“Millennials and Generation Z are a crucial marketing demographic for the indies,” noted Naira Aslanian, project manager for the report Beauty’s Most Buyable Brands: Analysis of Booming Independent Brands in the United States. “These innovators resonate with experimental consumers who are searching for the next best product or ingredient to bring out their individualism and uniqueness. With so many choices out there, the tech-savvy generations look for tutorials, tips and reviews to help them make decisions about trends, brands and even ingredients.
“Indies’ digital prowess, combined with the fine-tuned focus from beauty products that cater to consumers’ personalized needs, results in some of them growing three to five times the rate of the market.”
Happi rounded up the latest batch of indie leaders breaking boundaries in the beauty sector:
Year Founded: 2015
Names To Know: Divya Gugnani, co-founder; Lindsay Ellingson, co-founder and creative director
Major Products: Dualist Matte & Illuminating Concealer, Unlashed Volume & Curl Mascara, Wanderlust Powder Foundation, On The Glow Blush & Illuminator, Wanderout Dual Lipstick
Hero Product: On The Glow Blush & Illuminator
Find It: Sephora (US + Canada) + Sephora (Australia + New Zealand) + Sephora (Hong Kong, Philippines & Singapore) Net-A-Porter, QVC, Nordstrom.com, B-Glowing, www.wanderbeauty.com
Latest Launch: Baggage Claim, golden foil eye masks to brighten, tighten and hydrate the sensitive under eye area.
Brand Story: Divya Gugnani, serial entrepreneur and mom, and Lindsay Ellingson, a supermodel, spent their days multitasking but their beauty products weren’t doing the same. They decided to streamline beauty routines everywhere by creating multitasking essentials with luxurious ingredients inspired by their global travels.
Why We’re Watching: According to Gugnani, all Wander Beauty multitaskers “are designed with real women in mind. Our fuss-free formulas add precious minutes to your morning and each must-have is enriched with skin-loving ingredients that work with your skin, not against it.”
Wander is best known for its On the Glow Blush & Illuminator. Says Gugnani, “It’s what we launched with back in 2015 and continues to be a top-selling, cult product for us!”
What’s Next: Gugnani noted that Wander is very successful at Sephora and is expanding globally with the retailer and entering new markets, too. She told Happi, “We are also growing our store presence through multi-branded Scouted by Sephora Endcaps. We are growing our digital presence with Sephora as well through exclusives and exposure on email, digital platforms and social platforms. We are growing our business at QVC and building our customer base with regular exposure on the main channel and their dedicated beauty channel, Beauty iQ.”
According to Gugnani, the primary focus is to build a direct relationship with customers through direct-to-consumer channels.
“We are seeing explosive growth in our web and mobile business and dedicating more resources to satisfying that demand,” she explained. “We are building our e-com and client experience teams to grow this opportunity. We have lots of innovative launches in the pipeline. Our mission is not to grow more channels of distribution but rather to become more meaningful in the channels we have chosen.”
Year Founded: 2015
Names To Know: Chelsea Voge, CEO; Krystal Kyne, COO
Major Products: Roll-on fragrances, spray lotions and body oils; top scents are Original, Muse, Santal and Last Petal
Hero Product: Original Roll-on Fragrance Oil
Find It: Riddle Oil will be in Urban Outfitters New York and Los Angeles as well as more than 40 retail locations and online.
Newest Launch: Cheeky Oil is an anti-cellulite oil with skin tightening and firming properties composed of four essential oils.
Brand Story: California girl Chelsea Voge grew up going to a small hometown apothecary every weekend with her mother. There, she would pick different fragrance oils, take them home and spend her weekend mixing unique oil blends. At a young age, Voge found her passion.
In the beginning of 2015, Voge decided to go back to her childhood dream and create a scent for herself. She came up with several blends before deciding on the scent that is now called Riddle Original.
Voge began wearing her scent around her community, Venice Beach, CA, and was constantly getting stopped by strangers who would compliment the scent. It wasn’t too long before she realized that this scent needed a name. After ruminating about it, she realized that none of them felt quite right. Then one day she was getting coffee with a friend she hadn’t seen in awhile. As they hugged hello her friend immediately asked about the fragrance. In that moment Voge came up with the name Riddle.
Why We’re Watching: Riddle Oil was built on the original scent; it was the only scent offered for the first year in 8ml and .5oz roll on bottles. This scent in particular became popular as it is made only using base notes; its pheromone enhancing ability makes it a personal and signature scent. It mixes with the user’s personal chemistry before the molecules heat up enough to evaporate and the scent diffuses, according to Voge.
After much demand for more product offerings in the Original scent and more curated oil-based scents, Voge expanded the brand to 11 scents and related products, as well as a small skin care line.
