result is an inundation of launches every season, flooding the market with product. To boot, ColourPop’s parent company manufactures all the products for Kylie Cosmetics, a company that is reportedly on track to be worth over $1 billion (!) by 2022. Needless to say, some indies have a tremendous footprint in the industry.
Some mass-market retailers now see the potential with indie brands, fueling a wider distribution. Amazon is gearing up to launch (or already launched? I couldn’t tell from the site) the Indie Beauty Shop in their Marketplace, which is causing all kinds of chatter in the beauty community. Target has also started to carry indies like Makeup Geek, Violet Voss and The Lip Bar in their stores.
I think now more than ever, due in large part to the reach of social media, customers are demanding more from their products, more from brands – on both an ethical and holistic level – and just more choice in general. This is what indie beauty steps in to offer them. Access to their customer base is often very quick, so they are actively including them as part of the conversation. They turn their own personal stories into successful businesses and people relate to that.
Recently lamenting the lack of indie products in my collection, I bought a visitor ticket to Indie Beauty Expo NYC in late August to broaden my knowledge base. I’m extremely excited to attend, so in celebration I’m going to briefly touch on just a few independently-owned beauty brands that I’ve been itching to try out, in no particular order. This is just a sampling of brands that’s in no way an exhaustive list.
1. Juvia’s Place – Shop here
This brand is inextricably linked with African art and culture as the owner and founder, Chichi Eburu, is a Nigerian-born entrepreneur who started her line with just $2,000. The eye shadow palettes have gotten a tremendous boost in exposure thanks to YouTube and huge influencers like NikkieTutorials. They have striking packaging, fun & bright colors and intense payoff from what I’ve seen. Most new launches sell out in the same day, like the new Warrior Eyeshadow Palette. I’m always game to try a new palette, so I have my eye on the Saharan Palette with its bright pops of green, gold and orange.
2. Captain Blankenship – Shop here
This is an organic brand from upstate NY, again run by women, that ticks nearly all the boxes when it comes to ethical beauty. They formulate their products without parabens, synthetic preservatives or fragrances. None of their products are animal-tested, although it’s not clear if they’re vegan as well. Their haircare, body care & fragrances are all packaged in recycled glass components, with 1% of sales going to non-profits in land/sea conservation. The tagline is “beauty wild with nature,” which is a lovely sentiment. I have my eye on the Mermaid Hair Oil since my hair is processed and a bit dry.
3. Make Beauty – Shop here
The mission and values of this NYC brand speaks personally to me, and to why I started my blog. They believe that they are no beauty rules, and that beauty is ultimately determined by the individual and their personal style. The products from Make Beauty are designed for on-the-go experimentation, so you’ll see a lot of sticks and little pots on their website. It’s makeup without fluff essentially, which always speaks to me. They formulate without parabens and without animal testing; some of their products are vegan as well. Very interestingly, they donate 10% of sales to the We See Beauty Foundation, a non-profit that provides funding for budding female entrepreneurs in under-resourced areas of the U.S. I have my eye on the Bronze Pot since I’m getting more into cream bronzers these days. Also their best-selling Bisou Bisou Lip & Cheek Stick as I love a multi-task product.
4. Jillian Dempsey – Shop here
Jillian Dempsey is a well-respected celebrity makeup artist working with the likes of Kristen Stewart, Jennifer Lawrence and Kirsten Dunst, to name a few. Her line of organic, cruelty-free, & vegan products is very tightly edited at this point. You’ll only find her Lid & Cheek Tints and Kohl Pencils to shop from, but her Tints in particular are getting a lot of buzz from other makeup artists and social media influencers recently. I loveeee the idea of the Tints even though I’ve heard they move around and crease on the eyes. I realize that glossy lids are a big trend right now that is perhaps better suited for editorial purposes, but I still want to experiment!
5. Girlactik – Shop here
I remember first seeing this brand years ago at a big Rite Aid in NYC, and being drawn in by their fun and girly packaging. (I’m not sure if they’re still stocked in any Rite Aids.) I never ended up buying anything back then, but I’ve been intrigued ever since. They claim that their products are cruelty-free but they are currently re-applying to get the official bunny logo. I believe some products are vegan, but certainly not all. If you stop by their website and have a free few moments, listen to the founder, Galit Strugano, explain how she invested $1,800 into the first product – a base product for fine glitter – that launched her brand. Very inspiring stuff. I have my eye on the Matte Lip Paint Liquid Lipstick Duos since I’ve never seen a product like that before.
6. Glossier – Shop here
Last, but certainly not least is Glossier. I know, I can’t believe I haven’t tried anything from this brand either. It initially launched in 2014 with 4 products, spurred on by the popularity of CEO Emily Weiss’s blog Into the Gloss, and now it’s literally become a cultural phenomenon. Many in the community credit this brand with starting the recent trend towards minimalism in makeup. Glossier has put heavy emphasis on its community-building strengths as the main source of its success; its customers are the sole inspiration for their products. It seems that the sky’s the limit for this brand: the company raised another huge round of funding earlier this year to help them scale up with product development and international distribution. They are a cruelty-free brand that stresses skincare first before makeup; some products are vegan. If I buy nothing else, I want the Cloud Paints definitely.
What are your thoughts on indie beauty? Do you have any brands that you love that I should know about? Let me know in the comments!