“We are offering products that make people feel luxurious and confident. We encounter many people who say they don’t wear fragrance because they are overpowering or they are allergic to the alcohol-based scents, and these people are almost always converted to Riddle!” said Voge. “We also pride ourselves in our customer service and desire to open conversations with our customers to make it feel more like a family than a transaction.”
What’s Next: So many people love owning and gifting Riddle, now’s the time to expand brand awareness.
“We are planning to hit more circuits via market places like SXSW, community markets to really expand our awareness through community and word of mouth,” explained Voge.
“We are also becoming internationally compliant in 2018 to expand into international marketplaces since we have an abundance of online customers from all over the world.”
Year Founded: 2014
Names To Know: Sal Ali, founder/CEO
Major Products: Jelly Beam Illuminator, Rose Gold Elixir, Unicorn Essence
Hero Product: Rose Gold Elixir
Find It: Sephora (US and select international), Cult Beauty, www.farsali.com
Newest Launch: Jelly Beam
Brand Story: Farsali, based in New York City, is a hybrid makeup enhancing skin care line created by entrepreneur Sal Ali as a solution to the beauty needs of his wife, Farah. As a cosmetics fanatic, she always shared her beauty wants and needs with her husband. He, in turn, noticed a gap between skin care and makeup, and created Farsali to bridge that space.
Farsali has taken a unique approach to skin care, creating innovative products that not only act as traditional personal care products, but work with makeup in a multitude of ways. Whether used on its own or with makeup, each formula works to hydrate, condition and nourish the skin.
The brand recently stepped into the world of color with Jelly Beam, an ultra-pigmented highlighter that applies like a jelly, but dries down like a powder for a no-slip finish; it contains skin-caring ingredients to nourish and pamper the complexion.
Why We’re Watching: Farsali has been at the forefront of the visual skin care movement that has become prevalent with the rise of social media, creating products that dazzle both on and off screen. The signature “teardrop” application method, which began with Farsali’s shimmering pink Unicorn Essence, has become the preferred method of application for dropper products across all brands, according to the company.
“Instead of following trends, focusing on pumping out seasonal launches, or creating a franchise based off of one successful product, Fasali focuses on creating stand-alone hero products that become beauty routine staples,” said Ali. “This also allows the brand to listen to, and apply, consumer input.”
What’s Next: Expect exciting launches from Farsali in 2018 – including shade extensions of the viral Jelly Beam highlighter.
Year Founded: 2017
Names To Know: Rosa Takagi, founder
Major Products: Perfect Volume Texture Mist, Perfect Smooth Hair Oil, Perfect Repair Treatment Masque
Hero Product: Perfect Repair Treatment Masque
Find It: Amazon’s amazon.com/naturelab, naturelab.com
Newest Launch: The Perfect collections
Brand Story: This line of science-backed hair care features botanical stem cells that work to repair and restore hair and scalp health. NatureLab hails from Japan, where women focus their hair routines on hair and scalp health and the wabi sabi principle celebrates nature’s perfection. Pairing plant-derived stem cells with globally-sourced botanical extracts, NatureLab harnesses the power and perfection of nature to address a variety of concerns via its four collections: Perfect Shine, Perfect Smooth, Perfect Repair and Perfect Volume. Each collection consists of a shampoo, conditioner, individual treatments and styling products.
Based on commitment without compromise, NatureLab of Japan takes an honest, no-nonsense approach to beauty solutions that honor both the people who create them and the people who use them. Perfect Haircare is at the forefront of the growing “J-beauty” movement, according to the brand, as it extends awareness of Asian brands to recognition of elevated Japanese quality and efficacy. Products are formulated with botanical stem cell technology and constantly-emerging plant-derived ingredients; all are cruelty-free and do not contain harsh chemicals.
NatureLab formulas have undergone clinical testing that prove demonstrable effects on hair, including improved shine, strength and elasticity, while reducing breakage, split ends and frizz. By optimizing more than 20 years of research along with global sourcing partnerships, NatureLab is said to offer the best of science and nature at a fraction of the prices paid for salon brands.
The inspiration for NatureLab comes from its Japanese roots, where women focus on the scalp as the key to radiant, healthy hair. Through its breakthrough technology, NatureLab unlocks active, nutrient-rich plant stem cells to maintain scalp health, improve follicle strength and promote growth at the cellular level. With ingredients like apple, bamboo, argan and grape stem cells, coupled with pearl extract, quinoa protein, and other naturally-derived ingredients, NatureLab products use the power of nature to instantly improve shine, texture and volume.
The collection addresses a variety of hair needs through its four categories: Perfect Shine (shampoo, conditioner, oil mist), Perfect Smooth (shampoo, conditioner, blowout lotion, hair oil), Perfect Volume (shampoo, conditioner, texture mist, blowout jelly) and Perfect Repair (shampoo, conditioner, treatment masque).
Why We’re Watching: Japanese beauty trends are taking off in the US and this botanically-derived hair care brand is NatureLab’s first in the US; the company says it has the No. 1 argan oil shampoo in Japan.
With the help of powerful botanical stem cells and extracts, these products revive, restore and repair scalp health, believed among Japanese women to the source of beauty. The science-backed formulas, which are free of harsh chemicals, lead to instant results and the masstige price point means efficacious stem cell hair care is accessible.
What’s Next: NatureLab will grow its North American distribution making the brand more accessible to US consumer while readying its next round of transformational innovation, launching in Fall 2018.
Clove + Hallow
Year Founded: 2015, but product launched in 2017
Names To Know: Sarah Biggers, CEO and founder
Major Products: Lip Glaze, Lip Velvet and Conceal + Correct
Hero Product: Lip Velvet in Sugarbear
Find It: Online at CloveandHallow.com and independent retailers across the US, Canada, Australia and Cayman Islands such as Rad Ritual, Blushbaby, Fig & Flower, Aillea and more
Newest Launch: Limited edition Lip Velvet Trio and vegan soy wax candles launched in November 2017 timed to the holiday season.
Brand Story: Launched in 2017 by a professional makeup artist in search of affordable, clean products that perform like conventional cult classics, Clove + Hallow is an award-winning makeup line that aims to create a welcoming, safe and inspired beauty experience for every woman.
Company Founder Sarah Biggers was inspired by her lifelong passion for beauty coupled with her growing interest in a healthier lifestyle after suffering from a mysterious illness that forced her to reconsider what she put in and on her body, including her beloved makeup. Through her work as a makeup artist, she found that most of the clean products on the market lacked pigmentation, acceptable shade ranges and an accessible price point. Clove + Hallow blends safety, quality, affordability and swagger—a combination Biggers felt the clean beauty industry was missing.
Why We’re Watching: This cosmetics line revolutionizes clean beauty with an affordable range of diverse shades, with bold pigmentation, housed in modern packaging. Using its Clean15 formulation approach, Clove + Hallow replaces so-called questionable chemicals with a simplified roster of 15 or fewer safe ingredients that deliver amazing performance, eliminate cheap filler ingredients and take the guesswork out of shopping for consumers, said the company.
All products are PETA-certified cruelty-free, vegan, and made in the US.
What’s Next: Clove + Hallow will expand its line, from eyeshadows and liners, to blush and contour, with innovative delivery systems. Biggers estimates the brand will add 30 SKUs in 2018. Additionally, she hopes to expand the brand’s skin care and lifestyle offerings to become the premier one-stop-shop brand for all your cruelty-free and vegan lifestyle needs.
Year Founded: 2012
Names To Know: Ryan Sieverson, president
Major Products: Kente Bond System, Satara Opti Biotin Supplement, Gazar Diamond Serum
Hero Product: Satara Opti Biotin Supplement, Gazar Diamond Serum
Find It: Seven salon, Bellevue, WA; select US salons; online at 7haircare.com
Newest Launch: Kente Bond System
Brand Story: “The Definition of Style is You”—that’s the phrase that has driven Seven from the beginning. Available exclusively in premier salons, Seven hair care offers a complete line of luxury hair care products formulated to create touchable, wearable hair.
In the early days, the Seattle-based Seven salon quickly grew from a crew of nine to 65 stylists. As the team expanded, Seven outgrew the heavy, sticky products that had been designed to please a small audience of professionals needing rigid, photo-ready styles.
According to president Ryan Sieverson, “We wanted a change, and so did our clients. We wanted touchable, luxurious, naturally three-dimensional hair. We wanted products that made our hair look great and feel great. So, in 2012, we created them ourselves—products with high-performance formulations that work for stylists, but also make it easy to create healthy, elegant, lightweight looks at home.”
Today, the salon still thrives.
“As we continue crafting, testing and refining product formulas, we are helping our partner salons thrive as well. Whether healing damage, creating ocean-kissed waves, chic chignons, or glossy curls—our products are giving stylists everything they need to ensure that the definition of style is in the hands of their clients,” said Sieverson.
Why We’re Watching: It all starts with stylists. According to Sieverson, “We love stylists. They drive us, push us and their artistry inspires us. We get what stylists do because we’ve been there. We have walked a day in their shoes, and we understand the impact they can have on individuals sitting in their chairs. They have the power to make a client’s day, and quite often they change lives. We understand that training a stylist can have reverberations throughout our community, so that is where we start.
“We deliver excellent creative, technical, and business education to our partner salons and their stylists so that each one of them can thrive as an artist.”
What’s Next: Seven is primarily a West Coast brand, but that is quickly changing. According to Sieverson, “We are excited to be growing our distribution in salons into new markets every day. Expect to see us throughout the US, including the East Coast, this year. We are also launching our first international distribution in Australia. More countries will be added as we build our brand, and refine our offering.”
The company also has multiple products launching in 2018.
Max & Madeleine
Year Founded: 2016
Names To Know: Carolynn Mowen and Melissa Moritz, co-founders and co-CEOs.
Major Products: Healing Balm, Skin Rescue Line (Cleansing Facial Powder, Rosewater Toner, Face Serums and Clay Masks, including the most popular variant, Detox Charcoal Mask).
Hero Product: Healing Balm
Find It: Online or with one of its advisors across the country
Newest Launch: Black Charcoal Soap, Bath Bombs and Ultra Nourishing Body Oil
Brand Story: Guided by a shared driving passion to make a difference, entrepreneurs Melissa Moritz and Carolynn Mowen launched Max & Madeleine, which they describe as a unique social selling company dedicated to helping shoppers separate fact from fiction and toxic from safe.
At Max & Madeleine parties, attendees get empowered through education while experiencing clean, safe products mostly crafted in the US. They scour farmer’s markets, spend hours researching ingredients and test recipes in their own kitchens to ensure their products are the best they can offer your family, said Moritz.
And then there are the kids, the inspirations behind the brand. They are inseparable best friends, born just three weeks apart. In addition to sharing toys and giggles, 5-year-old Max and Madeleine share a challenge. Max, like his little brother Dean, has chemical and food sensitivities; while Madeleine has the type of sensitive skin that most products just can’t remedy. Moritz (Max’s mom) and Mowen (Madeleine’s mom) did what any mom would do—they scoured the stores for “safe and healthy” products to help their kids.
Confronted with shelf after shelf of confusing product labels, alarming ingredients and dubious claims, the two friends decided they’d had enough.
The duo truly understands that what you put on your skin is as important as what you put in your body, and are on a mission to give their customers only the best products that are pure, non-toxic and nutrient-rich. Moritz and Mowen also value transparency as they list all ingredients on their labels. Their products are crafted with organic ingredients when possible and the majority are made in the US. And, every ingredient in their products has a purpose. From a Sugar Scrub containing antioxidant rich sunflower oil to a popular Boo Boo stick with calendula, the duo sources the most natural ingredients that will heal and nourish skin safely and effectively, Moritz told Happi.
Why We’re Watching: “Max & Madeleine has combined our passion for creating luxurious, organic and non-toxic products with creating opportunities for women across the country. The same care we’ve taken to create products that are safe and effective is also put into developing a community for our advisors where we can share our knowledge and support each other while earning extra income,” said Moritz. “We want to use our platform of social selling to help empower and educate people across the country. Let’s create safe products, help educate and learn how to identify harmful chemicals on the labels... and why not have some fun while we are doing it?”
What’s Next: According to Moritz, Max & Madeleine is working on more products for everyday use such as shower gel, hand soap and scented lotions. Additional skin care products to add to the Skin Rescue line, such as a cleansing balm, are on the horizon. And finally, makeup is in the works.
Year Founded: 2015
Names To Know: Julie Frederickson, CEO and co-founder; Kristen Perry, co-founder and brand president
Major Products: Creme Lipstick in Scarlet, Defined Lash Mascara, Smokey Eye Palette
Hero Product: Essential Eye Palette, Powder Blushes in Rose, Powder Blushes in Fawn, Powder Blush in Peach
Find It: J.Crew stores, www.jcrew.com, www.stowawaycosmetics.com
Latest Launch: Stowaway Cosmetics Smokey Eye Palette
Brand Story: Stowaway Cosmetics, a line of everyday makeup products including lipsticks, blushes and eyeliners, are housed in sizes you can carry, anywhere you go. According to company co-founder Julie Frederickson, in a market filled with oversized and bulky packaging, Stowaway makes a statement in minimalism and elegance. Each product is cleverly designed to offer simple, top-quality formulas in sleek packaging, without the guesswork. Lightweight and perfectly portable, the products are made with no harsh chemicals and are paraben-, phthalate- and cruelty-free.
Why We’re Watching: Stowaway Cosmetics is different from other brands because of its right sized makeup concept. It provides customers with high quality products but in sizes you can finish.
What’s Next: Stowaway Cosmetics will have more innovative, right-sized cosmetics come Spring.